Levelling-up is possible

Submitted by Anon on 17 March, 2007 - 11:25

All class-divided societies have inequality in education. Britain is not unique in that. What is unusual in Britain is the frenzy of the “postcode lottery” for favoured schools, now supplemented in Brighton by a literal lottery.

What makes the “postcode lottery”, or literal lottery, so frenzied in Britain is not just the inevitable inequalities of class society, but specific things, including the school league tables (which tend to be self-reinforcing, pushing “up” schools high in the tables and “down” schools low in them); the virtual absence of publicly-funded nursery education; and the inability to expand “successful” schools (because land costs too much), together with the policy of shutting down undersubscribed schools (instead of giving extra resources to help them), which ensures that there is no “slack” in the system.

We can demand of governments today, and of a future workers’ government, that it fixes those things. We can demand of a future workers’ government that it vastly reforms away social inequality, and puts great resources into adult and “catch-up” education among families previously deprived.

To demand of a workers’ government that it legislates equality by refusing all choice to students and parents, and “bussing” students round to engineer the same mix in every school, is not sensible.

It is not possible to bus kids from central Liverpool (the poorest area in Britain) to Chalfont St Peter in Buckinghamshire, or Igtham in Kent (the wealthiest areas, outside a few central-London postcodes).

In Brighton, or in some parts of London, it might be possible to draw catchment areas with the required mix. And then? The better-off would simply move to villages outside the city area, as they have done in many cities in the USA, and pay for private tutors.

Meanwhile the rigid “no choice” policy would— justifiably — have enraged many worse-off families who simply wanted their children to go to the same school as their siblings or their friends; to move to another school after a bad experience in a first one; to go to a school easy to reach; or to attend one which offered a particular speciality they wanted to do.

Colin Foster

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