Education analyst Mike Baker discussed the rights and wrongs of admitting pupils to popular schools by lottery.
What is the fairest way to allocate school places?
As usual we invited your comments. Here is a selection of the views received:
There will be complaints as long as schools have a surplus of applicants. When schools can't take on all the applicants, there are bound to be some people moaning that the system is unfair regardless of how you do it.
Graeme Phillips, Midsomer Norton, UK
To a child, it can be so disheartening to hear you're parents say that the school that you really wanted to go to rejected you because you live one street out of the catchment area or because you don't believe the right things. How do such factors affect a child's ability to learn? Every child should have an equal chance of acceptance to all schools they have applied for, there should be no factors to affect that. There should definitely not be anything based on something a pushy parent can change to give their own child an unfair advantage. There needs to be equality for all children. Brighton have got it right.
Beccy Fisher, Aberystwyth, Wales
I live, in Brighton, within a couple of streets of two secondary schools that are apparently the ones that every parent wants their child to attend. On the other side of town, a failing school was badly mismanaged (at substantial cost to local taxpayers) by the local council and was eventually closed. The parents of children in this area are quite rightly angry and frustrated that there is no secondary provision available in their neighbourhood. In addition to this, there are a number of huge housing developments springing up all over the city and yet there are still no plans to build a new school. Instead of this lottery shambles, more thought should be put into decent, local education for all, instead of forcing me put my child on a 30 min bus journey to get to a school because his name wasn't drawn out of the hat for a place at the school in the next road to where we live.
This is bizarre. It's an important decision (to a certain extent), but it's equally important to everyone. If a lottery system isn't used, then some other criterion of the child has to be which will always be unfair, whether it's proximity to the school, intelligence, money or faith. A random selection is the only fair way to do it.
Martha Hampson, London
Middle class parents value education and don't want their children to acquire the bad social habits and attitudes of the lower classes. If you have a class of 20 pupils, 10 of them with good behaviour and 10 with bad behaviour, then only liberal and socialist politicians (and also perhaps the Cameroons?) believe that the behaviour of the class will be in the middle. Ask any teacher and they'll tell you it only takes 2 or 3 badly behaved children in a class to spoil the education of those who wish to learn. Until politicians can position that simple truth between their ears, middle class parents and their children will continue to congregate amongst themselves. If government measures force middle class parents to send their children to poor schools, the behaviours which middle class parents find desirable will diminish; much to the disgust of the concerned parent and the indifference of the working class parent.
PD Burnett, Scotland
Whether the parent selects the school, or the school selects the student, or your postcode selects the school, or your council sends the student to where there are places available or in pursuit of their social prejudices, there are always winners and losers. A lottery is no more and no less fair or unfair than any other system, because in 60 years of life I have not seen any method of matching school to student that ensured that every single student could always reach their educational potential.
Gerry Doyle, Perth, Australia
People want "fair" selection because they want everyone to have an equal opportunity at success, to halt the rich poor divide getting bigger. but it seems patent that no matter what selection policy is in place, the rich will succeed as they can get private tutoring, and the clever will do well as they will do better in exams. lets stop this pc rubbish, allow for selection on academic ability alone so that everyone can attain the best THEY possibly can - and not what other people think they should be able to!
These are exactly the kind of problems you can expect when schools are ranked using league tables and encouraged to continue selection (all be it limited). As for faith schools, is no-one concerned this could lead to further religious and ethnic segregation? Think Tony.
Tom Wood, Cardiff
With all reservations, I am prepared to accept that lottery may be not worse than many other options. However, I cannot agree that it gives equal chances: it does NOT. If one hundred children go to a good school and another hundred are allocated to a poor school, what equal chances do they have? The politicians will have to admit that they can offer NEITHER parental power NOR an equal chance.
Igor Itskevich, East Yorkshire, UK
Why not have it on the basis of children who will walk to school in all weathers? If it is discovered at a later date that the child has not been walking then the child should be ejected from the school. Two miles is not too far to walk. What is the point of bleating on about lack of exercise for children then not taking the obvious way out? By this logic of course children should not be allowed to go to the school across the road but be forced to walk to one some distance away. Sounds daft on first thinking about it but probably isn't. Cross town travel would be car chaos but walker's bliss. I walked alone to school from the age of six and so probably did most of us over the age of 30 and it didn't do us any harm.
John, Dundee, UK