Education Letter: Lottery of a lifetime

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ALL PARENTS currently going through the process of secondary transfer will recognise the pain described by Professor Alan Smithers (View From Here, EDUCATION, 5 November). How can we maintain diversity and choice, when choice itself produces huge imbalances of over and under subscription which inevitably deny choice?

Every oversubscribed school is a selective school, whether by ability, aptitude, geographical proximity or any of the other criteria that abound in the system.

We urgently need open and informed debate on how we can ensure, as far as possible, that all children obtain places in the sort of schools which will allow them to flourish. We must also learn to trust the good sense of parents wanting the best for their own children. The professor's knee- jerk sneer of "leaving arrangements open for the pushy to pull the strings" does him no credit.

Do we not have a right to expect professors of education to provide new thinking in this complex area? Professor Smithers implies that we should stop thinking altogether, put all the names in a hat and turn the whole thing into a complete lottery.

He presents us with a vision of parents organising ballots to destroy the ethos and tradition of some of our most popular and respected schools in order that their children can be placed in a second ballot to determine, at random, which piece of the educational wreckage they can cling to for the next five or seven years. Truly, the lunatics are taking over the asylum!

Come on, Professor. We don't need you to tell us how to run away from the problem. Politicians, local education authorities and all the other decision makers have been doing that for years.

Stuart Lester


(Chair of the Governors, Childs Hill Junior Mixed and Infants School )