Saturday, April 29, 2006

Panic and policy: not good bedfellows

We haven't had time to give much attention to the 'selection' part of the Education Bill (we're a bit busy with the house arrest clause) but this caught our eye in the Guardian. In another bid to head off rebellion:
The education secretary, Ruth Kelly, has pledged to end selection by the front door, the back door, or any other door. The draft code released late on Thursday goes further than previously by stating that schools will be expected to ensure their intake matches the social and class mix of their catchment area. It will be scrutinised next week by the committee of MPs studying the education bill line by line...

The code will also bar a school from taking into account a parent's marital, occupational or financial status, the pupil's behaviour or attitude in other schools, their specialist interests, or the behaviour of their siblings. Grammar schools will be barred from giving priority to siblings of pupils. Formal interviews will be banned.
No 'specialist interests'? We thought a point of the much-vaunted specialist academies was to ensure that children with a particular bent for, say, the arts or technology could go somewhere better equipped to nurture their talents. What's the point in having a budding musician at a school that is heavy on science, while Einstein junior gets plenty of tambourine-playing at the school down the road?

As for ensuring the school matches the catchment area in terms of social class, those who can afford to move to a 'better' area will surely breath a sigh of relief? And if grammar schools mustn't give priority to siblings, if the govt is that ambivalent about grammar schools, shouldn't they just abolish them?

While we're not proposing to enter the selection debate, we can't help noticing that this all seems a bit incongruent with previous policy initiatives. As a rule of thumb, policies made in haste tend to unravel at leisure.

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