Govt created “myth” of school choice

The government’s rhetoric on schools admissions is creating a “myth” of parental choice which does not exist, a teachers’ union has said.

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said the government was “misleading” parents about the availability of places, causing them to think their child would be offered a place at their preferred school.

As a result of parents’ false expectations, schools are bogged down with appeals.

The criticism comes as schools minister Jim Knight urged parents to appeal if they were not satisfied with their child’s offer of a secondary school place.

This week more than half a million primary school pupils are receiving offers for places this September, with around 100,000 expected to miss out on their first choice.

ASCL general secretary Dr John Dunford said: “School choice is a myth. Parents have been led to believe by political rhetoric from all parties that they have a right to send their child to the schools of their choice.

“When parents are disappointed, they turn to the appeals system which then leads to huge amounts of bureaucracy for schools.

“Oversubscribed schools spend many, many hours, which should be used for teaching and learning, on justifying admissions decisions.”

The union has called on the government to restrict the power of appeal boards, as well as imposing “national principles” on selection.

But Mr Knight told the Times parents should appeal if they feel they have been let down by the admissions process.

“I know parents might not want the hassle of appeals but I urge them to do so if they feel they have a strong case,” he said.

The government maintains that the “vast majority” of pupils are offered a place at a preferred school and “most at their first choice,” Mr Knight added.

The Conservatives last week hit out at the lack of real choice in schools admissions, claiming pupils in poor inner-city areas were most likely to miss out on their preferred school.