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Last Updated: Friday, 9 March 2007, 19:18 GMT
If your name isn't down...
Ian Paul
Ian Paul
The Politics Show, BBC South

Children demonstrate
Children too are up in arms

Last week hundreds of thousands of families found out whether their child had got into the secondary school of their choice.

Education chiefs are already braced for a record number of appeals by those who did not.

Who could be quite numerous.

Of the 600,000, 10 or 11-year-olds changing schools, the Department for Education and Skills reckons that only 85% will get into their first choice.

Which means maybe 90,000 who will not, and whose parents will perhaps be less enamoured of the notion of educational "choice".

As we will be revealing on Sunday, parents go to extraordinary lengths to get their children into specific schools, and there are now a number of websites offering to guide them through the appeals process, and claiming significant success rates.

Just imagine how galling it would be if you had maybe moved house deliberately to be within the catchment area of the school you fancied.

Or you had been pretending to a greater commitment to religion than you perhaps truly had.

Tactical moves

Loudhailer
Parents make their voices heard

These are, it is claimed, tactics that anxious parents have resorted to in a bid to help ensure their child gets into the school of their choice.

But are these tactics that the middle classes are better able to exploit?

Are they the ones getting the choice whilst the less advantaged or the less confident at working the system get what their given?

And since (again according to the DfES) 96% of children this year will get into a school that was at least one of their choices, even if not their first choice, does it really matter?

It would be an extraordinary system in which everyone's choice was met, surely.

First choice

According to Margaret Morrisey of the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations, if we are to have parental choice, then the government arguing that a certain percentage got into their first choice is not good enough: "If we have choice then 100% should get their first choice!"

And it does matter hugely to those parents whose choices have been unfulfilled in any way.

Those parents are perhaps understandably even more upset that expectations that the government encouraged them to raise have now been dashed by the system.

Anger

Schoolboy
Their futures are under the microscope

Certainly anger does not seem too strong a word to describe the reaction of parents in Brighton.

There, council chiefs announced last week that a lottery would form part of their admissions procedure.

But would you want your child's education determined by the luck of the draw?

The problem is that, clearly, some schools will be more popular than others.

Short of making a school infinitely expandable, some way has to be found to reconcile demand with supply.

Questions, questions...

So what do you think? Is choice of schools a good thing?

Should places be allocated by lottery, or by selection, or by faith, or by simple catchment areas?

Does being undersubscribed and unpopular spur schools on to do better, or just give them more problems to deal with next year?

Has the government raised expectations that can never be met?

Join Peter Henley and schools minister Jim Knight live at St Andrews Primary School in Weymouth, this Sunday lunchtime March 11th from 11:30 GMT.

Or send us an email and join the debate.

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