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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 July, 2004, 16:18 GMT 17:18 UK
Parents question school 'choice'
classroom scene
Parents say the reality of choosing a school for their children is a far cry from the political rhetoric.

Both the Conservatives and Labour are saying they want people to have a greater choice of good schools to go to.

Parents e-mailing BBC News Online suggest there is a long way to go - even those who happen to have a good school locally.

Here is a cross-section of the comments received:

Choice is pointless unless you can act on it. In theory, I'm free to "choose" Eton for my kids. Some choice that is. It's the same for Labour and Tory reliance on "choice" to improve state school education. We're all going to choose the same great schools over the cruddy schools. But not all of us can act on that. It's a false short cut from the real task in hand: bringing all schools up to scratch.
Dan, London

I live in an area of Kent which ostensibly has a great deal of choice: grammar schools, specialist schools, single-sex comprehensives, mixed comprehensives and faith schools. Every school chooses their pupils, either by 11-plus, catchment, or faith.

When the time comes to choose a senior school you only get one chance, due to over-subscription at most of the schools. Naturally every school wants to fill its places with first choices. This makes it very difficult for parents and children because they have to be sure they fulfil ALL the entrance criteria to get their first (and only) choice.

The schools pick, not the families. I don't have a problem with entrance criteria (as long as they are clear and obvious), nor do I have a problem with the schools choosing who they want to have in their school. I do have a problem with the government dressing this up as "parental choice" and telling us how much better off we are. Let's just tell it like it is, rather than obfuscating!
M Smith, London

My experience of state schools is excellent - in fact I recently moved my eldest (and only one of school age) child from a private school into a local state primary. The modern holistic emphasis in providing learning to children of all abilities and special educational needs is a positive and welcome approach. In comparison the private sector was elitist and operated Victorian standards - my child is much happier and, I feel, more integrated into society within the state sector education.

It's a factor that has influenced my decision, as a mature student, to enter the teaching profession.
Mark Bishop, Cornwall

I think that almost all children should go to their local school. If that school is underperforming then the reasons for this must be established and extra help given, where necessary to improve that school. The current system does not deliver choice, but instead uncertainty.
Mr T Knight, Cheltenham

I think it's about time the government stopped kidding themselves that the current policy of attempting to close down grammar schools is working. The fact is, they remain the highest achieving schools in the United Kingdom and that is not going to change any time soon. Instead, the government should be reopening them in areas where there are also comprehensive schools in order to give parents and pupils a choice that best suits the individual.
Chris Blore, Billericay, Essex

There is no such thing as infant school choice. We have been told by our local council which school my three-year-old daughter will be going to - although we have the "choice" to apply to which ever schools we like.
Kevin, Berkshire

I live in an area where there is no choice for secondary school. Luckily our local school is excellent, and I feel my children have benefited greatly from mixing with a complete cross-section of society. Speaking to contemporaries from away who have this dilemma of choices for schools makes me feel very fortunate indeed!
Sue Ellis, Dolgellau, Wales

My neighbours are moving to get their child into a decent school, and I will have to do the same in years to come unless local state schools improve. It's a Catch-22 situation: our local schools won't improve unless the middle class professional families start sending their kids - but that won't happen while the schools are so bad.
Piers Hawkins, Peckham, London

Like every other parent I know using the state system, I don't want a choice of schools - I just want one, good local school for my children. The same applies to health. Are you deaf, Tony?
Swithun Mason, North London

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