Monday, November 12, 2007

The real scandal in education is admission policies

The latest review of Labour's 'failing schools'policy will, undoubtedly, raise the difficult issue of school admissions. Britain, or rather England, remains almost unique amongst OECD countries in the degree to which the allocation of a secondary school place determines a child's future life chances. That's why school 'choices', rather than house prices, now dominate the discussion at Islington dinner tables. The angst of middle class parents, as their children reach the age of secondary transfer, is reaching epidemic proportions. The pressure put on their children is indescribable. And every year children from many of the nation's poorest households, are routinely allocated to schools which parents with higher aspirations are determined to avoid. This is because secondary school admission policies remain the secret scandal of our education system. Trapped by the rhetoric of parental choice, locked in by a tabloid league table agenda of what constitutes a `good' school and unwilling to confront the evidence about selective admissions policies, ministers are still allowing admissions policy to drift in a direction that works against every other strand of government policy.

Current secondary school admissions policies institutionalise inequality. They intensify social, cultural and ethnic divisions. They foster delusions about consumer choice and reinforce outdated perceptions of quality in education. They have produced an educational apartheid that creates vast ghettoes of under achievement which then suck in vast amounts of public money to compensate for structural inequality. They hold back overall levels of achievement. Our divisive secondary school system is working against our objective of increasing post-16 staying on rates and widening participation in universities.The Code of Practice on School Admissions already excludes selection by ability as an admission criteria to all primary schools. This should be extended to include secondary schools. A policy focused on parental choice would throw open hundreds of thousands of places in good schools to parents who have previously been excluded from applying. The winners would far outnumber those who would be anxious about loss of privilege.


JRD168 said...

I agree with every word Mike.

Sir James Badger said...

The real scandal, Mike is admissions policies and the progressive appointment of leftist teaching staff in key positions.

Mike Ion said...

Sir James

What constitutes a 'leftist' teacher? If you are suggesting that it is an approach to learning that is more about teachers as social workers then I agree. If it is a belief that we need both equity as well as excellence then...

CityUnslicker said...

What utter twaddle.

What you are trying to correct is that we have a huge amount of failing schools.

You want to make sure that people can't try and get their kids a good education; instead to trust them to the lottery of the state system which is abjectly failing in many places, hence the parents desperate not to send their kids to certain schools. Sending good kids to bad schools is without any intellectual merit at all. It just sounds like a comfy left-wing policy to be on the side of the working class, who in fact you have betrayed with the terrible standard of schooliong allowed to develop since the creation of comprehensives.

The answer is not to drag everyone down, but to push school standards up. However any ideas on this are rubbished by the Labour party.

The line about delusions of consumer choise says it all to me. Choice is what drives competition and therefore improvement. It is the only answer; You can't see this at all though, throught the prism of marxism.

Mike Ion said...


Choice drives competition - I agree. My poiny is that under the present system of admissions parents to not have a choice they have a preference - which, I am sure you will agree, is not the same thing at all.

I think we may both agree on something - I am sure you will tell me otherwise.

Gary Elsby stoke-on-trent said...

Mike, Wayne Rooney made the England team by which means, ability or aptitude?


I gather you want a word with me.

Mike Ion said...

gary - where I have heard that phrase before?

Yes I would like a chat if possible, Can you email me at and I will send through my mobile number.


Welshcakes Limoncello said...

As a former secondary teacher, I agree with everything you say here.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Just saw James's comment: what does it matter if a teacher is leftie? - or rightie or anything but extreme and trying to impose their views on children?

CityUnslicker said...

..well we agree on choice. However I am for positive choice..i.e. to go to a good school.

Your choice is negative, no choise at all being more fair.

This is approach is a cover up of the low standards to try and be fairer to everyone; it would work to do this I agree.

but it totally misses the point that if the schools were to actually be improved then the issue would disappear.

Mike Ion said...

Cityunslicker - why is my suggestion (opening up good schools for ALL local pupils) no choice at all? As to improving schools then the evidence is clear that the more balanced the intake the more likely the education will be of a higher standard.

welshcakes - the voice of sanity!

JRD168 said...

I work with teachers of both all political persuasions, and none. We all try and do the best for the pupils in our care. The leftist teachers comment is nonsense I'm afraid.