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Backlash for Bill over placing requests;News amp; Opinion

LEADING parent and consumer groups are branding the Scottish Executive's plans to change the placing requests legislation as unworkable.

The draft Education Bill proposes that schools should be allowed to turn pupils away from primary 1 classes if they believe that there will be too many pupils by the time a class reaches primary 3. This is an attempt to reconcile parental choice with the 30-pupil limit on class sizes in the first three primary years.

In its response to the Bill, the Scottish Parent Teacher Council believes such a change would be "disastrous" since parents would neither understand nor accept it and sheriffs would be likely to back them.

The council suggests instead that authorities should fix the number of places in a school, allow enrolments from outwith its catchment area according to agreed criteria and leave schools free to distribute children to classes. This system works perfectly well for secondary schools whose rolls are capped, the SPTC argues.

The Scottish Consumer Council says the suggested plan is no more than unreliable guesswork and will unfairly restrict parents' ability to opt for the school of their choice. It simply wants the proposed clause removed.

The consumer council has also told ministers there is "an urgent need" for a strong national parents' body. Deirdre Hutton, the SCC's chairman, said the SPTC and the Scottish School Board Association were "partnership bodies" which also represented teachers and local authorities.

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