I’m not normally a Daily Mail person but happened across a sad story in it here yesterday of a 42 year old Brighton dad who threw himself under a train, not in a fathers for justice protest at being estranged from his offspring, but after failing to get his first placed school choice for his daughter following a stressful appeal campaign. It’s that time again when this is very much a live issue that many parents will be able to sympathise with. Yesterday’s Times put the figure of those who did not get their first choice primary school at one in four. There are variations within this: Kingston-upon-Thames, where I work, rates badly. Here in the Ealing Times there is a report about outraged unsuccessful applicants to my local primary. New arrivals and a rising birthrate are making all public services more competitive. Those without ideological objections who can afford to are exiting local authority schooling altogether and joining the private sector which is booming even while fees escalate.
At the end of the day even state education depends on whether you have the money to access it. School catchments shrink to smaller and smaller physical areas year on year for the popular ones which select on distance criteria. In other words it’s all about house prices. If you can afford inflatedly priced property on the oversubscribed school’s doorstep bully for you. It’s Bash Street for everyone else. It’s all very well being prinicipled and maintaining that a bright kid can do well in any school but when it comes to your little Johnnie being assigned the sink school it’s all very different. “Good” schools are transaparently measurable by league tables and SATs results these days which didn’t exist when I was at school and were once opposed by Labour. Consequently parental choice becomes illusory when you’ve been denied what you wanted: you either accept something you didn’t want or home-educate.
It’s credit to the people of the South Ealing area to have bagged the address email@example.com. I know on a day like this most left-leaning bloggers will be doing the “shocking local election results” story but school places is a pressing realpolitik issue for millions, even if it’s deeply unsexy stuff. Plus Harry’s Place has always had a weakness for parish pump real life stuff. It is sad that Thatcherite thinking has set the tenor of educational policy ever since. If it were really followed through then good schools would be allowed to expand however pupil numbers are limited by statute. But then some again some aspects of the 80s Tory legacy are fading. Thank gawd people don’t talk about Baker days anymore – named after this snivelling creature best known for his Spitting Image portrayal as a slug.