Lots fail to win schools lottery – no suprises there then

You couldn’t make it up.
A government Minister tells parents whose children do not have places at their first choice school to appeal, in places where the the allocation was made by lottery!
The whole point of the lottery was to stop parents who care about their childrens’ future or who live near to one of the better schools from automatically getting a place there.
It was Labour’s cruel idea of what to do about the fact that there are not enough places at good state schools to go round.
Instead of tackling the underlying problem – too few places at good schools – they decided to tackle what they think is the problem – “middle class” parents gaining the places at the better schools for their children. In Labour’s demonology anyone who works harder than the neighbours, earns a bit more, takes more trouble over their children’s future or moves house to be near to a good school is by definition a class enemy.
The Minister should today be saying he is delighted that so many parents have failed to get their children into the school of their choice – it shows the lottery system is working. He should tell them there is no chance of their winning on appeal, as all those places in the popular schools are earmarked for children whose parents did not covet them, to be awarded by lottery and government fiat.
All those of us who believe in choice, and who think people should be able to improve their lot in life and the lives of their children, oppose the lottery scheme. We want a government that uses choice, and frees the schools more, to drive standards up generally.If money follows parent chocies, more children will go to better schools.
The Labour way is to drag people down who are trying hard to make life better, so they can then claim greater equality. No wonder the parents in lottery areas are fed up. No wonder the Minister himself cannot live with the grim reality of his own policy, and is now trying to circumvent it by telling active and good parents to appeal against the unpopular allocations.

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12 Comments

  1. mikestallard
    Posted March 4, 2008 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    OK. Let's talk about what this feels like on the ground here in Wisbech.
    60% of children here leave school without any qualifications. Lottery? We do not need one! There is just one Comprrehensive with 1,500 places. It has a new Head who has a good record. He is trying hard. The School is in Freshstart. So far, it has not had many press releases in the local paper and no results so far in the (now fiddled) league tables.
    People are not happy, but they are waiting, as it were, for the bath water to get hot again when the Freshstart comprehensive becomes bearable.
    The (excellent) local Grammar costs over £10,000 p.a.
    The Conservatives promise the Swedish system (see this week's Spectator). It is just what we need here: small schools where children are known and loved and opened up to the excitement of the modern world.
    Labour lies, and lies, and promises, and then does not deliver.
    The $1 million question is this: Are you going to stand by anyone who has the bottle to get a new school off the ground here in Wisbech, or are we going to be hung out to dry?

  2. Stuart Fairney
    Posted March 4, 2008 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    I don't have the facility to know the answer to this, but would making school fees fully tax deductable be costly? Of course this would depend on the uptake to a large degree, but since we know that private schools by and large are successful, improving access to them and improving supply (as the private sector expands to meet demand) would help parents who couldn't quite afford private schools right now, and it would ease pressure on state schools by reducing classroom overcrowding.

    Reply:YES IT WOULD BE EXPENSIVE. FEES OF UP TO £27,000 A YEAR WOULD ATTRACT TAX RELIEF OF UP TO £10,800 A YEAR.

  3. Letters From A Tory
    Posted March 4, 2008 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    I take your point John, but the increase in the number of parents not getting their first choice of schools in a lottery does not mean the system is not 'fair'. A lottery opens up schools to parents who wouldn't otherwise have applied, which will clearly increase the number who don't get in.
    http://lettersfromatory.wordpress.com

  4. Neil Craig
    Posted March 4, 2008 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    "anyone who works harder than the neighbours, earns a bit more, takes more trouble over their children’s future or moves house to be near to a good school is by definition a class enemy"

    Unless they are a Labour MP.

    Can't think of anything else to say that you haven't about people who say it is unfair everybody hasn't won a lottery.

  5. a-tracy
    Posted March 4, 2008 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    A lottery is the sort of idea that sounds ok and 'fair' as long as it's not your child or grandchild in the middle of it! I wonder how Gordon Brown and Ed Balls would feel if it were their child playing the school lottery game in London.

    Most parents choose their primary school as a feeder school to the High School they propose to send their child on to. To find out the rules have changed in the last couple of years must have been awful.

  6. Mike G
    Posted March 4, 2008 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    You seem to be suggesting that parents who can't afford to move into the catchment area of a good school somehow don't care about their child’s education. Surely the parents who put a first preference for a good school, miles away in the suburbs, care just as much. Otherwise they would just send them to the local sink school. I don't think selection by house price could ever be seen as 'fair' or desirable. The only fair methods when a school is over subscribed are selection by ability (or 'aptitude' if one wants to avoid being called elitist) or selection by lottery if the former is not allowed. From what I understand of the Swedish system, places are allocated on a first come first served basis, which also seems fair to me.
    Hopefully the Conservatives will win the next election and introduce the Swedish system, allowing supply to react to demand in the long run, creating more good school places and making these tired old arguments a think of the past.

  7. Rose
    Posted March 4, 2008 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    Now that the BBC is putting out programmes on the invisibility of "the white working class", may we look forward to a similar piece of retrospective remorse on the enemy class? (What is so very sad, and obviously part of the problem, is the way they describe British people nowadays just as "whites", with all the hostile overtones of that word, there being no other way of identifying them in their own country, while most of the immigrants are dignified by their national descent, or at the very least by their continent of origin.) Presumably one day they will have become so diminished that they too might elicit some guilt.

  8. Bazman
    Posted March 4, 2008 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    Good points and I'm surprised they are from a conservative MP.
    What these people would like is postcode lottery to ensure the 'right' children go to that school and the state should subsidise these semi-private schools.
    How does the state help children to perform without pro-active parents is the question we should be asking. The ones who have not won the lottery of life.

  9. Chuck Unsworth
    Posted March 4, 2008 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    Our two local Grammar Schools (both single-sex) has decided to go for a change of status. That'll increase rather than decrease pressure on their limited numbers of places. The reason? Both schools can see that they now need to take control of their own destinies as a direct result of increasing local and central government interference. I have served as a Chair of Governors for many years and have been a Governor at two primary and one secondary school. Education has been in unremitting change and resultant chaos for the last ten years. It is time that schools were left to get on with the job. Those schools which are failing should be immediately placed in special measures. The lengthy process of turning such schools around damages the education of several years' intakes. Rapid and decisive action is crucial. The customary leisurely bureacratic processes merely prolong the mediocrity. I have been appalled at the slowness – reluctance – of Local Education Authorities to use their powers.

  10. JackH
    Posted March 5, 2008 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    How to deal with poor schools – force people to send their children there! Brilliant!

  11. Matthew Reynolds
    Posted March 6, 2008 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    Surely the Popular Schools Scheme that you piloted through as Welsh Secretary would sort this problem out ? If it worked in that fine principality between 1993 & 1995 why not in England now ? It means better value for money for the tax payer if good schools open & expand while bad ones close as competition for resources boosts standards . Have the Labour Left never read the bits in Wealth Of Nations on education or where they too busy sending their offspring to private / grammar schools while voting to deny that choice to ordinary voters ? Many Labour MP’s gained from a selective education & yet do not want todays children to do likewise ? I will always be a Tory just because of the ignorant & spiteful hypocrisy of the Labour Party on schooling . Talk about do as I say but not as I do….

  12. Matthew Reynolds
    Posted March 6, 2008 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

    Surely the Popular Schools Scheme that you piloted through as Welsh Secretary would sort this problem out ? If it worked in that fine principality between 1993 & 1995 why not in England now ? It means better value for money for the tax payer if good schools open & expand while bad ones close as competition for resources boosts standards . Have the Labour Left never read the bits in Wealth Of Nations on education or where they too busy sending their offspring to private / grammar schools while voting to deny that choice to ordinary voters ? Many Labour MP's gained from a selective education & yet do not want todays children to do likewise ? I will always be a Tory just because of the ignorant & spiteful hypocrisy of the Labour Party on schooling . Talk about do as I say but not as I do….

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    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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