Monday, 28 April 2014


I was on Radio Leeds this morning talking about the allocation of primary school places. They highlighted the problems faced by a family in Wakefield who have been allocated their third choice of school place nearly two miles away when there is a primary school under half a mile away. Parents and carers in Wakefield are lucky since over 92% of them get their first preference and in Leeds 85% get their first preference. This a  a fantastic achievement if you consider the fact that there are 419 extra children this year in Leeds wanting a school place... that is the equivalent of needing 14 additional one form entry primary schools!

The trouble is that we have created a monster in suggesting to parents that they have a choice, our can express a preference. Parents and carers listen to the national debate about how bad the education system is, read destructive, unhelpful and superficial OFSTED reports and are moving home and transporting their children out of their communities to get something better...a so called good school. It is interesting, and somewhat reassuring, to speak to the vast majesty of parents and carers who don’t want a choice or to express a preference. Most parents and carers want somewhere their child will be happy, healthy, safe and successful. Most parents and carers want a great primary school in their community.

The only solution to this challenge must be to work to ensure that every primary school is a good school. A good school within a family of schools that work together to understand their strengths and weaknesses, to share what works and to learn together.... sounds a lot like a great local authority in the good old days under Sir Alec Clegg!

We also need to realise that mum is the single most important factor in any child’s success and develop community and parenting programmes and really commit ourselves to every child having access to great local early years provision and play and getting every child literate and numerate by seven or eight using phonics/ Every Child a Reader/ Every Child Counts.

And finally… we must stop this bullying, negative and destructive culture and develop intelligent accountability built on empowering, trusting and developing teachers and schools.

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