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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 March 2007, 15:58 GMT
Your views on school choice
BBC education correspondent Mike Baker discussed the allocation of secondary school places.

As usual we invited your thoughts too. Here is a selection of the responses.

At last a balanced and informed article on "choice" of schools. My children didn't get to our first choice school (chosen on academic results), and what a bit of luck they didn't. They both excelled at the school they were "sent" to, which prides itself in being part of the community and giving a rounded education. They are both now progressing successful and very diverse careers. The final comment about protecting children from feeling they are losers seems to be forgotten by most pushy parents. Kids adapt, parents don't.
Martin, Woking

Here there is only one state secondary school so therefore no choice unless you go private. Many local parents think the school is too large and would prefer two smaller secondary schools.
Martin Husbands, Monmouth Wales

At last, an intelligent analysis of the situation as it stands. Living in Brighton I have been surprised by the number of people who have expressed an opinion on the issue, are not in possession of the facts re' the new system. Many seem to think that they are to have unfavourable placements forced upon them totally at random, and see it as a deliberate attempt by "lefties" to "dumb down" the educational system. Why anyone should think that any government would support an educational policy deliberately aimed at producing 'thick kids' is beyond me. The idea of allowing parents to manipulate the selection system is bound to lead to conflict. My own view is that many of these "concerned parents" were in truth much more concerned with the impact on the value of their home, than on the quality of education of their children, and have largely misrepresented the new system. For my own part I strongly believe that the quality of education available to any child should not be coupled to property values, nor have any other connection with their parents income. In fact I would go so far as to describe any system capable of such manipulation however indirectly as corrupt.
G Stalker, Brighton

The real problem with all of this is that there is too close a connection between exam success and employment opportunities. Until that link is either ended or minimised then middle-class parents will always seek to maximise the education of their children.
Patrick Leahy, Tenterden, UK

The more choices you give people, the more you raise expectations. What is striking to this US reader is how low the level of appeal is, less than 10%. Both the US and Great Britain could use a system where students are surveyed for 2-3 years after leaving high school to determine their level of success at work and/or college, and their beliefs about how well their schools had prepared them. Such a "report card" would help students make better and presumably more satisfying choices.
Barry, Michigan, U.S.

Most politicians, journalists and social commentators would have us all believe that choice is a good thing. They would have us believe that removing choice is akin to living in a communist style dictatorship where the state knows best. This is utter nonsense as is the notion that choice is always a good thing. The lack of debate around "choice" is woeful and there isn't, unfortunately, space to go into detail here. This may sound mad to the majority but I won't be voting for any party that wants 'choice' in public services. That's a recipe for a vast increase in public spending, taxes and public dissatisfaction!
Andy Moran, Stockport

Whilst I appreciate that many parents in England may be unhappy with the fact that their child has not been given a place at their first choice school, at least their child has a school place. A good percentage of children transferring to secondary school receive no school place at all. It is a statistic that is not reported on very often and appears to get higher each year. It is a huge worry for parents and there is little assistance or advice out there unless you are able to pay for it. The children are affected as they see their primary classmates' confidence in their place at secondary school. These children are left in "no-mans land" as their parents then have to make head or tails of the appeals process, which does not guarantee a place at their preferred schools in any event!
M. Bulles, London, England.

Mike Baker deserves two cheers for his analysis of the effects of school choice. The success of this strategy is dependent largely on the assumption that all children have parents involved deeply enough in their education to take advantage of the options open to them. But unfortunately, children most in need of fleeing execrable schools are precisely those without anyone in their corner. As a result, they are the losers in the latest version of social Darwinism applied to education.
Walt Gardner, Los Angeles U.S.

Reports in the press this year have been largely misinformed or distorted. Often the percentage of parents getting the school they wanted is affected by factors such as applying for grammar schools, where the child later fails the test. In cases like this parents are often delighted to be offered their second or third choice school. It's a pity the press doesn't recognise this and stop focusing on "first choice" figures.
Sue Garner, Burgess Hill, UK

Within Kent there are many different types of schools. The worst problems that occur with the school "choice" system are: when children take the 11+ (a selection test that must be taken in order to get a chance to attend grammar school) and don't get a grammar school, even though they expressed it as a preference; and when children put a popular comprehensive as a first preference on their CAF (common application form) and do not get it because the school is oversubscribed and they do not live near enough or do not have a sibling attending the school. These cause great problems as parents get a school that they really didn't want and this causes the child to feel deeply upset as they do not know where they are going. This is the worst problem but at the same time, when choice is offered, you will always want to take it.
Emily, Kent, England

One of the strengths of a catchment area approach is the incentive it creates for parental involvement in improving their local school. There will always be difference between schools, but that difference is not set in stone. If a school has a strongly identifiable local community which is involved with the school, this can make a major difference. The first house we bought was in a notoriously rough and deprived area, yet the local primary school had an excellent reputation because sufficient parents engaged with and supported the school.
John, Stockton on Tees, UK

The word "choice" only applies to middle class parents when choosing the school of their choice. I do not drive and public transport is very poor in my region. This gives me no choice in determining which would be the best school for my children. I expect it is the middle classes who go to appeal on the choice of school instead of just accepting the school designated for their children.
Win Grimshaw Lewis, Congleton, Cheshire, England

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