Tough on education, tough on the causes of education


Schools Adjudicator Dr Ian Craig has published his report on Fraudulent Applications; it is a frustrating read. Dr Craig believes that Local Authorities should consider “removing places from the guilty and pursuing them through the courts, possibly using the Perjury Act." In the text of the report, Dr Ian Craig concludes:

The evidence presented persuades me that additional disincentives are required, together with a media campaign to underline the fact that every place obtained by a parent through deception, has the consequence of depriving another child of their ‘rightful’ place. This is not right, nor should it be tolerated in a ‘fair’ admissions system.

The report was doomed from the start. Its remit was to look at:

  • The scale of the problem at local level; 
  • The effect on fairness of local admissions; 
  • The Chief Adjudicator’s view of whether ‘withdrawal of places’ in the Code (paragraphs 1.50 and 1.51) is sufficient to dissuade fraudulent application, and - if not – his recommendations on how this could be addressed.

Within the body of the report the telling point is made that “fraudulent/misleading applications are only an issue in relation to oversubscribed and popular schools". Exactly. Could you imagine such a situation in any consumer led model of education? The good schools should be expanding at the expense of the bad ones, which should go to the wall.

Interestingly, the report finds that “There was no immediately obvious logic to which types of authorities were reporting a problem, for example in terms of geography, deprivation or size." This is rather telling because many believe the quest to give children a good education is essentially a middle-class pursuit. However, this is not the case as the excellent new book The Beautiful Tree by James Tooley shows. When it comes to education – we have a lot to learn from entrepreneurs in the developing world.

The whole approach of this report is wrong-headed. Instead of castigating parents for wanting a better education for their children, those in power should be asking themselves why parents are prepared to make so much effort to get their children into a good school. They should also look at how the schooling system needs to be reformed to allow this competition for places to engender the opportunities of excellence in education for all, rather than trying to cut it off at root.