I read with fury about the investigation launched by Ed Balls on Friday, into the number of parents who lie about where they live to secure school places for their children. The investigation stems from the recently dropped prosecution of a mother who lied about her address in an effort to get her son into a popular primary school in Harrow. Normally I have the utmost respect for the law, but on this occasion I cannot help but make a vigilante cry because the system is deeply flawed.
I grew up, and still live for that matter, with my family in a council estate in Hitchin, Hertfordshire. My home, an ex-council house, sits on the far edge of the estate, on the dividing line of the local state school catchment areas. For primary school, I was allocated a place at my nearest school: a school right in the centre of the estate, where the pupils perform poorly. Only after a year-long battle with the local council did my parents manage to get me out of the school and move me to a better one in a different neighbourhood. Luckily the school agreed to take my younger sister on automatically.
When it came to applying for secondary school I missed my parents’ first choice of the ex-grammar school and my second choice of a school in the neighbouring town. I ended up at the ex-secondary modern school that performs poorly, which again is right in the heart of the council estate. The year my younger sister applied, our house was just included in the ex-grammar school's catchment area, covering a largely wealthy housing area. The difference between the two schools could not be more marked: