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School Places

13 March 2011 1,366 views No Comment

Yorkshire Post March 2011

Since 1975 school admissions have been a large issue for parents and have caused increasing distress. Successive Shadow Secretaries of State have vowed to change the admissions system and listen to parents’ wishes. Fine until they have the power to do so then they fail to do anything. My experience over 40 years shows the majority of parent’s prefer a place in a local school for their children. However times have changed somewhat as people now travel further to work more parents have to work and manage a family this adds a new dimension.

A growing army of Grandparents care for children, carers do not live in the school catchment area so there is a need for the children to be in the school local to them where they can walk the children to school and collect them after school ends. This flexibility needs to be written into the system it would also free places in the local school. It does not seem to be in the realms of improbability for the wishes of parents to be considered. If a parents wishes to place their children in a school near their work so they can take the children to school be near them in time of emergency or can attend school meetings even if it is out of area catchment surely this is not an outrageous request.

Government talk of parental choice but the figures around the country show the pedagogy is wrong parents “choose” give children false hope , then LEAs tell you what they have chosen if you’re a parent in York only 60% of you stand a chance of being happy with the school offered if they cannot deliver why ask.

Frequently Local Authorities are challenged on the shortage of school places they produce figures that show sufficient places free in the Authority or Borough. What they fail to see, or prefer not to see, is if these places are not in the area where children need them or parents wish them to be, it is futile. The threat to parents in the area of the undersubscribed school is if we do not fill empty places the school will close, not acceptable, we either fund a state education system or not, education is not cheap.

We are in a time of recession and it is more difficult change has not been so in years past. No improvements or changes have been made to help parents and children and to reduce stress for both, nor help to reduce the need for appeals which give false hope and mostly fail. Not all parents have the time or the ability to go into schools and help improve them neither as suggested by one educationalist today nor should they have to. Here is my background youngest of 4 born in a two up to down cottage on the Yorkshire/ North Nott’s. My parents knew if I passed my 11+ I went to the local grammar school if I failed I went the comprehensive. There was no need to apply for the school, no stress or anguish and no appeals. There was a catchment area. (I failed my 11+). However today I would be considered a child of so called “middle class parents” because my parents claimed no help, and remember this now means anyone who has a joint income of 40K a year and are not on benefits regardless of how many children you have to support. So the chances are my place in a local school would be given to another pupil who may not be in our area but was deemed “from a poor background”. Can this be right? All children have rights and robbing Peter to pay Paul has never been and never will be acceptable. If your income is 39K that’s fine you have more chance of a place it’s hard to believe even a politician could think this right.

What we must never accept is a lottery system drawing names from a hat to decide a child’s future cannot be acceptable. Children benefit from continuity and security moving through the system with their friends knowing in advance where their next school will be. No good has ever come from the rhetoric of Governments past and present telling parents we will make every school “a good school” then never saying how. If a school is not one a parent feel is good then it is wrong to force them to send their children there. When a school is deemed poor suspend new entry, work on the school, bring in extra staff, change the school name, the uniform, change the whole school ethos when the results of this shows improvement and success the new entry children will return , it will take a year or more but it can happen. 10 less parking wardens, end councillors visits then money will be there. If government reduces the aid we send overseas to developed countries with richer economies than ours and spend it on the schools all ring-fenced for the use of resolving school places you would hear the cheer ring round Yorkshire and in fact the whole country.

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