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Big Issue: Secondary Schools Admissions Procedure

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Green
Party

Lib

Dems

Let Parents and Estate Agents Choose

Demo at Hove Town Hall
click the photo to see
a map of the catchment areas

The right to choose (in reality, a right to express preferences) led to an increased demand for places at the best schools and to persistent oversubscription: too many applicants for too few places. LEAs have tried to meet this demand by increasing the size of these schools. Dorothy Stringer, which has no sixth form, had 1567 places available in 2006, compared with Falmer's 650. But there are limits, physical and pedagogic, to the size a school can grow. So each year the over-subscription is weeded out by the application of the criterion of the distance a child lives from the school in question. Those nearer are preferred over those living farther afield.This has led to an inflation in house prices in the vicinity of the best schools.

In 2001 a study by the University of Warwick found that living the right distance from the right school added between 15% and 19% to the price of otherwise similar homes. Of course, a Thatcherite might say this is just another dimension of the right to choose and of the hidden hand of the market at work!

The demand for a review of the secondary school admissions procedure goes back to April 2005 when parents in the Hanover & Elm Grove and Queenspark wards complained that they were disadvantaged because they were the most geographically distant from the city's secondary schools, and therefore always lost out when the distant-from-school rule was applied. Of course, following the closure of Comart, which put yet more pressure on the remaining schools, especially the popular ones, this was factually correct.

The Labour administration has promoted the new system of catchment areas. What is not clear is whether the decision to approve the plan for catchment areas will reduced disadvanatage or just move it around.

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