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Has school choice become a lottery?

21:19 UK time, Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Schools have opened their doors for this year's intake of pupils, with many parents having faced a long battle to get their child into the school of their choice. Are school admissions fair?

BBC Two is running a major season on education, focusing on schools.

Kicking off the season is The Big School Lottery takes a year-long look behind-the-scenes in Birmingham with those who decide which secondary school children can go to, and case studies of the families involved.

Are you a parent? What is your experience of the school admissions system? Has your child been placed in their school of choice? Are you a teacher?

Read more about School Season

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

Comments

Page 1 of 2

  • Comment number 1.

    Yes all thanks to Labour. Now come on Tories, start sorting out the mess.

  • Comment number 2.

    It is really very simple.

    Schools have limits to the number of pupils they can take. If more than that number of children apply there has to be a system for deciding who is allocated a place and who is not.

    The way this is done in many other walks of life is by making more popular things more expensive. It costs more to watch Manchester United than it does to watch Accrington Stanley.

    State schools cannot and should not decide who can go to the most popular schools based on who can pay most money. So there has to be a system. And whatever the system there will be winners and losers. It is impossible to design a system in which every child gets the first choice school they want.

  • Comment number 3.

    Does no one read these questions before putting them up?

    How can a choice be a lottery? If it's a lottery then one exercises no choice but simply accepts random fortune.

    What is meant here? Is it "Has the school your kid ends up in become a lottery?" or "Do you usually fail to get your kid into your chosen school?".


  • Comment number 4.

    "Has school choice become a lottery?"

    like: will my child find a place in a school that won't collapse in the next X years??

  • Comment number 5.

    The whole thing is a shambles, decisions being made over children's lives based on useless criteria. I don't know whose fault it is, but schools these days are run like businesses, not like education institutes and I doubt the Tories will change that. Also, the levels in this country are appallingly low compared to the rest of Europe.

  • Comment number 6.

    Has school choice become a lottery?

    It has always been a lottery. Records and statistics tell only a small part of educational truisms, and do not deal with the crucial part a student and a teacher play in the dynamics of learning. Given ten subjects with ten different teachers chance alone would suggest reasonable progress in two to three subjects. But what is the parental target? What is the child's expectation as distinct from what the parents want? How long does it take for an individual child to settle? Will the delay in settling hold the child back 'permanently'?

    In the UK we seem to have a great divide between the parents who 'have' and the parents who 'have not', or put a little better, the child who 'has' and the child who 'has not'. That divide is far worse now than it ever was when I was a child.

    Have we turned education into a cattle market?

  • Comment number 7.

    Kuradi Vitukari #1.

    "Yes all thanks to Labour. Now come on Tories, start sorting out the mess."

    simplistic, and inaccurate.

    see:

    http://www.leeds.ac.uk/educol/documents/000000650.htm

    and, pages 10/11 of rp99-111.pdf which can be found at the www.parliament.uk site.

  • Comment number 8.

    By Gove beeb - I don't think we've seen anything yet!Just wait until all those fab pushy-parent powered "free schools" start opening with the money that should have gone to proper schools.

  • Comment number 9.

    There should be no lottery vis-a-vis schools and educational standards. Every school should be there to provide a good standard of education, no ifs and buts. If they fail to provide that then they should be revamped in order that they can deliver.

  • Comment number 10.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 11.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 12.

    3. At 10:37pm on 07 Sep 2010, Eddy from Waring wrote:
    Does no one read these questions before putting them up?

    How can a choice be a lottery? If it's a lottery then one exercises no choice but simply accepts random fortune.

    What is meant here? Is it "Has the school your kid ends up in become a lottery?" or "Do you usually fail to get your kid into your chosen school?".

    ///

    If you were really interested in this topic, you would have read up on it and understood the question. As a parent who for the last year has gone through the process of finding a secondary school for my child, I understood it all too well. You choose a school, whether you get it really is like a lottery. Random. Rotten system, but too ingrained for it too ever change. I know Cameron visited some of the schools that get 1000+ applications but that will only accept 2 - 300 new pupils. He doesn't seem to think there is anything wrong with it. The big society? Big baloney more likely.

  • Comment number 13.

    1. At 9:54pm on 07 Sep 2010, Kuradi Vitukari wrote:
    Yes all thanks to Labour. Now come on Tories, start sorting out the mess.

    ///

    If you don't have anything else to say but you standard reply to every single topic on HYS, I'd suggest you find something useful to do. It'd be better for everyone, including yourself.

  • Comment number 14.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 15.

    14. At 11:37pm on 07 Sep 2010, Stephanni Snape wrote:
    We have a big class difference in educational standards here. It's funny how working class people in other European countries seem much better educated, interested and open, while ours bear the scars of poor education.

    // It's not (just) the working class. What really scares me is how e.g. part of the middle class, who maybe should have better access to higher standards, are extremely poorly educated. We are not only not offering the working class enough opportunities for good education, we are taking it away from those who historically already had it as well. And as you rightly say, other European countries, especially the East, where people seem much more motivated than us, produce a far more educated, skilled and highly motivated work force, which is recognised by employers as well. Seems we really are on a downward spiral, not helped by people blaming current/past governments rather than getting their finger out and making sure their children get educated to a competitive level.

  • Comment number 16.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 17.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 18.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 19.

    Tomás de Torquemada #15.

    you agree with Stephanni Snape's #14 but then end writing: "Seems we really are on a downward spiral, not helped by people blaming current/past governments rather than getting their finger out and making sure their children get educated to a competitive level."

    why not acknowledge that "social networking" and the need to wear the 'right school tie' Stephanni referred to, ie class issues, play an important role in this country whereas they don't in most of continental Europe.



    jpi #17.

    not sure how your comment relates to schools but if you're worried about retirement, the pension age, etc, blame the people who argue against immigration -- they are the ones who prevent 'fresh blood' from entering the UK.

  • Comment number 20.

    It doesn't work because schools vary in the quality of their teaching. If all schools actually taught the national curriculum to an acceptable standard, then we wouldn't have this ridiculous situation. Of course, parents who care about the quality of education their children receive will do anything to get them into a better school. But they shouldn't have to.

  • Comment number 21.


    What national curriculum?
    It was quite easy to place the children in to primary schools, the league tables were very helpful. I would not say the same though for folk facing entering their children in to the secondary school system.

    what is wrong is one of our local colleges only accepting entrants with seven As at gcses, this college has one of the highest numbers of pupils going to top universities (naturaly as the students are cherry picked).

  • Comment number 22.

    Choice may exist in urban areas, but out here in the sticks there is very little choice of secondary school - just the one in the nearby town. We had the choice of a very poor state comprehensive (no grammars in our area) or expensive private schooling. Fortunately my son won an academic scholarship to the private school, so we could just afford to send him there.
    Until we bring back selective state education, there will be no good choice for the academic children from poorer families.

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 24.

    Each year parents should be given a vouchers for each child they have with each voucher worth one year's public sector education and they can be used at any UK educational establishment whether public or private. The vouchers would only be valid in the UK and only for families who are resident in the UK. The vouchers would not have any value apart from recognised schools who could redeem the value from the government.

  • Comment number 25.

    Not at all! You can still get the best if you have the money !!!!

  • Comment number 26.

    There shouldn't be any choice at all. Children should go to the nearest school in their community, preferably within walking distance.

    It's not even a lottery; it is a fix riddled with unfairness, influence and disadvantage for the poor.

  • Comment number 27.

    If you have the money, then little Henry and Henrietta will go to a private school, nothing wrong with that. If you haven't the money or you live in the country as I do then you used to go to the school that was nearest, end of argument.

    The problem now of course is that we have competitive child rearing, whereby the recently arrived rush all over the county every day, twice a day, making everyone else life miserable and not a little risky ( they have no idea of the rules of the road, speed limits or common courtesy)just so their 'talented' offspring can go to a primary or secondary school which has had its boxes ticked. I can see no reason for this, most kids these days as they were in mine are average, simple as that, so they will do perfectly ok in the nearest school.

    But alas no, every child these days is a genius and is told so until they leave school and find out that isn't the case. In fact many are unemployable because they have had such a high opinion of themselves drilled in by Mr & Mrs Pushy, that anything less than the Bank of England governers job is simply not on.

    This has to stop, not only are the roads around schools becoming littered with the oversized vehicles of idiotic and often deeply unpleasant parents every morning and evening, this has the knock on effects of making small rural communities battle zones twice a day. We need to go back to kids going to the nearest school and if its within a couple of miles, then darn well walk, this school run nonsense is beginning to grate and its completely unnecessary.

  • Comment number 28.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 29.

    no it is not a lottery if you think about it differently. your local school is the school you need to support, if good people use the school nearby then it will improve, get involved get active and stop running away. your kids will achieve the same more or less wherever they go, you are the major influence, not the school.

  • Comment number 30.

    Not only has the schools admissions policy become a farce its plainly clear that the obsession by New Labour for league tables was a major factor in influencing parents.

    All schools will be affected by the gene pool and the the type of area - so no 2 schools can ever be the same, hence the issues around "popular" schools.

    Here's my green policy for schools admissions:

    1. All pupils to walk to school (exemptions for rural situations)

    2. All pupils to go to closest school (no exemptions for siblings).

    3. Parents to sign up to a policy to support the teachers & PTA (to ensure parents back schools not undermine them).

    Simple!

    Reduces car journeys, improves childrens health and schools improve.

    if only it was that simple!

  • Comment number 31.

    Appears, working at the BBC is becoming a bit of a lottery, educationally speaking.....DO you folk have a spell checker? Or a knowledge of Switzerland......where exactly will I find Basle then? I think the correct spelling could be Basel!!!!

  • Comment number 32.

    When I was young, I went to the school that my parents chose, and that was generally the one nearest to your home. All schools were generally of a high standard, so it didn't really matter which one you went to for academic standards. There was never a problem getting into the school of choice.
    When my children were young, we had great difficulty getting them into our local school, and they had to attend different secondary schools due to overcrowding.
    My daughter has found it impossible to get my grandson into her school of choice and is distraught at the prospects for him.
    How times have changed!!!!!!!!! I dread to think of the prospects for future generations. Good luck to you all, I will be dead.

  • Comment number 33.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 34.

    Yes it is a lottery. This is not due to politicians but inept and weak management of teachers many of who lack the core skills needed to teach.

    Parents have been complicite in this by declining to exercise parental control over their children and attcking teachers when they seek to do what parents should.

    At the same time the rentention of out-dated qualifications that lack independences means UK aprents get a rose tinted view of academic performance. In fact performance is dreadful and falling. Despite this neither government, unions or local authorities dare tell the truth.

    It is a disgrace that means education has been a political football for the last 40yrs. We need politics out of education and competence and truth back in.

  • Comment number 35.

    It seems to me far too many parents have no trust, no faith, no modesty, no belief in their children. The first couple of years in education make all the difference to what the future brings; if the base is solid a child will thrive; if not the child will always struggle.

    Perhaps our muddled thinkers should consider putting aside league tables, targets, constraining curriculums and the like, and empower teachers to teach, especially when children are between five and seven years old. Get the best teachers to do their job in primary school and maybe lotteries, choice, artificial expectations and parental vanity will begin to disappear from our sorry society.

  • Comment number 36.

    School choice doesn't really matter, good school bad school neither teach a subject, they all teach to a test, the ratings for schools are based on which school teaches how to pass the test better.
    If you really want your child to have a good rounded education then put some effort in yourself, stop dumping them on the internet and spend some quality time with them.
    My daughter was asked a math question which she was struggling with, so i showed her how to reach the answer required, she still failed even though the answer was right because she did the working out in less equations than would be required for the test.
    When the head of department was queried about this by me, her reply was i'm sorry but we have to teach them to pass the test, how in anyway is that giving a child a good education?

  • Comment number 37.

    Maybe if the teachers were left to just teach the kids, were backed up a bit more by headteachers with regards to unruly kids and they didn't have as much paperwork, the standards of the schools would increase and they would all be more acceptable. Then there would be no need to 'fight for places' in the good schools?

    Parents helping their kids learn a bit more as well wouldn't do any harm.

    And these are generalisations taken from comments made by stressed teachers before anyone jumps down my throat. (Is it sad I feel I have to add the last bit?)

  • Comment number 38.

    Grandson couldnt return to 2nd year high school this week due to the class building being in danger of collapse had been condemded in the holiday, so they got another weeks holiday (at least). What was wrong with going to school within a mile or two of home without choice? All this choice is an illusion becuase when you have chosen half of them cant have it. It produces bad feeling and the morning 4 x 4 chariot race. Competition is good, justifies everything.

  • Comment number 39.

    Its worse than a lottery. WE have an educational system that has been deliberatley designed to religeously indoctrinate children.

    And it discriminates against athiests.

    In certain parts of the UK the only good schools in your surrounding areas are catholic.

    So you either send your child to a bad school or you lie to them and yourself to pretend you believe in god.

    I strongly resent MY taxes being spent on religeous schools because not only do they brain wash children, which is child abuse and disgusts me, but also it means athiests are discriminated against.

    Its a worrying trend in society all these allowances are made for people because they believe in fairy tales and i am expected to pay for it.

    Religeon even allows people to openly be racist homophobic and sexist even when they employ people. For instance i couldn't get a job doing the IT in a catholic school because i am not a catholic.

    Take charitable status from ALL religeons and take government support away from religeous schools and make religeons abide by the same employment law as any other UK employer has to.

  • Comment number 40.

    "Your Children can only have the best education in the U.K. if you pay for it, The rest of the children are in the lottery!!!! winners' or losers' What has happen to our school system ? is this not against the law, what will happen to our future in the U.K.we will not have any top educated people with real talent to fill the top jobs in industry and commerce the U.K. will fall way behind all the other countries in the E.U. Because only the rich children in old school tie network, will get the top jobs. Not on any Ability!!! but Class. { Are The old days making a comeback?}

  • Comment number 41.

    Given the state of the country and the rate GCSA and A levels are heading to 100% A's and A* grades why dont we just give all 5year olds the grades they will get when they leave school (A*'s) and abolish schooling for them. Thats a 35 to 50k saving per child!

  • Comment number 42.

    Gambling (a lottery) should not be used in determining the future of a child.

  • Comment number 43.

    I disgree with this notion of 'choice' in education. These 'choices' are often only available for people in big towns and cities where they might just be able to make a choice from a menu of nearby schools. In most rural towns and villages, it wouldn't be feasible to have this variety, hence the choices would simply not be available. The 'league table' system is also divisive. Examination results should not be made public, but used by councils and the government to identify failing schools and implement the required changes. The openness of the system has only encouraged competition which is simply not appropriate in an educational context in the same way that it is for a business. When there are competitions, people play to win, and use nefarious mean to achieve this - such as making exams easier, coaching, and cherry-picking - all of which tilt the playing field. Religious discrimination is also unfair - no state funded school should have any religious qualification, but should accept the full demographic mix of citizens within its catchment area. Simply put, we should have a single type of school that offers all state pupils roughly the same decent level of education whatever their geographical location or religious belief. The private sector can do what it likes, but this annual bunfight for the best schools, and the politicisation of education is ruining our children.

  • Comment number 44.

    Are school admissions fair?

    Of course they are not.

    Much of the unfairness yet again reverts to religion and religious schools, the majority of which discriminate against children whos parents are of none or differing religious faith/beliefs.

    There are areas in UK where religious schools dominate, hence local children are forced to travel greater distance to receive an education.

    This situation, 30% of ALL UK schools being religious, is FUNDED by those parents whos children are turned away and refused entry.

    This is NOT just unfair, it is UNJUST and DISCRIMINATORY and BIASED.

    UK education is an open joke, fairness, justice, and truth are political play things.

    It is my opinion that teaching of religion should be banned in schools.

    Schools, ESPECIALLY UK taxpayer funded schools, should be religious free, NONE should be used/allowed to INDOCTRINATE our nations young minds with theological biased and discriminatory fantasy/fiction, lies, and deceit.

    It is outrageous that such schools are allowed to teach their version of science and history, including evolution of species, and then for another lesson, namely religious indoctrination lessons, to basically reject and refute facts, evidence, truth, reality and common sense.

    UK schools have NOT just become a lottery, they have more and more become biased discriminatory institutions used for the purpose of indoctrinating gullible young children to further and strengthen the cause of religions and their desired/sought outcome of religious totalitarianism.

    Discrimination in the Uk has actually grown, it has NOT receeded, its basis is taught that each religion refuses to allow another belief to even share a fantasy place called heaven, all others of non belief or religious belief are excluded, thus they are NOT worthy and basically 2nd/3rd rate people.

    This is basically what 30% of UK schools teach, and the real issue is that some in government, such as Blair, and even now, Cameron and education secretary Micheal Gove, seek to give further advantage for such biased/discriminatory schools to expand and grow their numbers via pretentious and devious " free schools" and "accademys".

    UK education is less becoming a lottery, it is actually more and more turning into a religious version of the Hitler youth.

    Educational choice, is an attrocious political perversion of reality, as is the reality that religious schools are the greatest perveyors of secretarianism and discrimination in our society. The carrot, being deviously used/manipulated is that of educational standards, many parents basically sell their souls to a particular religion, just to enable their child to be allowed to attend their local school, which more and more is of religous discriminatory beliefs.

    Basically, 30% of education lottery choice in UK is extremely BIASED and discriminatory, and if you do not follow/believe a particular indoctrination of religion, then it is often basically just a complete waste of time even applying for certain local schools.

    A couple of things parent should ultimately ask themselves when attempting to choose a school for their children. 1st, do you want a secretarian society like N. Ireland, where belief and belonging to a secretarian religious club dominates and discriminates against life, or do you want your child to be of a free mind set, open and non-biased.

    What price education? The price and choice of much UK education is not as simple as stated on the label!!!

  • Comment number 45.

    When I was a Governor of a large primary school some years ago, I would often surprise parents (and teachers) with this simple piece of maths:

    Total number of hours in a year = 24 x 365 = 8,760
    Assuming the proportion of waking hours for the average child is 50%, then the number of waking hours = 4,380

    Number of school weeks = 40
    Approximate number of hours of teaching time per week = 24
    Annual number of teaching hours = 40 x 24 = 960

    Therefore % of waking hours in contact with teachers = 100 * 960/4,380 = 22%

    So for 78% of their waking hours, children are doing other things, with family, with friends, watching TV / playing video games, on the internet

    Schools can only do so much if these other influences (especially the commitment of parents) are not supportive of the educational process and expectations are low.

    Having said that, there is a problem with the quality of teachers and their training. The range of ability (especially in maths, science and english) and competence is too wide, and poor teachers are very hard to eradicate from the system. Tackling this problem would help equalise the standard of teaching, but over a considerable time - and not quick enough to moderate the fears that caring people have for thier child's education.










  • Comment number 46.

    Until a child actually goes to a school you don't really know what the school is like. Our son just passed his GCSEs at the local comp; he got 6 As, 1 C and the rest is Bs. The comp. has not got a particularly good reputation but he never had any problems. There are also several Cath. Schools nearby (I do not want to knock C.S.) but if you asked people about their conception about schools, the C.S. would be seen as better. In fact, for years the nearby C.S. for boys has not done as well in GCSEs as the comp.

  • Comment number 47.

    Are school admissions fair?

    'Fairness' is a very subjective concept (it's also very NuLabour and therefore something that the BBC loves); if your child got into the school of your choice, then it's fair, but if your child didn't, then it isn't.

    Life's like that; it's not always fair but that's the way it is, so people had better get used to it and stop whining about it.

  • Comment number 48.

    The only solution is to convert all unpopular schools into popular schools.

    Call them academies if you like, but the important thing is to deal with poor staff and physical conditions and to make sure they can attract their share of good staff by paying bonuses if necessary. Also make sure that they can attract their share of bright pupils by banning, once and for all, selection on any basis, in publicly financed schools.

    Make sure that as far as possible, all schools have some spare capacity, so that almost all children get their first choice.

    Above all be prepared to spend money. Removing charitable status from private schools would release money presently spent subsidising those who do not need it. For too long, politicians have got away with pretending that they can solve the problem by means of some gimmick, and that extra money is not needed.

  • Comment number 49.

    My granddaughter narrowly failed her Eleven Plus examination, and didn't gain a grammar school place. Her parents didn't want her to attend the local comprehensive school, which has a reputation for low academic achievement and poor behaviour.
    So, they applied for a place in another comprehensive, some six miles away, for which my granddaughter had to pass an entrance examination, ostensibly because they live outside the school's catchment area.
    Only the bad schools operate what one might consider an all-comers entrance policy - the rest are as selective as the law allows.

  • Comment number 50.

    Pay to put your kid in the private school of your choice or go to the school which serves the catchment area you live in - and get on with it.

    The system as it stands is stupid as are those who perpetuate it!

  • Comment number 51.

    It was a sad day for communities in this country when the schools' lottery dictated that children would often have to travel distances beyond the community to less quality schools in order that other children from outside the same communities were allowed to come into the community to take the places of children from that community.One of the many aspects of social engineering from New Labour that helped to slide this country down the slippery slope of selfishness.

  • Comment number 52.

    Hmmm, - seems to me that the social engineers are having a bit of a hissy fit over this one.

    First they had lotteries, hoping that this would lead to schools having a 'good social mix'.

    Then, surprise, surprise, - they found that schools which had catchment areas in a middle class area were full of middle class kids and that schools with catchement areas full of sink estates were full of hooligans. Cue the said hissy fit. Now they want to change the catchment areas so they can interfere more 'efficiently' - if that's the word.

  • Comment number 53.

    It should be realized that to an extent this debate relates to larger urban areas. It has to remembered that in many rural areas there is no choice unless the child is taken large distances which for most is not practical.

  • Comment number 54.

    17. At 00:10am on 08 Sep 2010, jpi wrote:
    "French government is right to make the changes in retierment age but at the same time government should reshuffle the expense dack and find the answer to buddget problem.

    By extending retierment age government is delaying fresh college graduates from joining the workforce.Government has to create more jobs before extending the retierment age and i think it is the obligation towards the citizens.

    Balancing the buddget is not the only priority of any government in this economy otherwise to make living crime will go up."



    This is an interesting comment on an HYS topic that's about education. Perhaps the contributor should get one!

    I would be keen to hear from anyone who can tell me when it was that the State finally became to incompetent to provide any service at all. What a bright idea it was to dish out education by lottery: did no one suspect, even remotely that it didn't have a cat in Hell's chance of working. From a railway workers perspective, it's like 50,000 people wanting to travel from York to Manchester would buy a rail ticket, then 20,000 are offered a seat on a York-Manchester train, a further 2,500 can stand, and the rest are offered a train from Colchester to Brighton. And somebody thought that was a bright idea. . .



  • Comment number 55.

    Where there is limited capacity there is no choice, and therefore any school admissions policy will either be unfair on the disadvantaged or a lottery for at least some people. Pre-requisites for choice are plentiful supply and affordability. If there are only two TV sets are on the market at the same price but one is regularly out of stock I only have a choice when I am lucky enough to find both sets in stock. What is more likely though is that the TV set which is regularly out of stock will be more expensive and if I can't afford it I have no choice.

    Providing spare capacity is of course inefficient, and unless we are prepared to ensure demand is always met for popular schools and allow the remainder to be half empty if necessary the only solution is probably some kind of quota system whereby each school is forced to take fixed percentages of children across the ability and social class ranges. Unless of course we resolve to make every school as good as the next and stop the nonsense of successive disguised attempts to prioritise the needs of (usually middle class) more able children.

  • Comment number 56.

    1. At 9:54pm on 07 Sep 2010, Kuradi Vitukari wrote:
    "Yes all thanks to Labour. Now come on Tories, start sorting out the mess."

    Seems like we're in a bit of an Eton mess at the moment. Thanks to the Tories it looks as though the rich will remain able to secure the best places at the best schools for their children.

  • Comment number 57.

    In my previos comment, (comment 54) I meant to say, of course: "when it was that the State finally became too incompetent. . ."
    Curse my failing eyesight! I also apologise for starting a sentence with "And".

    43. At 09:27am on 08 Sep 2010, LippyLippo wrote:

    "I disgree with this notion of 'choice' in education."

    Fair enough, Lippy: what is the point of "Choice"? I know: I want the best for my child, so let's have an appalling school nearby, so my child doesn't have to go to it. Genius! Even better: the "good" school then only has to be mediocre, so long as it's brilliant in comparison. All we need to do then is breed some brats to go to the rubbish school and Bob's yer uncle: my child is set up to go on to higher education, a Master's Degree and a checkout job in Sainsbury's!
    (If any one of you went through the old-fashioned education system that I did and went on to become a halfway decent optician then please let me know).

  • Comment number 58.

    Kuradi Vitukari wrote:
    Yes all thanks to Labour. Now come on Tories, start sorting out the mess.

    Sorry, The ConDems have virtually assured that most education establishment will be falling down within the lifetime of this Parliament!!

    I went to the state schools in my catchment area in a working class area and on to the state Comprehensive that dealt with that catchement area. Many of my peers went on to university and gained good qualifications.
    My children have attended the schools in their catchment area and ahve both achieved a good schooling.

    Perhaps we need to return to catchment areas and involve communities in running their schools for the benefit of all.

    If all schools had the right facilities and the right teachers then there would be no need for choice.

    The Tory dogma of choice for choice's sake just creates division.

  • Comment number 59.

    Life itself is a lottery, and this obsession with pushing little Jonny into the right school is getting out of hand. When I was in short trousers, there wasn't a choice at all beyond passing or failing the 11+. You went to the school closest to where you lived, and no parent dreamed of, or could afford, uprooting the whole family.

    It was the quality of the teaching staff that mattered in my time, and I am proud to say that virtually all at my secondary school were excellent - committed and enthusiastic, earning the respect they deserved. What has gone so wrong with today's education system that people will actually move house to gain their child's admittance elsewhere?

  • Comment number 60.

    Education has been a bit of a mess for, well, ever really. The fact that, as a front line public servant, I had to meet many people who had come through the education system unable to read and write was, to me, shocking and a damning indictment of the fact that it needed change.

    However, all governments mucked about, tweaked, played around, changed the curriculum, introduced all kinds of nonsense for the teachers to deal with and it's an even bigger mess than it used to be. (that's what teachers tell me).

    I would suggest that if this government want to prove they are true to their election rhetoric, and not what I suspect that they are, which is just old fashioned tories, then if they made the ed system work to the benefit of the majority and allowed teachers to teach and scrapped these ridiculous league tables and stopped the creation of elitism within public sector schooling, then I might think differently of them.

    But they won't.

  • Comment number 61.

    It appears that our schools have been taken over by immigrant children. This pushes our own kids out of the running because of the bias against indigenous whites in this Country by the authorities who are afraid to do otherwise for fear of being called racist. The immigrants have done a good job with raising the racial card at every situation.

  • Comment number 62.

    When my (now 17 year old) daughter was applying for schools, we put Fairfield High in Droylsden, Greater Manchester which is a 1-2 mile bus ride from where we live in Audenshaw, Tameside and probably the best girls school. We were given a school which is nowhere near a bus route as I could not (and would not) contribute the the bad traffic at that time of the morning. She went to Trinity CE High in Manchester which involved 2 buses each way and has now got friends who live over in Didsbury/Chortlon.

    My eldest went to Audenshaw which is the best school and just around the corner and an all-boys school until 6th form where it is mixed.

    My point is, why do schools not take the ones who live nearest first and gradually take ones who can get there by a direct bus as in the case of the daughter? I am hoping my youngest who goes to high school in 3 years will get into Audenshaw otherwise I will be camping out. We already lived here before my eldest even started so don't even go there with the 'middle income parents moving to get child in school' nonsense.

  • Comment number 63.

    School admissions policy and propoganda was another example of NuLabour trying to win popularity by creating false hopes - "every school should be a good school". Yeah, and lets abolish world poverty, homelessness and hunger while we are at it. The coalition will probably do the same.

    For there to be true choice there would need to be many more school places than there are children. This would be very wasteful at the best of times and impossible in the current climate.

    Therefore oversubscription of popular schools is a fact of life and in fact very few methods are allowed to resolve this. Geography/catchment areas is one (with the alleged drawback that only rich people can afford the houses near to popular schools). Names in the hat/lottery is another (with the drawback that parents and children may have to travel great distances pushing up pollution, congestion, transport costs, and commuting time).

    In this context what is so wrong with selection based on ability? Universities and employers do it all the time. So, when you think about it do all schools - when recruiting their staff. So why not pupils? At least then poor but clever children get a chance to go to the best schools and get a leg up.

  • Comment number 64.

    It is ludicrous that we are in the situaion were a child could be sent to a school that is 20km away when there is a school just around the corner.

    Will anything be done about it? With the tories in charge, absolutely nothing. All the tories care about are the public schools that they and their friends send their children to.

  • Comment number 65.

    "27. At 07:30am on 08 Sep 2010, solomondogs wrote:
    If you have the money, then little Henry and Henrietta will go to a private school, nothing wrong with that. If you haven't the money or you live in the country as I do then you used to go to the school that was nearest, end of argument.

    The problem now of course is that we have competitive child rearing, whereby the recently arrived rush all over the county every day, twice a day, making everyone else life miserable and not a little risky ( they have no idea of the rules of the road, speed limits or common courtesy)just so their 'talented' offspring can go to a primary or secondary school which has had its boxes ticked. I can see no reason for this, most kids these days as they were in mine are average, simple as that, so they will do perfectly ok in the nearest school.

    But alas no, every child these days is a genius and is told so until they leave school and find out that isn't the case. In fact many are unemployable because they have had such a high opinion of themselves drilled in by Mr & Mrs Pushy, that anything less than the Bank of England governers job is simply not on.

    This has to stop, not only are the roads around schools becoming littered with the oversized vehicles of idiotic and often deeply unpleasant parents every morning and evening, this has the knock on effects of making small rural communities battle zones twice a day. We need to go back to kids going to the nearest school and if its within a couple of miles, then darn well walk, this school run nonsense is beginning to grate and its completely unnecessary."

    Could not agree more with this comment.

  • Comment number 66.

    Yes it has, but as a parent who has benefited from it, I cannot add a non biased comment.
    Without the choice of schools locally and being given a chance to choose which we would like our children to go to, I would almost certainly have opted to home school my children. If our only choice had been the local school we would have moved into a different catchment area or home schooled. As it was, we had a choice and although its further to walk each day, it has been worth it. Therefore because we didn't have to move nearer to the school of choice, we are able to live in a different area and have the children go to a good school. If we had had no choice, my children would not be getting the education I feel they deserve.
    I suspect, the only reason why some people say the school choices system is a lottery is because they have failed to get the schooling they want. Currently there are choices, not always the ones we want, but at least we have that choice. If these choices get taken away, I will have a situation where some of the children go to one school and the other who doesn't start yet, will go to another. That would be unfair. So whatever changes are planned, they need to be bought in slowly for the first children then successive, not as a blanket change for a certain date.
    Also, the location of a school is not indicative as to how good it is within the social economic ethnic area it is situated in.
    The government needs to concentrate on making bad schools better, with better teachers and provisions, and bring the Ofsted reports up to speed so parents can keep up with how well a school is doing.

  • Comment number 67.

    The whole lot's a load of bunkum, children should go to the school that's geographically closest to them. If parents don't like the school closest to them move house to near one that they like. The education system shouldn't be pandering to the likes and dislikes of parents. Maybe all the baloney that's gone on was just labours way of creating more work to create jobs for their croneys, and the conservatives are doing their own thing with academies. Suggestion, get a compass out, draw a circle around each school, any child within that circle goes to that school, simples!

  • Comment number 68.

    I am neither a parent, student or teacher, but I do work in a school & people are right when they say that the problem is that schooling is a business now. The only important thing is how much money you're getting in.
    Where I work we have recently (like many other schools) had redundancies due to fund cutting, Have a guess which department didn't lose any staff... Teachers? you're having a laugh, they're the first to go. Student services? (advice & counselling, events & activities etc) Wrong!!
    It was Marketing.
    Says it all really.

  • Comment number 69.

    I live in a new-ish development within a small town. The nearest school is less than ten minutes' walk away - but we are out of catchment for that school. Last year only six non-sibling places were available.

    The next nearest school is in the next village, around 30 mins' walk away, involving crossing a busy dual-carriageway A-road. That is also vastly oversubscribed. To get there, you pass the first school. It's not mollycoddling or wasteful to do this journey by car, particularly if like most parents you have to go on to work straight afterwards.

  • Comment number 70.

    If the standard of education at all primary schools in a local area was roughly similar, then there would be much less of a problem.

    Take the example of my neighbourhood (a Labour safe seat, in case you were wondering), where my now three-year-old will have to attend a reception class next year. There are five primary schools within reasonable walking distance of our house. Of those, three are so far down the league tables that I wouldn't send a dog there let alone a child. One is about average, and the other is considered very good.

    Two of the schools (the best and one of worst) are both about two blocks from our house. I desperately want her in the better one, especially since she's already reading and doing basic maths. Am I scared to death she'll end up in a failing school? You bet!

  • Comment number 71.

    Though I caught only the latter part of last night's transmission, I found it highly interesting and relevant, not least because we have a 10-year-old foster child who will move to secondary school in the next intake. The main reason for posting this comment, however, was to record my horror at seeing children and mother of one of the featured families travelling as rear-seat passengers without seat belts. Are there no Health & Safety checklists available to producers? If so, do they not include such a fundamentally important remeinder to ask filmed subjects to belt-up?

  • Comment number 72.

    The whole idea of parent choice is the problem, it was a farce from day one. The answer, the only answer, is to ensure that ALL publicly funded schools are up to the same high standard.

  • Comment number 73.

    Labour flooded the country with millions more people and then expected the infrastructure to cope. Now we have a disastrously overcrowded country. I just hope no-one ever votes for them again.

  • Comment number 74.

    "
    13. At 11:31pm on 07 Sep 2010, Tomás de Torquemada wrote:

    1. At 9:54pm on 07 Sep 2010, Kuradi Vitukari wrote:
    Yes all thanks to Labour. Now come on Tories, start sorting out the mess.

    ///

    If you don't have anything else to say but you standard reply to every single topic on HYS, I'd suggest you find something useful to do. It'd be better for everyone, including yourself.
    "

    Your Mom's on line one, she said shy aren't you at School?

  • Comment number 75.

    The education system is a mess of half implemented ideologies with a bunch of teachers, parents and kids trying to make it all work despite all of that. It is quite clear that some schools are far better than others to the extent that choice becomes competition and losing can be detrimental at a whole life level for a child.

    This is unnacceptable. It is a failure of successive governments. Decide on a system based on a set of values and make that work. It almost doesn't matter which system it is ideologically. Most people would say they want their nearest school to perform well and to deliver an individualised but egalitarian education to their children that afford them the same chances as every other child of their raw ability. Well I say that but then I forget sometimes ........

  • Comment number 76.

    There wouldn't be a problem with school selection if all State Schools were run with a bit of insight and integretary.

    I applied for a private school but was not accepted based on the premise that they gave places to families with a history in the school first. I ended up in a public school.

    My peers who went to the former were treated to top notch teachers, a range of over 50 after school clubs WITH school buses available for those that attended them. If they fell behind they were asked why, if they felt hard done by they could appeal.

    In comparison the public school I went to was totally indifferent. We could be taught by anything from geniuses to students to pet monkeys. If you wanted to go to an after school club you had to pay for it and find your own way home. The solution to any problem was to presume all pupils concerned were wrong then file it away. If someone fancied a fight with you and their parents were a friend of one of the heads that was your chance of justice out the window. The only thing I left state school with was clinical depression, some sub standard Highers and an absolute Abhorence for state run education.

    The sad irony is this school was top ten in the Scottish League tables.

    Needless to say I went to college for my 6th year where, despite the connotations of the institution, the teachers were there to teach. They wanted to see people develop. Going to college for that one year was possibly my best life decision and the following year I had offers from some of the best Uni's going.

  • Comment number 77.

    After seeing this programme on BBC2 last night I feel sorry for the parents who want the best for their children but do not feel they have the nouse to push their way through this terrible system.

    Where did this all start? And why has the system gone so badly wrong?

    If anything is leading to the lack of social mobility then this has to be the main cause.

    It is not so much a lottery as it is the ability for some parents to move around more freely than others to get what they want.

    The stress that parents and children are going through to get into a decent school is one of the biggest outrages of our time.

  • Comment number 78.

    I work in a local authority specialising in education law.

    You don't choose a school.
    You don't have the right to choose a school, you indicate a preference.
    You don't have a right to attend any particular school.
    You do not have a right to be offered one of your preferences.
    In many local authorities, you do not have a right to free school travel because you live x miles away

    These are complete misconceptions

    What you have is:
    a right to express a preference to which school(s) you would like your child to go to.
    A right to your child being treated equally according to the LA published admission system.
    The right to appeal against a refusal of a place by a school that you would like your child to go to (irrespective of whether it was one of your original preferences).

    Referring to Common Admission Arrangements as a 'lottery' is stupid and misleading. It is not a lottery. There are strictly defined criteria that must be worked through.

    Most disappointed parents could have increased their chances if they had been realistic and understand how the offers are worked out.

    I frequently attend appeals panels and the common reasons for a child not getting the school that they want, is when the parent has either:

    - not understood the procedure
    - tried to be clever with the system
    - listened to other parents offering 'advice' (DON'T LISTEN TO THEM)
    - put forward preferences that are miles and miles away
    - put only one school down "because that is the only school I will accept"

    My earnest advice is to do your own research and to ensure that you uinderstand how the system works in your area. PLEASE speak to your LA admissions department.

  • Comment number 79.

    "64. At 12:10pm on 08 Sep 2010, thelevellers wrote:
    Will anything be done about it? With the tories in charge, absolutely nothing. All the tories care about are the public schools that they and their friends send their children to."

    --------------------
    Because no Tories have their children in state schools, and no Labour have their children in public schools, right?

  • Comment number 80.

    Hands up anyone who has a plan for fair school admissions!

  • Comment number 81.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 82.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 83.

    This is yet another case of the UK media keeping people in a bubble. Every country in the World must have this problem, and some must have solutions. But, for some reason, we are lead to believe that only the UK exists. Is it just lazy journalism, or is there a reason?

  • Comment number 84.

    To be honest the school choice system is an inevitable consequence of the "I'm alright Jack" attitude of parents and the winner takes all philosophy of the currrent education system. One thing that can help social mobility in education is for children to go to their NEAREST school. Stories of well meaning, but pushy, parents moving house or renting properties in catchment areas of good schools is ridiculous.

    Let these children go to their "poor" local school. Then these schools will improve because of the increased parental involvement (and lets face it - pressure!)

    Do parents know what these schools are actually like? How much is parent tittle tattle and league table results? Schools are only measured on one thing - are you that sure your local school is that bad and the super school on the other side of town isn't just producing mindless exam robots that can pass a test? If you are a caring parent that values education, your child will achieve.

    Finally, I would argue that there are more quality teachers in the schools in the rougher areas as they have to teach with pretty much zero parental support. They are trying with children who are 50m behind in the race. How difficult is it to get children with educated, interested parents, already streets ahead, to acheive?

  • Comment number 85.

    After years of closing smaller village community schools that have stood for a century or more, we get these massive 2000 + pupil schools which are good for nothing, and now the government introduces build your own, any size. Got a spare room in your house, open a school. Now they have sold the original buildings of the village schools, they want others to fund the replacement of their stupid actions.

  • Comment number 86.

    I am a parent of secondary age children, a primary school teacher and an ex-admissoins officer.

    My children both attend our local denominational state school, it would have been our first preference but I knew that the chances of getting in were poor at best - as Christians we wanted our children in a Christian school but it is Catholic and so we were not going to be considered in the first draft - I'm OK with that the school was built by and for the local Catholic community, it was not built by the state and so Catholic children should have first call on places. So I played safe and opted for our and was allocated our local community high school and then wrote to the Catholic school to ask them to consider ours a late application. They were happy to accommmodate us in the shifting allocation lists which occur when children who are going to attend schools in the Independent sector give back places to be reallocated.

    Are we happy? Yes and we would have been if it hadn't worked out the way it had as both schools have excellent - and well deserved - reputations. The problem really comes for those who live in areas where the quality of schools is not good enough.

    As for 'choice' I'd defy you to show me any legislation which enshrined 'choice' - a dirty word amongst admission officers - the word is 'preference', and though everyone in the system wants to comply with parental preference this just can never happen - whatever you do the problem will always remain until the quality of all schools is driven up to meet what we all want for our children.

  • Comment number 87.

    Part of the problem with education is that because we've all been through the educational system, we're all somehow 'experts'. Meanwhile, somehow we've managed to turn a blind eye while the 'managers' (a.k.a bean counters) have successfully grabbed the strings and are controlling things, with reams of really very strange 'targets' and 'strategies' and on and on and on.

    And as a parent, in a fairly small town, I really do not want a 'choice', especially when there really isn't one (Option 1: The local school. Option 2: The School 10 miles away. Option 3: The School 15 miles away ...). I just want the local school to be good enough.

    And I agree with the comment which implied that we need an informed, intelligent inspectorate – not the 'checkbox brigade' we have at the moment, with no responsibility to contribute anything more than 'judgements' which are based often on a school's ability to play the system and fudge the figures – easily achieved by capable heads, but such a waste of resources.

  • Comment number 88.

    watching the programme is making me feel glad that I live in Scotland and have never had to bid for a school place.

  • Comment number 89.

    I agree with posts 78 and 86. I work in admissions, and am constantly explaining the difference between "preference" and "choice", and that parents should be realistic in their preferences.

    The title of this programme was very misleading. Admissions is not a 'lottery' - decisions are made on clear and objective criteria which are made available to parents at the beginning of the process. Only in a few areas is a lottery used.

    The programme clearly showed the importance of the order you name the schools - we always work to meet the highest ranked preference.

    In my experience even the school with the best exam results and reports has its detractors, and the school which many parents refuse to consider is wanted by some.

    Although the programme showed the work of the admissions team, it did not show the huge amount of work involved in getting the computer to the point that it can make the initial offers, and the work involved in resolving the cases where no offer could be made, or the parents didn't bother to apply at all, or applied late. I wonder how many parents in Birmingham last year didn't even complete a form by the deadline?

    Also, I wish my IT was as good as their system was portrayed as being! It is always harder than that, and takes a lot of work to set up and monitor.

    Our work ISN'T just about children moving from primary to secondary schools, it is also about children starting school, sorting out "in-year" school places where parents want to change schools or move house, dealing with appeals which most parents are very unlikely to win, arranging consultations about the criteria and a load of other work. We are often stuck between schools on one hand and parents on another.

    So don't be surprised if the person on the 'phone on 2 March sounds a little stressed! They've probably talked to a load of parents about how unfair it all is because they didn't get your first preference.

  • Comment number 90.

    A lottery? Nothing that fair or equitable, as far as I can see from this side of the border. It seems to me that the school choice system has become a very effective way of ensuring that schools in sink estates continue to be populated by children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, while schools in leafy suburbs get nice middle-class kids.

    You really want to make this fair? Outlaw private education and allocate school places on a genuine lottery basis and be prepared to pay for transport of kids to the schools they get to go to. Does this involve parent choice? No - and I don't give a stuff. Truth is that "parent choice" works for well-off middle-class parents (like me) but not for the poor working-class parents

  • Comment number 91.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 92.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 93.

    If the previous government had not wasted billions on rediculous school schemes, projects and gimmicks then these lottery systems would not be needed. They should have spent the money on improving failing schools to bring them up to standard with other schools. Instead they went down the road of closing or punishing under performing schools. What an utterly ludicrous strategy to improve schooling. However, they were far more interested in achieving statistics to make them look good, rather than implmeneting strategies that, in the long term will produce improvements. That is the whole problem with governement as it currently stands, the craving for power removes the long term vision. In the words of H.G.Wells, 'we are constantly making the future, but none of us are stopping to think what we are making'.

  • Comment number 94.

    76. At 3:02pm on 08 Sep 2010, AGnomeCalledJimmy wrote:
    There wouldn't be a problem with school selection if all State Schools were run with a bit of insight and integretary.

    I applied for a private school but was not accepted based on the premise that they gave places to families with a history in the school first. I ended up in a public school.

    My peers who went to the former were treated to top notch teachers, a range of over 50 after school clubs WITH school buses available for those that attended them. If they fell behind they were asked why, if they felt hard done by they could appeal.

    In comparison the public school I went to was totally indifferent. We could be taught by anything from geniuses to students to pet monkeys. If you wanted to go to an after school club you had to pay for it and find your own way home. The solution to any problem was to presume all pupils concerned were wrong then file it away. If someone fancied a fight with you and their parents were a friend of one of the heads that was your chance of justice out the window. The only thing I left state school with was clinical depression, some sub standard Highers and an absolute Abhorence for state run education.
    --------------------------------------

    The grass is always greener. I got a state assisted place (gov paid the fees of bright 'disadvantaged' children to go to private schools - they don't do this any more) to the local private school. While the standard of teaching was indeed excellent you had no youth. While I cam eout of it with exceptional exam results, I and many of my friends left with massive depression and cronic insecurities and I still wonder if I would be a stronger person had I just gone to the local school.

    What I am saying, is many people hate school and it is natural to think that somewhere else would have been better when it may not have been. As to your comment about after school clubs, of course they were included at the private school, they pay massive fees to go there which at the state schools you do not.

  • Comment number 95.

    Yes, the choice system becomes a lottery when the playing field is so uneven. What struck me about last nights programme (8th Sep) was the huge advantage that independent school children had over state primary educated children in grabbing the much-sought after Grammar school places. It seemed patently unfair. In my opinion the system should be weighted to give state primary children a fairer chance of entry to the Grammar schools. With the current system, there is no difference between buying your way into a good catchment area or paying prep school fees - both unfairly leverage high income families into the best the state can offer. There is much that should still be done to make the 'lottery' less of one, particularly for lower income families.

  • Comment number 96.

    I see a lot of comments criticising religious schools but has anyone actually looked at the admission criteria recently? Religious Schools may ask that people attend the local church but they certainly do not give them priority. At the top of every primary school criteria are those children who are in care or have disabilites, it doesn't matter if they live near by or are religious.

    I have yet to encounter any problems getting my children into a school. I only applied for one and that was my local one as I feel that a child will do well regardless of what primary school they are in and so far my eldest two children are both doing well and the teachers are have only glowing reports to give about them. The school is certainly not the best in the area, it had the lowest SAT scores last year but my children are happy and the teachers are fantastic.

    I know full well I am going have a major fight on my hands when it comes to applying for high school as there are few decent ones in my area, but I also know from experience that the best school is not always the right school for a child. I attended the best school in my area but felt negelcted by my techers for not being a high acheiever compared to my fellow students. I honestly feel I would of received better grades in my GCSE's had I attended a different school.

    The problem is that many parents apply for the best schools full well knowing that their child has minimal chance of getting into the school especially if they do not meet the criteria and then they feel disappointed despite that.

  • Comment number 97.

    Excuse my non parent ignorance but what happens if: a) the child did not get an offer, b) parents won't accept the offer etc ? Does the child go through clearing ? Do they have to apply next year ?

    In my schooldays (75-86) five infants schools fed into three junior/middle schools which in turn fed into two high schools. Simple, but then again we had no social engineering back then !!

  • Comment number 98.

    I don't care who goes to what school, but for the sake of my sanity can we please address the misuse of apostrophes ? (I saw many offences in Tesco, Truro this week !!!)

  • Comment number 99.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 100.

    Having lived for the past five years in Belgium, I cannot understand why the British public is not up in arms about the British education system: it must be one of the most brutal and elitist systems in Europe. In my view, the two-tiered system with state / independent divide, is appallingly unfair. Frankly, my experience of living in Belgium has swept aside every argument in favour of keeping our independent school sector: I can't think of anything more socially divisive. Their charitable status is laughable: throwing out a few scholarships to a tiny number of gifted 'poor', is simply not good enough. Yes, they are big business, and attract millions of pounds from foreign students, but can we afford as a nation to gamble away the opportunity of a good education for our own children, across the social spectrum? I do believe, given an all state system, that the state could offer a full range of education, from the vocational through to the academic, without resorting to stressful exams and a postcode lottery; as indeed is the case in Belgium. There, you will find that children are offered an amazing choice, both at primary and secondary school. There is no fuss in choosing a secondary school. Decisions are made based on the teacher's advice and the child's average marks, over the school year.

 

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