Monday, February 24, 2014

Update on school choice in Britain

The Telegraph reports, unfavorably, on the rise of school choice (and demise of assignment to local schools) in Britain:
Surge in admissions lotteries threatens children's right to place at local school
One in 12 schools is shunning traditional catchment areas in favour of rules designed to engineer a more balanced student body

"Some one in 12 schools is shunning traditional catchment areas in favour of rules designed to engineer a more balanced student body and break the middle-class stranglehold on places.

"The shift is being driven by a rise in the number of academies and free schools whose admissions policies are independent of local council control.
"Research by The Sunday Telegraph found that the proportion of highly oversubscribed secondary schools using lotteries or “fair banding” systems rises close to 100 per cent in parts of London. Across England, half of councils confirmed that at least one school in their area now used them.
"The Department for Education said admissions were run by individual schools or councils but insisted places “should be allocated in a fair and transparent way”. Parents will find out which state secondary school their children have been allocated on March 3 as part of National Offer Day.
Most schools have traditionally allocated places based on the distance between a pupil’s home and the school gates. This has allowed wealthier parents to buy property close to the best schools to secure places, with research suggesting that living in the catchment area of a highly sought-after school can add an average £31,500 “premium” to house prices.
But admissions guidance introduced by Labour allows institutions to employ a series of measures designed to break the stranglehold.
Lotteries, or “random allocation”, involve some or all applicants having their names drawn from a ballot, giving pupils living several miles away the same chance of a place as those next door.
“Fair banding” sees all applicants sit an aptitude test, with a set number of bright, average and low ability pupils being admitted. Schools usually use distance or a lottery to decide who gets a place within each ability band. Mrs Wallis said many parents “find fair banding complicated”, but insisted it was preferable to straight lotteries because “its goals are clearer”.

"Last week, The Sunday Telegraph obtained data on the admissions policies of more than 1,400 schools – 43 per cent of those nationally. Half of local authorities surveyed said at least one school in their area used lotteries, fair banding or both.
In total, one in 12 of the schools identified employed these admissions policies. Twice as many used fair banding as lotteries"

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