Thursday, January 17, 2008

School admissions

According to yesterday's announcement from schools' Minister Jim Knight many of our state schools are still engaging in 'covert' admission practices despite a tightening of the code for admissions detailed in the 2006 Education Act. It would appear that some heads have been asking to see parents' marriage certificates, while others have invited parents to an interview - a practice banned under the new code. The Department for Children, Schools and Families said other examples of law-breaking by admission authorities included not giving the highest priority to children in care and even asking the order in which parents had ranked their school choices.

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 discussions at Islington dinner tables. The angst of middle class parents, as their children reach the age of secondary transfer, has reached epidemic proportions. One consequence is that 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 have (up until very recently) allowed admissions policy to drift in a direction that works against every other strand of government policy.

What is clear from Jim Knight's announcement is that the current admission practice in some of England's secondary is helping institutionalise inequality in the nation as a whole. Unfair, and under the new code for admissions, and unlawful admission procedures only intensify social, cultural and ethnic divisions. They foster delusions about consumer choice and reinforce outdated perceptions of quality in education. The outcome of such 'covert' selection practice is to produce 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.

Jim Knight is right to challenge schools and local authorities about any breaches to the code but he should go further. 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.


ThunderDragon said...

No selection in secondary schools = the destruction of thousands of children's education and the future economy.

JRD168 said...

As usual I completely agree Mike.

Anonymous said...

All a mere tinkering at the edges. Nulab overall educational policies (Faith school, Academies, League Tables, 'failing' school and 'special measures'etc and the ethos engendered by them) ensure that unfairness is writ deep into the system. Sad. And one's heart bleeds for the agonised dinner-party chatters Mr Ion adumbrates.

Anonymous said...

same old rubbish Ion posts on Guardian CIF

Anonymous said...


The reason that the educational system is in a mess is because you and other sell-outs like you refuse to implement socialism. An example of that MIGHT just be Nulabor increasing taxes on the rich and refusing to act as nothing but a semi-detached wing of the Conserbvative party.

If you won't do that and get a command economy in place as well then don't meddle with working class people who just want to do the best for their kids they can.

As Rosa said you can either have socialism or barbarism - the fact that you personally, and those like you, have empowered the right wing muppets like Brown, Blair, Blears, Hewitt and the rest who have abandoned socialism and who are ALL looking after number one, does indeed suggest that you should be quiet and let decent working class folk protect their own from the feral lumpen-proletariat garbage that your refusal to support and implement socialsim has mainly created.

Will you have the guts to print this? I doubt it but you can always prove me wrong.