Friday, 4 October 2013

Open evening

Until I got into teaching I never paid much attention to them, but now I see them everywhere I look: On the back of buses there are adverts on the back on buses for local schools.

There's a definite  formula for these things - an earnest looking kid in immaculate uniform and some sort of strap-line with a meaningless bit edu-corporate bollock-speak - such as  inspire aspire achieve. And of course the inevitable statistical factoid about that all important % of five A-Cs at GCSEs. It's a game that all schools seem to play  nowadays and it's a natural expression of the creeping introduction of market mechanisms into education and the sacred-cow of illusory  'parental choice'.

The other day I was at the sharp end of this. I spent a twelve hour day at school because of the annual open evening for prospective parents. I was dreading the idea of spending hours pimping out the school and trying to big it up at the expense of our local 'competitors'. I had flashbacks to some of the horrors of my previous life trying desperately  to drum up business in order to survive.

Fortunately this was not the case. Happily my school is one of an endangered species - a thriving community comprehensive school under local authority that is popular in the area. For the moment at least, the admissions criteria is staggeringly simple - if you live in the right postcode you get in and if you don't then you won't.

In my time, I've been one of those parents looking at schools and it is reassuring to see where your kids are going to be educated - so I have no problem with giving up an evening to provide this reassurance. 

But the idea that we are actually selling ourselves against other schools is ridiculous and deeply disturbing. Quite simply, until every school in every area attends a thriving community comprehensive that all local kids automatically attend, then the idea of some semblance of equality of opportunity is just a fantasy.

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