Thursday 17 January 2008

Fair's fair

Of course, the Schools Minister Jim Knight is right to remind schools that they must abide by the new Admissions Code, which is on a stronger statutory basis than before. But that doesn't mean that abiding by the Code will secure fair admissions. Most schools will use either distance or sibling criteria to admit students; and for many schools, especially those in rural areas or market towns, that makes good sense. Oversubscription is often not as big an issue in such areas. But in urban areas, this is neither fair nor does it secure choice for parents. That's why the Code gives encouragement to random allocation (or a 'lottery') and banding by subject ability; using either (or a combination of the two) gives all parents who live within a reasonable distance of a secondary school a fair chance of getting into that school, without taking into account their ability to buy an expensive house next door to a school or any other subjective criteria. The fact that Brighton introduced a rather peculiar version of random allocation should not deter other schools or local authorities from considering such approaches.

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