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Big Issue: Secondary Schools Admissions Procedure

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Secondary Admissions Review (SAR)

Demo at Hove Town Hall
Update: At its meeting on 19-2-07 the Children & Young People's Overview & Scrutiny Committee, after considering letters of complaint from both Conservative and Labour councillors, exercised its right to send the decision to approve the new catchment areas scheme back to the Children, Families & Schools Committee for reconsideration.

A long time ago when I trained to be a primary school teacher, I spent the week before the start of my course in a local primary school - just to get some experience. A couple of days into the week I and two other students had a meeting with the headteacher, during which she passed on a little of her wisdom. I remember it well.

She spoke with complete self-assurance, the voice of authority and experience. "Who your child sits next to is a part of your child's education," she told us. Her school, she continued, was a school for working class children, providing an appropriate education. Middle class children, and those with ambitions for their children's education, went to a neighbouring school. That, apparently, was a school for middle class children, providing a middle class education.

Some years later I was told a story that confirmed her educational philosophy, and gave a graphic demonstration of it. A parent who sent her son to our headteacher's school because it was her (the parent's) local school, after a time, developed some concerns about his progress. She made an appointment to see the head to discuss her worries.

But at their meeting she found herself chastised, upbraided, reprimanded: "You should have sent your child to [the other school - no names, no inquisition]."

I should point out that this headteacher has long since retired, but the blunt truth of her dictum, that "who your child sits next to is a part of your child's education", was never more keenly felt across the city than today in the often times heated and bitter debate over the review of the secondary schools admissions procedure. The city council finally came to a decision on Friday, 2nd February 2007 at a meeting of the Children, Families and Schools Committee held at Hove Town Hall.

The public gallery was packed and a sizeable demonstration of parents and children made a good deal of noise outside on the pavement in protest at decisions (both for and against) about to be taken inside by the ten members of the committee: 4 Labour, 4 Conservatives, 1 Green and 1 Independent. In the end, the new catchment area system was agreed on the Labour chair's casting vote with the Tories and the Independent voting against and the Labour and Green members voting for.

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