Parents have right to choose child's school

15th February 2008 at 00:00
Peter Peacock is wrong in dismissing choice between schools as being part of "a false prospectus" for successful state education (TESS, January 25).

We exercise choice in almost every aspect of our lives - where we shop, how we dress, how we choose to spend our disposable income. Of course, choice is restricted by economic circumstances, but there is no evidence that state-imposed limitations on choice of public services diminish this.

An element of choice in state education can enable young people to escape from environments that are hostile to aspiration and educational achievement, such as the housing ghettos created after the Second World War. Authorities are rightly trying to remove these ghettos, by selective demolition and the introduction of new owner-occupied housing, but we have a long way to go.

Meanwhile, the right of a parent to seek a different educational environment for their child is socially positive and potentially infectious. Teachers know that educational success depends on good role models in school.

Neither Mr Peacock nor any other Labour politician has, to my knowledge, proposed to abolish the right of parents to make placing requests, including those across local authority borders. I have not heard any leading figure argue for the abolition of the specialist public sector music, dance and sports units and academies. Furthermore, Labour-controlled Glasgow and North Lanarkshire have plans for additional specialist provision, for example, in modern languages and vocational education at 16-18.

Choice and diversity will advance, but their advantages are not being punted or advertised by the educational establishment. To the extent that specialist local authority schools are not advertised, and the right of parents to make placing requests is played down, we ensure that the advantages of these provisions are likely to be confined to aspirational middle-class families.

Let's remove the political blockage that prevents initiatives of this kind from coming to the notice of the families and the children that would most benefit from them.

Fred Forrester, North Larches, Dunfermline.

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