Chance or choice?

14th February 2003 at 00:00
Is choice the key to school improvement as Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary, suggested this week? Or is it the curse? Are smart parents and covert selectors funnelling the nigh-on unteachable referred to by the chief inspector last week into a few mission-impossible schools (see right)?

By underlining the importance of the market again this week, Mr Clarke seemed to contradict the signals emerging from his department about collaboration. Even the specialist schools movement - once the vanguard of choice and diversity - now accepts the need to earn its privileges by sharing the load.

Choice and collaboration is the third way, the have your cake and eat it remedy. It is also political reality. The schools market was not invented by the 1988 Education Reform Act and Mr Clarke is right that the genie of consumer information cannot be returned to the bottle. Abolish league tables and newspapers will invent worse ones.

The collective challenge for the profession remains, as ever, to give every child a decent chance whatever unfairnesses life deals him or her.

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