Posts filed under ‘School admissions’

Education. It’s a risky business!


The TES recently undertook a survey of over 2200 parents on the issue of the potential boycott of SATS by the NUT and NAHT which showed that the unions do not have the support of majority of parents over this issue. This is in strong contrast to the findings of research carried out by NAHT and the  Department for Children, Schools and Families which found that 85% of their survey of 10,400 parents wanted league tables and national testing scrapped.

Whoever you may choose to believe this does raise interesting issues about where parents do stand in relation to education system changes. In fact parents have very little influence but I am interested in what they think because if the education system is to change radically, and I believe it must, this must happen with the agreement and crucially, involvement, of parents. They must be on side.

And I think this is problematic because mostly parents do not want to take risks with their children’s education. And a reason we do not want to do this (I am a parent also) is that is we place such high emotional value on getting their education right. 3 Years ago my daughter was allocated a secondary school that we felt was wholly wrong for her and had not been one of our original choices. Although it was not our fault on hearing this news we felt we had badly let her down, kind of neglected her welfare somehow.

The next few weeks of preparing an appeal case took over our lives completely and felt like the most important thing we had ever done, literally. Thankfully we won the appeal and the relief and joy was equal in measure to the opposite feelings we had experienced.

I then continued at the forefront of the campaign that led to the establishment of the so called’ lottery’ (I prefer ballot) admissions system in Brighton which judging by the vilification of me and some of my colleagues in the local press was testament to the strength of feeling over these issues.

Whether or not getting our kids to the right secondary school should take on such an elevated sense of importance is another matter. The fact is it does. And as long as it does I wonder what it will take to persuade parents to do anything vaguely radical when it comes to their kid’s education.

I recently attended an event about the future of education at the British Academy in London at which a parent, who is also a teacher, told us that he had sent his young teenage daughter to study in France for a whole term in order to enhance her experience, broaden her outlook etc.. He told us that it had been a great success and that his daughter came back more fulfilled as a result.

He then made the following, very interesting point. He said that although he and his wife believed their actions would be of great benefit to their daughter, they couldn’t actually guarantee that. They were trying something out so there was an element of risk involved. He then said that whilst he felt it OK to take that risk in respect of his own daughter, he didn’t feel he could take the same risk in respect of the pupils he taught.

I get his point, and therein lays a particular problem in respect of the progress of the radical changes that we must undertake.

May 29, 2009 at 3:09 pm 1 comment

The ‘lottery’ is here to stay

Not the Camelot one, the Brighton and Hove admissions one.

Following my previous post on March 4th about a potential review of the so called school admissions ‘lottery’ system I am pleased that last week it was announced that in Brighton and Hove the system will stay as it currently is at least for the next 3 years, until 2012, when it will be reviewed.

This is exoneration for the two years hard graft and emotional cost by those like me who spent so much of their lives trying to get the best possible (admittedly not perfect) system.

Bearing in mind that at the time of the initial implementation of the current system the conservatives did their very best to ensure that it was not accepted the fact that it is Vanessa Brown, conservative deputy leader of the council, who now extols the virtues of the system is good but somewhat exasperating.

The arguments she now uses for the ‘lottery’ system are the very arguments those of us who developed and supported the system extolled during the review process and the very arguments which her fellow conservatives rejected out of hand.

Unfortunately there is little common sense in this, and a lot of politicking.

I doubt that anything will change in the next three years to render the ‘lottery’ system anything other than the best fit for Brighton and Hove. I can’t see all Brighton schools magically relocated (location being a large part of the original admissions difficulties) in this time.

But given that a change of government is likely before the review date, who would not bet that a battle to retain the system beyond 2012 will have to be fought. Given, also, that the comprehensive two year review that has taken place did look at all feasible alternatives, any system other than the current one will almost certainly be a backwards step for the city.

I am generally an optimist and not particularly prone to doom mongering, but in this instance I feel bad things in my water. I do hope I am wrong.

April 6, 2009 at 5:18 pm Leave a comment

Admissions balls

As those who live in Brighton and have children will know two years ago a change was made to the schools admissions system to a system now known generally as the ‘lotto’ system (I prefer to refer to it as a ballot system which is actually what it is). Having been implemented in Brighton successfully it has since been taken up by many local authorities across the country.

Now I hear that there is a possibility that the system may be scrapped with no suggestion as to what it might be replaced with.

This is absolutely extraordinary. I was involved at the leading edge of the campaign that succeeded in getting the new system implemented. It was fiercely opposed by the Tories at the time, but now even the local Tories have admitted that the system has worked well and is certainly far fairer than the system it replaced. This was based on a ‘distance to school’ criterion and excluded large swathes of the city form their nearest schools.

The current system which took into account the new ‘admissions code’ was developed after a two year period of analysis involving much modelling of alternative systems. This also involved a newly formed parents stakeholder group with representation form around the city and which had members on the main working party established by the council to look at the issue.

Over the period of analysis there was considerable public consultation and the resulting system was scrutinised in depth by the schools adjudicator when opponents of the system raised objections with him, all of which he rejected.

After all that effort, and when the new system is just two years old, but giving results in terms of meeting parental choice significantly better than the old system considering scrapping it is not just madness, it is in my view irresponsible.

Ed Balls says the concentration of resources should be on improving schools so that all schools in all areas are equally sought after. So let’s concentrate on that rather than wasting money on the inevitable expensive processes that would be involved if the current admissions system is scrapped.

March 4, 2009 at 5:35 pm Leave a comment

Mick Landmann on education, digital technology, and the 21st century

Recent Posts


My latest tweets