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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 June, 2004, 12:15 GMT 13:15 UK
Is more choice the answer for schools?
Children walking out of school
The Conservatives say their new education policy would create up to 600,000 extra school places.

They plan to reform the education system to provide a wider choice of schools for parents and more freedom for school management.

Every school would become grant-maintained, with control of its own budgets and admissions. Independent schools would be able to get state funding if they meet government prices.

Labour is expected to reveal their education policy next week which is likely to include an increase in city academies.

Do you think that the politicians have the answers to overhaul the education system? Is more freedom and choice the solution?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion received so far.

There is no such thing as a bad school, the problem lies in the kids that go there and their upbringing, or lack of.
Trem, Wolverhampton

All the existing ideas merely parasite off the taxpayer to differing degrees
Rob Read, London

I propose a much fairer system where all schools cease to be run by the central state bureaucracy, and instead educational loans are provided to parents who need them. Result huge tax cuts and thus much better economic growth, dramatically more choice for parents, better schools through competition and no burden on the childfree! All the existing ideas merely parasite off the taxpayer to differing degrees.
Rob Read, London, UK

For both health and education choice isn't the issue. Parents and patients want to know they are getting the same education or health care regardless of where they go. Businesses such as supermarkets and banks work hard to ensure the customer experience is the same regardless of which branch they go to. Why can't the same apply to schools and hospitals?
David, Milton Keynes, UK

The Conservatives are on a vision quest on how to confuse parents once more. Decades have passed and not one of the political parties have made education in England a success.
Clive, Dartford, Kent

The concept of choice that the Tories keep pedalling is a mirage. There is no real choice. There is however a way to make the rich get better education and healthcare and the poor to have to make do with what they've got... it's just the same old divisional Tory tactics encapsulated in this week's word of choice... excuse the pun.
Rico, Sheffield, England

Choice is an illusion. Oversubscribed good schools choose children - not the other way round.
Ted Wood, London, England

Sorry, but good schools don't expand. They get full.
Gary, Dundee, Scotland

No. We want quality & fairness, not a free-for-all.
Robert Varnam, Manchester

What a change seven years in opposition makes to policy
Ian Saunders, Sheffield

Where is the choice in forcing secondary schools to become grant maintained? It is only 10 years ago that the then Tory government was forcing schools to close in Sheffield as we had too many and that was a waste of money. What a change seven years in opposition makes to policy.

As Vice Chair of Governors at a secondary school, all we want is to be properly resourced so that we stop having to rob Peter to pay Paul in order to make ends meet. Parents want a school that can provide an excellent standard of education across a broad and balanced curriculum and that is close by. They do not want to have to travel miles to get there.
Ian Saunders, Sheffield

Where exactly are the teachers going to come from to teach all these extra places?
Andy, Lancs

I don't want choice - I want service
Tim Reynolds, London
No. Good education available for all without the postcode/ house price lottery that the 'choice' we have experienced so far has given us. Why is it that I can't see any difference at all between the Tories and the new Tories (sorry labour) any more? They both sound the same just a slight difference in tone. No wonder people don't see the point in voting! I don't want choice - I want service.
Tim Reynolds, London

This whole 'choice' thing is nonsense. To have true choice every school must have infinite spare capacity to accommodate any child that may want to attend that school. The same thing applies in relation to the NHS. I don't know where either of the parties are hoping to take us with this ridiculous choice rhetoric.
Les, Huddersfield

In the long run, under these proposals, good schools will naturally expand and failing schools will close. I fail to see what there is to fear from genuine choice - after all, as consumers we exercise it every day. Giving paralysed schools more autonomy cannot be a bad thing!
Simon, Bedford

Will just mean more traffic, more four-by-fours on the pavement or blocking up the roads. Improve local schools, let children walk.
Paul B Watson, Manchester

Much better that schools be allowed to choose the best pupils for their school
Barry Denson, Birmingham, UK
How can parents have any choice without a complete overhaul of the admissions process. The whole process is based on proximity to the school. When I move house soon, I know that whichever area I move to the good schools in the area will be over subscribed and I will be forced to send my children to less well performing schools, which may be some distance from my home, leaving the proximity rule in tatters.

Much better that schools be allowed to choose the best pupils for their school based on whatever criteria thy see fit. Why much a child who excels in languages be excluded from entry to a specialist language college because he/she doesn't live within a few hundred yards of the school. So long as a school provides written and clear rules for admissions, and sticks to them, I see no reason why they can't make their own admissions policies.
Barry Denson, Birmingham, UK

Those that need choice are the skilled, well-trained, professional teachers who need to be able to choose the best way to teach their pupils, each of which is an individual.
Mike Kelly, Milton Keynes, UK

So, will the conservatives propose to reopen the schools that they forced to close during their term of office? Government funding for independent schools is just another way of massaging the figures. Watch out tax payers!! Where will the funding for 600,000 additional places come from?
Sally Molloy, Tenerife, Canary Islands

Give back control to those at the sharp end
Frank Church, London, England
Private schools are run by the Headmaster and The Bursar without the need for armies of bureaucrats. State schools should follow this model and all local education authorities should be scrapped and the pen-pushers sacked. Give back control to those at the sharp end. Well done to the Tories - now make it happen!
Frank Church, London, England

The choice needed is by the kids - to work hard or not. Then they can be streamed, or selected or whatever, and each can work at a rate best suited to their ability and will. Sure, some kids will sink and others will rise, but at least they won't impede each other by being in the same group. And introduce stronger discipline so that it is very clear what the bounds of acceptable behaviour are and there are real sanctions for stepping outside them.
Richard, Southampton

This appears to be another example of Conservatives spending tax-payers' money on improving private enterprise. How can Conservatives expect us to believe they care about public services?
Stuart, London, UK

The farce of not being able to get a child into the closest school because some parent from elsewhere has exercised their "choice"
Abigail, Leicester
What is wanted isn't "choice," it's for every school to provide an excellent education for our children. The farce of not being able to get a child into the closest school because some parent from elsewhere has exercised their "choice" just means that more and more people are going to have to settle for second, third or tenth best.
Abigail, Leicester

What politicians know about the education system can be written in a pin head. The people who have answers to the education system are students and teachers. Why don't politicians talk to them? Education is not a question of policies, it is a question of what works for students, teachers and parents. What the leading political parties should do is work together and find out what are the real problems of the education system are and look for solutions to solve them putting politics aside.
Richard, London

The Tories seem to be holding up 'choice' as the cure for all ills, be they in the NHS or in schools. Choice is all very well but it illusory if all there is to choose from is several under funded schools with stressed teachers and children under the constant cosh of SATs. Parents just want a good school, well funded and well managed.
Katherine, London, UK

More choice is not the answer. Parents will just want to send their children to better schools. The worse ones close, the problem starts again. Given teachers back powers to discipline and exclude disruptive pupils is the only way forward.
David, UK

Why would you need a choice unless some schools are substandard?
Chris, UK
"More choice" to me means they consider under funding as part of their plans. Why should you need a choice unless some schools are substandard?
Chris, UK

The priority must always be to improve the quality of teaching in all state schools.
Sally, Waldringfield, UK

How about better parenting instead? Ensuring the children have the right attitude to sit and learn rather than be disruptive and prevent themselves and others from learning while also being a nightmare for the teachers would see far more benefit than pumping yet more money into an education system that is failing because of the root upbringing of its pupils, rather than the system itself.
Gareth Rippingale, UK

Parent choice tops Tory package
29 Jun 04  |  Politics
Tories to reveal education plans
27 Jun 04  |  Education
Independent schools change hands
24 Jun 04  |  Education
Tories promise school choice
15 Jun 04  |  Education


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