Monday, 27 April 2009

Harriet is right: The poor should have better access to good schools

Harriet Harman has come in for some flak for her plans to force public bodies to do more to promote equality, particularly for those from poorer backgrounds. But when it comes to education, she is right that there should be greater encouragement for people from poorer backgrounds to apply for good schools.

For that to happen however requires more than a duty on local authorities (indeed they may simply resort to bureaucratically ineffective solutions). Instead, ministers should revisit and revitalise the proposals in the 2005 schools white paper in this respect.

It argued for greater use of 'fair banding' so that schools attracted a broad intake - and were open to pupils of all backgrounds and abilities. This is something many academies do, and which some London authorities use for admissions, and is less contentious than 'lotteries'. Without fair banding, choice for poorer families is often a chimera given catchment areas.

The second proposal, for community choice advisers should focus on recruiting more trusted people from local communities for a fixed period each year to help their fellow citizens make better choices. With subsequent legislation having given pupils free transport to a choice of schools, there is the possibility of some real action in this regard.

1 comment:

Joe Nutt said...

However well meaning this may be, it assumes that the 'poor' (whatever that means in today's Britain) still regard education as a means of self improvement. Sadly, in my experience of UK schools, very few do. And that situation is entirely a problem of the Ms Harman and her colleagues' own making because that is what happens if you are so obsessed with leveling the playing field: you forget what you were supposed to be playing on it.