Thursday, January 06, 2005

School expansion

The Guardian has a trailer for the speech today by Ruth Kelly the new education secretary.
Mrs Kelly has kept a relatively low profile over the Christmas break while reading up on her new brief. But on the first day of the job, she signalled that she would put the parents' agenda at the heart of her policies for schools. She said: "What I am going to say is that my priorities are the priorities of every parent - rising standards in our schools, good teaching in the classroom, good school discipline so that children can really learn.

What? Motherhood and apple pie? Exciting stuff.

There have apparently been reports that Ms Kelly is going to do away with the surplus places rule.
A promise to drop the so-called surplus places rule, which limits the number of pupils at each school, would be welcomed by parents who struggle to get their children into the most popular schools.

This I suppose is something to be applauded, but at the end of the day it's tinkering at the edges rather than "thinking the unthinkable". The Secondary Heads Association is against the changes:
In its response to a consultation on the proposals to expand popular schools, the deadline for which was last Friday, the Secondary Heads Association wrote: "SHA is wholly opposed to the proposals to make it easier for 'popular and successful' schools to expand." It goes on: "SHA believes that there is no evidence that large schools are better per se, nor that parents specifically wish their children to attend large schools."

And they are probably right too. If your child is at a medium-sized successful school that then expands into a huge school you might not be too happy about it. In a free market, of course, a school would have the option of opening another branch elsewhere in the town if they felt that was a better solution, an option which is denied to state schools. Until the politicians can learn to let go we are fated to have an education system that cannot respond to the needs of its customers.


The BBC now has a report on the speech as it was delivered, and the dropping of the rule wasn't included.

Some news reports earlier this week had suggested she would also stress that
popular schools could expand - which the Tories have made another important apect of their proposals, to extend parental choice. But her focus was on the drive for greater choice between increasingly diverse state schools, and giving pupils more choice within the curriculum, tailoring education to the needs of the individual.

Translated into English this means that if the school you fancy is full then tough. Same old story.