Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Blair Revives 'Selection'

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Blair Revives 'Selection'

Article excerpt

Byline: DOMINIC HAYES

Schools are told to test pupils and take in a full range of abilities TONY BLAIR today effectively brought back selection to state education in a bid to stop middle class families monopolising places at the most popular schools.

In his schools White Paper, the Prime Minister unveiled plans to tell schools to set entrance tests to identify pupils from top to bottom of the ability range to create a "genuinely comprehensive intake".

The White Paper does not use the word selection, saying the process will be intended to enable schools to operate "fair banding" admissions policies.

Under the system, schools will be required to group children into "sets" by ability. It means that the brightest will be taught together, while the strugglers will also be streamed according to ability. The Government claims to have been encouraging schools to make more use of "setting" but the message has still not got through to the majority of state schools.

Under the plans schools will be forced to expand their catchment areas to take a wider range of children whose parents cannot afford properties because they have been priced out of the local market.

The reforms will infuriate many middle class families in London, whose only chance of a decent state school has been to buy up property inside the catchment areas of popular primaries and secondaries.

In one meeting with Mr Blair in Dulwich, parents angrily complained about their struggle to find school places for their children.

Under the government proposals, poor families will get free transport to any one of their three nearest secondary schools within a six mile radius.

The White Paper said fair banding would allow popular schools to keep back places for pupils who "live outside traditional school catchment areas".

City academies, such as the Mossbourne Academy in Hackney, already use this approach.

The White Paper also said a national school choice champion is to be created to make schools more responsive to the demands of parents. …

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