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AIBU to think the English school system is bonkers and needs a complete overhaul?

109 replies

coffeeisnectar · 06/09/2015 16:06

Just that really.

I used to live in Scotland which has a fabulous system where every child is offered a place in the closest school. You can apply to a different school but you will only be offered a place if you have a valid reason and they have places after all catchment children have been admitted.

You don't need to apply for a school, you just get a letter saying your child has a place and that's it. As a consequence 90% of kids can walk to school, the kids walk with local kids and there are no parents stressing because they have to ferry their kids 6 miles each day.

Surely this would be a much better system! What am I missing? Why isn't this in place?

OP posts:

Supermanspants · 06/09/2015 16:14

My first thought is the fact there are much higher concentrations of population in England compared to Scotland. Furthermore there are towns and cities growing very quickly which is surely going to have an impact on availability of places at nearest schools


TenForward82 · 06/09/2015 16:16

Furthermore, if your closest school is crap, you want to go further out so your child can actually get a decent education.


LindyHemming · 06/09/2015 16:16

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

StoorieHoose · 06/09/2015 16:22

I'm in Scotland and can see DDs school from my upstairs window and I estimate that at least 75% of children are driven to school by the shear amount of cars descending on our streets twice a day!


BumgrapesofWrath · 06/09/2015 16:23



annandale · 06/09/2015 16:26

I totally agree with you but it will be a cold day in hell before an English politician stands up and says this as the Mail would crucify them.

The fact that the Mail will crucify them whatever they say has escaped their notice so far.

In England we have been told for many years that making individual consumer choices is the most important thing that government can support. I kind of blame Thatcher for this but Blair made it a mission in his own particular way. And obviously I do see why this is popular; we've come a long way since this wasn't the case and I am as used to it as anyone. It will take something very big for any case for sacrificing immediate tangible advantage for yourself and family for the wider good of the community is popular again. I do believe that it is often for the wider good of the community as well as for individual good but I also believe what kaiboshed it was that the wider community often found ways of pissing that good up the wall anyway, and that the sacrifice only seemed to really exist for the poor.


Caroline36 · 06/09/2015 16:26

I'm sorry but I don't agree with you. The local primary and secondary schools were I live are dire and are failing, in every way possible, so there was no way I would ever chose to send my children there. I wanted a choice in were to send my children to school and I chose in the end to send them to a catholic school two and a half miles away rather than to one that was literally across the road from my house. The reasons for my choice are that the school is small and therefore has small classes, we are a catholic family so a catholic school would benefit my children, it was the only outstanding ofsted rated school in the entire borough and the general feel for the school, ie teachers, staff, pupils was very reassuring, caring etc. So why should I have to give all that up to have my children closer at a failing school? The distance doesn't bother me or my children as the majority of parents chose to send their children to this school instead of the local ones that are in special measures, i care about my children's education and wouldnt chose to gamble that and send them to one of local schools simply because it would be "easier".


annandale · 06/09/2015 16:27


'It will take something very big for any case for sacrificing immediate tangible advantage for yourself and family for the wider good of the community to be made again



PurpleSkyatthewateringhole · 06/09/2015 16:33

I've written two long replies and deleted both. Not all schools suit all personalities.


Octoberagain · 06/09/2015 16:34

I was educated in both England and Scotland; the area where you are living in either country will mean your experiences will be different.

In Scotland (where I completed the second half of my education) I was one of the few who could walk to school as we were in a rural area the vast majority of students came in by bus from all over the local area.

When I was in England (in a less rural area) I went to the local comprehensive, no stress for my parents about worrying about whether I'd get in. If you wanted to go there then you did. If I was in London or one of the other major cities then it would probably have been a different story.

Also, there is the matter of whether you actually have a choice in schools. In the area I lived in Scotland it really was the secondary school I went to or nothing. In the area I lived in England we were in an area which it was possible to travel to different state comprehensives, grammar schools and various private schools. When you add choice into the mix, plus a far larger population level compared to where we were in Scotland, then people get the opportunity to compare and contrast the schools they could send their children to. Having that choice obviously has pros and cons e.g. if you can choose a school which is more suitable to the personality of your child.

Also, I think some cities in Scotland have similar problems e.g. Edinburgh I think has issues with the state/private school divide and an increasing demand for school places means children can miss out on their first choice similar to cities in England.


coffeeisnectar · 06/09/2015 16:36

Faith schools are different and I understand why as a Catholic you'd wish to send your child to a Catholic school.

However I wonder why schools are failing. Is it that the standards set by ofsted are so high they are doomed to failure to force schools into academy status?

I lived in the east end of Glasgow btw, in an area with a highly dense population but still had no issues getting a place at a local school. If there aren't enough school places then either more schools need to be built by developers when building housing estates or they should be funding extra classes at existing schools.

OP posts:

Sirzy · 06/09/2015 16:39

Purple sky is spot on. Choice is good because every child is different and sometimes a school a bit further out suits them better.


Spartans · 06/09/2015 16:40

If all schools were equal I would agree.

However many children would get stuck with crap schools because their parents can't afford to move near a better school. Having a good school close by, drives up property prices and lots of families are priced out. Doesn't seem fair.

It does need iverhauling. Trust me, I have just been through both kids applications this years and went through the long appeal process for ds. We won, but it was long, draining and emotional.

I don't think the current system is great, but would prefer to see the focus on getting all schools on an equal footing first


Hamiltoes · 06/09/2015 16:42

The distance doesn't bother me or my children as the majority of parents chose to send their children to this school instead of the local ones that are in special measures

You probably have the reason the school is in special measures right there


ClearBlueWater · 06/09/2015 16:48

In Scotland children should be offered a place in their closest catchment school AT P1 AND S1 (only)

It doesn't work in parts of Edinburgh where a large number of kids are privately educated.

Not so fab if your closest school is rubbish.


DinosaursRoar · 06/09/2015 16:57

In reality in this town, that happens - sort of. You can apply for any school you like, but as there's a shortage of places, you'll only get the closest one. The only 'true choice' is if you happen to live equadistant between two schools with similar size intake. There are a couple of faith schools, but the bulk of children are just educated at their nearest school, unless their parents moved after getting a place and didn't move the school they go to.

However, the real problem with last year and this year, is there aren't enough places in the nearest school - I live 0.5 miles from DS's school. This year, the little girl who lives down our road but closer to the school didn't get a place, there were 90 places, and those 90 places were filled with siblings and children living 0.3 miles from the school. She was too far from any of her 3 choices, so was offered a place in a nearby village school, where there is a place.

Ds's school has already gone from 2 form to 3 form entry in the last 3 years, there's not enough land to put on another class, even though there's enough children within 0.5 miles to have a whole extra class. Realistically, there needs to be another school in our area, there's just too many houses and families in those houses for a limit of 30 places in each class, but there's no space to build another school, the bulk of houses were built in the 30s and 50s when if there was just extra children, the classes would be bigger.


WildStallions · 06/09/2015 16:57

I think Scotland also doesn't have SATs and doesn't publish league tables of schools?

It's very easy to believe your local school is great when you have no data about it. What are you going to judge it on?

If they published league tables in Scotland I think suddenly a lot of people would be a lot less happy with their local school.


Caroline36 · 06/09/2015 17:02

So because I chose not to send my bright and able children to our local school that is ALREADY failing, it is my fault that it continues to fail?.....are you serious.


Mistigri · 06/09/2015 17:09

I think it's a bit like uniforms: once you'be experience a different way of doing things you find it hard to understand why English parents put up with such a bonkers system.

We live in France where almost all students attend their catchment school, and are all but guaranteed a place there.


drinkscabinet · 06/09/2015 17:12

I'm Scottish, but live in England. We live in a town with lots of good schools and I'm glad I got to choose a school that suited my children rather than having to go to the local school. I didn't fit in with the kids at my school growing up in Scotland and wouldn't wish that on any child.

And, frankly, discussing my kids education with my DB (who still lives in Scotland) and comparing it with the education my nephews are currently getting I think the choice we get in England does have an effect on school performance. The school his kids go to don't appear to give a damn about what the parents think and don't seem to stretch the most able kids. It's not a good school and there is no incentive to change (rural area, no parental choice).


TenForward82 · 06/09/2015 17:20

coffee I think schools are failing mostly due to discipline issues and new fangled teaching methods. I've read a few books (by teachers) on the subject, which doesn't make me an expert nor does it cover all views but offers an interesting POV.

I think it's very hard for teachers to make kids behave in schools. I'm not saying bring back the cane (I genuinely don't know the solution), but weak headteachers and arsey parents ("Whachoo say to my Gav? Don't you tell 'im what to do!"*) don't force the children to sit down, shut up and learn.

IMO, new teaching methods prevent learning, eg mixed-ability classes, dumbed-down ways of learning (draw a picture, make a poster - in SECONDARY school), lack of "practical" hands-on learning opportunities, etc. prevent children learning subjects that interest them on a level equal to their own ability. Rote learning of times tables may be boring, but it sticks. Attempts to create a fun, "accessible" learning atmosphere to cater to every child don't work and just pussy-foot around teaching. Kids are leaving school unable to read and write - and it's not just kids who struggle academically.

Education in England needs a serious kick up the backside.

[/grumpy old woman]

*Stereotype. But I grew up around these stereotypes so feel qualified to comment.


Osolea · 06/09/2015 17:30

Yabu, I'd hate to just be told which school my child was going to without any choice whatsoever. Even if all the schools were good, different schools suit different children.


Mintyy · 06/09/2015 17:39

I don't know what it is like everywhere but in London, certainly, there is really no choice - or maybe a choice of two schools if you happen to live in a very tiny area where catchments overlap - and so the visiting six schools thing and going through all the banding tests (for secondary) is utterly utterly pointless.

Also, all the schools have different entrance criteria and different little cheats and specialisms to skew their intake. Like offering music scholarships to out of catchment children, or a super-selective stream (Graveney et al - wtf?) when actually they should concentrate on taking a comprehensive intake from people who live within walking distance or a short bus ride.

Also, the sibling priority makes a mockery of all of it!!

So, no op, yadnbu.


nooka · 06/09/2015 17:51

We moved from the UK to Canada (via the US for a short while) when our children were at primary. In our town we have the scottish system, everyone goes to the local school except a very small number who opt into either a faith school (two very religious schools) or french immersion.

All the schools are relatively similar and the secondaries have pretty similar results in the government exams. One of the things I noticed very quickly on arrival is that there is no angst about which school your child goes to, it's just not an issue. People don't move areas for the schools and when talking about which school your child goes to it's just a matter of interest, not competition (except for sports).

You can change schools if needed (for example my children will probably both do a semester at a different school next year becasue of the subjects they are interested in) but it's pretty unusual.

I think one of the reasons it works is because our town is relatively homogeneous, with no great extremes of wealth or poverty. When we lived in the US which had a similar approach where you lived was crucial, especially as the schools were funded from local taxes.


DotaDay · 06/09/2015 18:04

If I was In charge I'd get rid of all selective state schools and all faith schools and would work on policies to improve crap schools so that they can cater for a wide range of abilities. Children would go to their local school.

The current system is ridiculous.

I would also work out a way so that children only apply to university after they have received their year 13 exam results. (Ie A level or BTEC results)

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