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Why are Conservative Councils leaving parents to play the schools lottery?

Seaton Nick Seaton, of the Campaign for Real Education, says schools should be free to run their own admissions policy, not forced to operate a lottery.

Revelations by The Daily Telegraph about the number of local authorities using either lotteries or so-called 'fair banding'  to allocate school places exposed yet another national disgrace in the world of state education.

One in four local authorities, it seems, either allocates school places by lottery or uses test results to divide applicants into ability bands to ensure schools take their 'fair' share of  lower ability pupils.

This does not just mean lower ability pupils. The unstated intention is that all schools should be compelled to accept their share of difficult, disruptive youngsters, who should by rights be kept out of the mainstream.  If there are better ways to destroy good schools, they escape me.

The present government is intent on levelling down, not up.  And, of course, these measures help to ensure that the bad schools are not exposed by the successes of the ones whose pupils achieve excellent results. Such measures may protect failing schools temporarily from the consequences of their incompetence. They will do nothing for standards overall.  Nor will they diminish the desperation felt by conscientious parents who feel their only option is to escape the state system.

Families, where parents do their research and visit schools before they apply for places, will have no better chance of getting the school of their choice than feckless families whose interest in their children's education and behaviour is nil.

Such meddling with school admissions is a typical, socialist-inspired divorce of actions from consequences.  It's doomed to failure, but it will do immense damage before it is eventually rejected in favour of yet another 'progressive'  policy.

Incidentally, 'fair banding' is also a basic and oft-repeated mantra of the 'comprehensive ideal', currently supported by the leaders of all the major political parties. Good thinking, folks!

The Telegraph's list of local authorities where schools are using lotteries and/or 'fair banding' to allocate places was only published on the website. But it makes interesting reading.

As a matter of principle, most sensible people agree that schools should set their own admissions policies, not local authority or central government bureaucrats. Do elected councillors know what is going on in their areas?  Apart from the obvious left-wing suspects, local authorities using lotteries and/or banding include Bexley, Gloucestershire, Hertfordshire, Kensington and Chelsea, Lincolnshire and Westminster, all of which are Conservative controlled.

Surely, anyone who advocates or uses such policies must be either devoid of common sense or living on a different planet?  So why aren't their councillors and their officials more careful about who is controlling their schools? As Julie Henry wrote in her Daily Telegraph commentary: "Parents might be forgiven for thinking the time would be better spent trying to increase the supply of good school places." Exactly so.

With the best will in the world, massively increasing the supply of good school places will take time. It will also require exponential growth in the supply of  competent headteachers and classroom teachers who, at present, are anything but plentiful.

Until that happens, does it make sense to destroy (or demoralise) the few remaining assets we have in the system?


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