Placing requests aren't working

Tes Editorial

So an Aberdeen sheriff has found another flaw in the placing request legislation and provided me with yet another chance to say: "I told you so."

When the 2000 education Bill was proposed, the Scottish Parent Teacher Council was one of a number of organisations to suggest that this was an opportunity for a root and branch review of the placing request legislation which was demonstrably not working well.

It had resulted in overcrowded popular schools, half-empty unpopular schools and problems for parents who moved into the catchment areas of popular schools and then had difficulty finding places for their children.

When we called for a complete review we therefore meant the repeal of all existing placing request legislation and the introduction of new proposals that would take account of conflicting interests and deliver what people wanted.

However, officials at the Scottish Executive ruled this out. I got the impression that they feared such a process would somehow undermine parental choice. Instead they offered yet another amendment to legislation which had already been amended.

I remember protesting to one official that over the years the legislation had been moved beyond its original purpose by sheriffs' judgments and that there was a need to pull it back.

He assured me that the proposed changes would be all right and that, in any case, sheriffs would take account of the Executive's intention when passing judgment. Of course, sheriffs have done no such thing. They have interpreted the law as it is written.

One of the problems of legislation is that both responsible officials and ministers are but creatures of the night - here today and gone tomorrow.

They have a tendency to regard with suspicion any proposals for change coming from what might be called the educational establishment and assume that such proposals are subversive with a purpose other than creating a workable system.

I write this in the hope that with the need to make yet another amendment, the Executive and the Parliament's education committee will do what should have been done from the beginning - undertake a root and branch review of the placing request legislation in order to produce something which does actually work.

Do I dare be optimistic that, this time, good sense will prevail?

Judith Gillespie Development manager Scottish Parent Teacher Council

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