Why catchment areas give the illusion of choice

Nov 4 • Featured • 690 Views • 8 Comments on Why catchment areas give the illusion of choice

If you have a child in Y6 then you're probably going through one of the most stressful times of their school life: the battle for a place at a decent secondary. Suddenly parents you've known for years will become slightly shifty whenever the conversation turns to 'which schools have you put down?' and getting your hands on a full set of practice papers requires skill and cunning. (And if they're trying for a place at a grammar or private school, their offspring will be being tutored to within an inch of their lives.)

There's been a lot of talk this week (mostly from politicians who probably send their kids to the best private schools anyway) about punishing parents who lie about where they live to win school places. This kind of thing is particularly rife in our borough, where despite the rapidly growing population there hasn't been a decent non-faith state school built for over 18 years (but countless luxury flats, many still unsold). Not surprisingly competition for places is fierce. I know of parents who have swapped houses, and others who have rented to be within the catchment area (0.5miles!) of the best comprehensive school.

The point is that catchment areas create the illusion of choice where there isn't one, because some parents always know how to play the system and those who can afford to move closer to the school will always do so, pushing the prices up and forcing the less well off out.

In my opinion, all kids leaving primary school should have the option of a place at a fantastic secondary school within reasonable walking distance of their home and without having to pass an academic exam to get into it.

Prosecuting parents who lie about where they live because they want the best for their children isn't going to solve the problem. Building new schools will.

written by Liz Jarvis


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8 Responses to Why catchment areas give the illusion of choice

  1. Alison says:

    This is already beginning and our son’s only in Year 5. It seems to be the main topic of conversation in the playground. I live in Brighton where they are trialling the lottery system so even catchment areas are no longer valid. I agree wholeheartedly with you. Build more schools.

  2. Pippa says:

    I agree! We moved home so we would be in the right catchement area for the better primary school and I have joked that when the time comes for Secondary school we may move again! Every child deserves a chance and the current system is failing for them.

  3. singlemamasrock says:

    I agree with you – building decent schools for all of our children is the answer. Here in Northern Ireland we have been under the sway of the 11 plus system for years hence non grammar schools all have differing entrance policies but right through final two years in primary school all that can be talked about is the transfer process and your child being doomed iif they don’t get an A at tramsfer test!! If you happen to have dyslexic children (like myself) where the transfer process makes no allowance for dyslexia you tend to go where you are told. In our case my daughter was sent to a new integrated school some 15 miles away – however this has in fact proved very successful for her as she is very bright and she is given the right support and encouragement. The shame is that this cannot be said for all schools and whilst I disagree with parents playing the system because financially they are able to, I understand that this current lottery of whether your child goes to a decent school is wrong – all of our children deserve a decent education in a well run school – not just those who can afford it as wealth does not necessarily equate to intelligence anymore than the 11 + or SAT’s!

  4. Peggy says:

    I am starting to experience this and E is not due to start reception in Sep 11! This is madness!

  5. Vic says:

    As Peggy points out, the issues are evident even at as young an age as 4. When trying to get our son into primary school, we were too far away at less than 600m from the school to get in to its two reception classes. The closest place we could get him in to was 1.8km away. I dread to think what it’ll be like by the time we’re looking at secondary schools. http://glowstars.net

  6. Liz says:

    Choice at primary is an illusion, let alone secondary. We have a school 1/3 of a mile away and when I phoned for the forms they told me I wasn’t in the catchment because we lived too far away. Next school which is 1/2 a mile away is totally over subscribed 5 reception classes of 31-32 kids, now mostly in huts who said we could go on the waiting list but wouldn’t guarantee anything. Went to the third and last state school in town 2 miles away totally out of their area and refused. In the end gave up phoned the local private school had a place in a week, thankgod I only have one child or I don’t know what I’d have done.

  7. samantha says:

    My son is in his first year at Primary school, my daughter’s not due to start for another couple of years and yet already I am having panic attacks about where they will be for secondary school. At the moment it is definitely a case of burying our heads in the sand – we don’t want to move because we love the primary school, we could never afford private education and yet our local secondary school is oversubscribed, underfunded and simply unacceptable for our children’s education.

  8. x says:

    They can’t build more schools. There simply isn’t enough space in the country anymore unless schools were to be built in the middle of the countryside. The only places to build them would be in green spaces. And that would lead to more build-up and urbanisation, sooner or later there would be no greenery left anymore. That, and there is no money left to give to education.


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