An impossible pledge, after all the years of Tory underfunding education!
In principle, there are two types of secondary schools. The good ones that are usually heavily oversubscribed and the less good ones with vacancies.
Choosing a secondary school is like a lottery. If you win and get your first choice, bingo! If you do not win, you go into the tombola drum and usually lose out as subsequent choices are full as well.
The only way to produce real parental choice is to fund education properly, not enter into puerile political posturing prior to a general election. With a wide selection of good schools, parents will be able to make a real choice and not be forced to go to less good schools, often at the opposite side of the town from where they live.
As a secondary school English teacher (now retired) who believed in creativity, enjoyment in reading and communicating, but also in giving pupils the skills that would make their writing accurate, I found constant barriers. Pupils had been encouraged in primary schools to write at length "on their own", without any supervision or correction, resulting in pages of words showing no sense of structure and little accuracy in spelling, punctuation and the construction of sentences. Brought up on the notion that such work was "well done", pupils at first resented efforts to correct technical inadequacies as a threat to their freedom of expression.
Teachers of other subjects passed on to their pupils the fact that GCSE grades were not to be influenced by pupils' accuracy in writing, hence the notion that only in writing "English" was this important. Accuracy can only be achieved by consistent habit.
The making of a rough copy, which was corrected by the teacher and then used as the basis of a final version by the pupil - one of the most useful methods of developing style, structure and accuracy - was denied by the constraints of continuous assessment, where the work had to be unaided by the teacher. I found moderation meetings with other schools very depressing. Errors in the work of pupils taught by others were not marked in detail, with inadequate work being given a good grade and a cheerful comment. The assessments of my colleagues and I were considered too high because our detailed marking drew attention to errors.
The Ofsted inspections seem to be producing a correlation which suggests that, at one end, inner-city schools are failing and, at the other, those with middle-class intakes are successful. Would it be helpful to the Government in driving up standards if an inspection of a school included one of its parents as the third party in the parent, child, school triangle?
Send your letters to Wendy Berliner, Education Pages Editor, The Independent, One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5DL. Fax: 0171-293 2056. Please include a day time telephone number.Reuse content