The back to school trauma suffered by many students will largely depend on the teaching resources and ambience of their school. Many children, and parents, welcome the return to the school regime as a release as the Christmas holidays started to wear thin. Some will be beset by the thought of exams that loom in the summer. But this pales into insignificance for those parents engaged in the biggest test of the educational system; which primary school to select, as they suffer the annual stress and distress of the entire selection procedure.
Ignoring the scrambling, manipulation, false claims, legal implications and general gnashing of teeth, all parents have a common aim; to give their children the best option for their education. An indictment of the educational performance in England is the selection process highlights the dearth of good schools. Today’s deadline for parents to submit their application for their choice of primary school belies the trauma behind the scenes. The process to select the best school and maximise the relevance of their application compounds the process. The Times newspaper revealed more parents are resorting to legal advice earlier in the process indicating a potential social divide open to those who can afford the best legal support to gain entry to the best schools for their children.
The Times also reported parents who submitted their application utilising the full permissible selection of six schools stood a better chance of entry to a school of their choice. This technique becomes ever more critical with the increase of 50,000 children entering primary school this year compared to 2011. This eight per cent boost in primary school population has to be absorbed into existing and a growing number of unknown new schools.
The transferrable vote element of the application process has to be fully used to maximise the chances. It appears application forms, which allow for six preferences of school to be included, are deemed by local educational authorities to be incomplete if only two or three schools are named. Something many parents could learn to their cost. Bureaucracy casts these applications into the spoilt paper pile to be dealt with later. Understandably parents may have been tempted to fill only the first or second choice in case further choices weakened their preference. This educational game to gain entrance to the ideal school also fuels house prices premiums in catchment areas of good schools inducing further social inequality.
The ideal world would provide an abundance of good schools where the selection process would be geographically linked to the nearest school. Sadly this utopian option doesn’t exist in the UK and, based on past performance of the last 30 years, is not a realistic option. The annual debacle of school selection will continue to create angst among parents wishing the best for their children. It takes a strong will to accede to the fortunes of fate contained in the selection criteria of the educational authorities. If any child fails to thrive at a non-preferred school the thought of what might have been will weigh heavily on the shoulders of many parents. And alas no one at the Department of Education will be held responsible for the abject failure of our system to provide the schooling our children need and deserve.