No school lottery! A good local school for every child

Submitted by martin on 14 March, 2007 - 1:35

Brighton’s schools have hit the headlines with the row over a lottery system for admissions to secondary schools.
The plans for a lottery have lead to local protests and splits in the Labour group on the council.
Under the new scheme that narrowly won through, those in the new catchment areas for local schools will be able to go to the schools allotted to them, but where there are two schools in the catchment area and one school is oversubscribed children will enter a ballot to decide who gets the school of their choice.
In Brighton and Hove most schools are on the edges of the city, a situation exacerbated when the council shut down a school that included a large council housing area close to the city centre.
Of the remaining schools, the two most popular have become heavily oversubscribed.
Under the old system those who lived nearest the school were sure of a place. Houses close to these schools could command a 70% price premium, as parents tried to get a property that would guarantee a place at the well-thought-of local state school.
People who lived further away from this "golden crescent" catchment area, including those in the main council housing area and in some other middle-class parts of central Brighton, usually did not get into the popular schools.
Some residents of "muesli mountain", a relatively well-off area near the town centre, were much in evidence in the campaign in support of the lottery system.
The whole affair exposes what a disaster Tory and New Labour education policy has been.
There are some basic points to make. The expansion of state-funded religious schools and city academies, which can select students or parents and avoid any local council admissions system, leaves fewer places in the system. Private schools remain untaxed on the laughable excuse of their charitable status.
This selection by cash, class or religion is becoming more not less common, thanks to the government.
On top of this, Tory and Labour Governments have championed parental choice, which has inevitably become a charter for pushy richer parents to get their kids, by hock or by property, into the higher- performing schools.
This process does not need league tables, but league tables and more and more testing of kids certainly feed the frenzy amongst parents.
That is the background that gives the lie to any claim by Labour-led Brighton and Hove city council to be fighting for equal opportunities.
The basic socialist response to this is clear: an end to all private and religious schools, to city academies, to league tables and to SATs. We want a secular comprehensive school system, with a good school for every child.

Mark Sandell

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