Equality of a kind

26th May 2006 at 01:00
It is a pity that Tom Miers (TESS, May 19) is unable to discern the comprehensive (pun intended) lack of appetite in Scotland for the crude market model of schooling that he and others linked to the Policy Institute continue to peddle.

Far from raising standards "across the board", as he claims, the establishment of a marketplace for schools would, as Professor Richard Webber recently demonstrated (Guardian, February 28), lead only to a polarisation of pupils and schools along class lines, as is happening in England. In the end, such a system ultimately serves only the needs of those who can afford to move to the inevitable magnet schools that arise.

This, of course, is fine for the kind of middle-class parent that I heard in a recent BBC Radio 5 Live report, who expressed gratitude that her personal economic situation allowed her to buy a house in a "desirable"

school catchment area. She did not mince her words: "Why should I be forced to have my son educated alongside riff-raff?"

This kind of market-driven social division should have no place in Scottish education.

Richard Webber's study concluded, in relation to the English system of schooling, that: "The best educational achievement for the largest number of pupils will be achieved by having a broad social mix of pupils in as many schools as possible. Some schools that currently draw their pupils from privileged social strata would lose out, but education standards would increase overall."

Peter Peacock summed up the Scottish approach, an approach that continues to enjoy a consensus across the country, in his introduction to Ambitious, Excellent Schools: "No one in Scotland should be required to select a school to get the first-rate education they deserve and are entitled to.

Choice between schools in Scotland is no substitute for the universal excellence we seek and Scotland's communities demand."

Finally, only a poverty of imagination could permit the characterisation of schooling and education as simply an "industry" like any other.

John Connell Director, Scottish Schools Digital Network, Learning and Teaching Scotland, Glasgow

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