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My concern is that through the expansion of choice, sink schools will be created which parents wont want their children to go to (I understand fully why not). The sink schools then close down and the other schools have to pick up the slack. What happens then...schools become over-subscribed, expand and the cycle begins again. Ultimately wont that just lead to some schools having a local monopoly on the good students and teachers? Thats my big concern. Im sure we all want every school to be improving but the proposals here dont really explain what will happen with continually "failing" schools. A natural consequence of competition is inequality.

"A natural consequence of competition is inequality."

True, but I think you need to look beyond that. The point is that although inequality will continue to exist, the base level (and indeed every level) of provision of education should improve. The cycle you talk of should set a higher standard of schools each time it goes round. End result - all schools get better and better.

Take competition away, you may get rid of inequality to a greater degree, but where is the drive for schools to get better? We can see that the imposition of standard regulations and best practise ways of doing things etc does not achieve this.

I suppose its a similar argument as with taxing that we heard Oliver Letwin talk about some months ago now when he stressed the need to create 'a bigger cake' which would allow everyone a bigger part of it. You don't just give an even bigger proportion of the cake to the more deprived in society, because that acts to stop the cake growing. I'm hungry now.

DW “You do not improve failing schools by attacking the ones that are successful”

I agree with this statement, what I believe we need to do is once children are set, those in lower sets need better teachers - who set more homework of the sort the higher grade students study, so that those slower learners still get the opportunity to work (but at their own pace) at a higher level. Their work needs marking more regularly and feedback on how to improve needs to be provided.

Schools have been competing in my County for years now, there are no grammar schools to argue over. The better schools are in the more affluent parts of the County and many parents (who are moving to the less affluent areas because they can't afford to buy properties near where they grew up or work) choose to send their children to the schools with the best behaviour and have the best academic results, at more inconvenience to their families. Going to the most local would be more convenient but they don't so that their children don't get left behind or have to cope with poor behaviour, bad language, and general thugery (or run the risk of getting in with a bad lot).

I keep reading about new schools, better schools etc. but what I don't hear about are 'new schools' for the challenging children - the ones that none of the schools want, the ones you see on Brat Camp, the ones that go to school and attack and spit at teachers and lower the spirit of the schools. If local people knew there was a local 'turnaround' school and these children were excluded from their most local I'm sure a fairer balance of pupils would be resumed.

If you go into schools and in the first year at high school admit that there is nothing you can do to a child who doesn't want to participate or behave then poor behaviour is exactly what you'll get, with a small minority of pupils creating the majority of problems. Then by example those that normally would have toed the line see these miscreants getting away with not doing their homework, bad mouthing teachers, dodging school, being generally rude. If all we do is concentrate on ameliorating bad behaviour in the standard schools then you'll not improve things.

I tell you what take a couple of little sh**s from my local school and introduce them to a top of the range school with an excellent teacher, surround them with able children and watch the fireworks. There is more to it than just smaller classes and the supposed best teachers. Not everybody wants to be (or is capable of being) a lawyer or a doctor or an accountant (tied inside all day) and we can't keep importing people to do jobs that we've spent years telling people aren't worth getting out of bed for.

I agree with a-tracy that we must have proper provision to deal with the disruptive pupils. Since teachers have had their authority removed by the nanny state this has grown from being a minor problem to a major one. It is the single biggest barrier to achievement in our failing schools, as well as allowing them to become a breeding ground for the growing menace of what is known as anti-social behaviour.

No government is going to restore corporal punishment to our schools, even though that, as the ultimate deterrent, would in the hands of a few senior teachers quickly turn around our problem schools. The argument that it is barbaric simply does not recognise the huge increase in pupil against pupil violence which has escalated enormously over the last twenty years.

It is sad that the soft policies of the do-gooders has resulted in the exponential rise of violence in our society.

What is clear, is that the status quo is not working and failing a massive amount of children, the likelyhood is that the Blair reforms will be stupidly timid and many will continue to be failed, but may hopefully improve the situation very very slightly. Cameron and the rest of the Conservatives must make a strong case for reform and do the best they can to force Blair to be bold.

James M:Ultimately wont that just lead to some schools having a local monopoly on the good students and teachers?

I think that's probably inevitable, irrespective of the entry criteria. Obviously there is a tendency for this when selection is by academic criteria. Famously, where there is zero selection and it is done by strict geographical catchment areas, you end up with distortions in house prices as nice people with money buy into the area for the nice schools. And you'd be surprised how many couples suddenly remember that Granny was a Catholic when their children are ready to go to school.

An objective, explicit selection system under the 11+ (which had arguments against it) has in many towns been replaced by a comprehensive system where one of the comps has become in effect the local grammar (tops the league tables, gets pupils into Oxford and Cambridge etc etc).

Perhaps if the education system were designed in the interests of education and not social engineering, it might actually produce a few more educated children? It might actually be good politics, too. This is an area where we could open up a considerable advantage over Labour.

Personally I think putting choice is preferable to state selection - it puts parents back in charge wheras the current or the grammar based system puts the Local Authority in the driving seat. Which school and which type of education is a parent & child issue not a state one. Thats why the Labour dinosaurs have fought for LEA involvement & no selection - choice is a missile aimed at their cosy bureaucratic system.

When it comes to why schools fail I read an enlightening article in the press this week about two schools with multicultural pupils in the same street in London (I think). Correspondent went to see if todays pupls knew the songs in the Radio 4 Theme. One school, a CoE one, had a more traditional approach, well dressed teachers - good reputation, better behaved and importantly attentive pupils - the other had teachers dressed down, less discipline - bad reputation, badly behaved and very inattentive pupils. We hear a lot about disruptive pupils (and parents) but much is the result of the Head-teacher and staff's attitudes.
Same difference between attentive & inattentive pupils came through in Rock School - Christs Hospital pupils could concentrate & learn, the comprehensive ones had no attention span. I

t's not just their upbringing it's the ethos and attutude of the school and its staff. LEAs have the civil service view of people management - no proper management of peoples performance, fear of dismissals (and rightly so in view of all the cases of suits on grounds of racial or sex discrimination). An independent self governing school dependent on getting parents to choose them will take a more active approach to badly performing teachers.

Some kids are good with their hands. Mechanical geniuses, can barely write their names sort of thing. Some kids are masters of calculus, but can barely tie up their shoe laces. Surely the setting principle will work. Sets for crafts/metal/ wood/ pipes/ whatever. All the stuff the polish folk are coming over in droves to do. Sets for all the budding Einsteins/poets/novelists/ journos/artists/ whatever. Kids are born different. Its called genes. We came here with a different set, no matter what Tony Blair thinks. Even schools will differ from year to year, depending on the current gene pool. The quality of the school and the teaching staff is an add on. I am a governor at a very good primary. Our results differ from intake to intake. We should be formulating policies that take account of, and celebrate these normal differences. Blair is banging his head against the wall with a one size fits all strategy - or non strategy.And on not of the nature, we also have another add on. Nuture. Go for setting within the one school.Give all the kids a chance to shine.

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