A splendid piece with excellent contributions from Barbara and Peter. (I spoke to the producer and gave him a lot of pointers, but couldn’t do the interview because of a 3-week break in Tenerife)
I was delighted that most of the programme was devoted to lotteries for school and university places. The case for university entrance by lot was well made, as a difficult but inevitable method of choosing between generally well-qualified applicants.
However no mention was made of the highly successful Dutch medical school entry lottery which has stood up very well over the decades. Pity!
Lotteries for school places (seats in the US) produced a less satisfactory result. The obvious fairness of lottery and the unfairness of nearness-to-school were demonstrated.
But the result of using the lottery, especially in Brighton, is deemed ‘unsatisfactory’ because the desired social mixing has not been achieved.
This is entirely predictable, because entry to the lottery is voluntary. Only the determined (middle-classes) go for it. If a representative outcome didn’t happen, at least all parents/children had a rough equality of chance.
Perhaps the most telling criticism was that mixing up by lottery destroys a higher value — that of social cohesion in the local community. Well tell that to Margret Thatcher who famously declared ‘There is no such thing as Society’!
In pursuit of her market-driven ideals, the Choice Agenda is said (eg by Milton Friedman) to give parents the freedom to choose which school their child attends.
Parents — well, the usual articulate, pushy ones — love Choice. Politicians like it too, because it seems like a handy weapon to goad lazy teachers into better performance, hence better educational outcomes.
The claim that choice (in the US it’s vouchers) raises educational attainment has been rubbished by the ‘freak’-economist Levitt of Chicago (yup, same department as Friedman).
The popularity of Parental Choice is not so much about better education (parents are not fooled). It’s much more about getting your child into a school with fewer problem kids as classmates.
But parents and politicians are not going to give up on the Choice Agenda. As we saw in last week’s Telegraph, there has been a ‘surge’ in the use of school entry lotteries.
The lottery may only be a palliative to fix the crack-pot Choice agenda, but lottery is breaking out all over — even more so in the US, where almost every week there are reports of yet another school entry lottery.