Education policy has created a number of seasonal events for journalists to get excited about. Christmas comes in August for the hacks, when the release of GCSE and A-level results prompt images of happy middle-class teenagers opening their presents, sorry results letters.
Well, now we seem to have a new one – admissions day.
It plays right into the heart of parents’ anxieties about the education of their kids. Will they get into a ‘good school’ or be held back by not getting their first choice. The fears are being stoked already, with the Conservatives releasing figures that suggest over 100,000 families missed out of their first choice school last year. That information was obtained through Freedom of Information Act. This year the government plan to publish official figures to the obvious delight of some in the media.
However, if you thought the exam rituals were played-out, this new festival of column-inches is in danger of being irrelevant before it even gets going. This week a report was released indicating that where middle-class students attended schools with challenging intakes which performed at below the average, it had little if any effect on their educational outcomes.
This would appear to support to the thinking of the School Admissions Adjudicator, Philip Hunter, who has made attempts to avoid ‘unacceptable segregation’ in regards to admissions between rich and poor students.
My worry is that, like in so many other areas, we again end up with education policy driven by the media. Experience tells us that the truly damaging effect of this can be to channel expenditure into achieving ends which provide no real educational benefit for young people while, for the lack of a quotable stat, short-changing the really important initiatives like the promotion of creativity in all schools.