Parents just want good local schools
If you wanted an illustration of the lengths parents go to secure a place at a highperforming school, it came in a survey this week. It suggested many are willing to pay a premium on house prices of £32,000 to move into the catchment areas of desirable schools. The quest for a “good” school and the wish to give children the best start is nothing new or startling. In Kent, the popularity of grammar schools is such that a thriving coaching culture has evolved, which critics of the 11-plus say skews the odds towards those who can afford to pay for tuition. To their credit, county education chiefs have recognised the problem and have introduced a new set of tests designed to minimise this factor – albeit with mixed results. Grammars are high-achieving schools and so they should be – their intake represents the 25% most academically able children, at least on the basis of the 11-plus. But they are not for every child. Many head teachers say they are often left to deal with the challenge of pupils who have been coached or tutored relentlessly only to struggle once they start at a grammar. The increasing fragmentation of the education system, with academies and free schools, is supposedly designed to give parents more choice. But diversity within the system does not necessarily equal choice – especially in more rural areas. The fact remains that what most parents want are good local schools offering a varied curriculum for their children.