I know that the whole school admissions process is a hot issue, but it seems that things are shaping up to become even more contentious:
Secondary schools have been flouting the admissions system by charging parents money to secure a place of their choice, the schools secretary admitted today.
The abuse of the system, only introduced 12 months ago, was “disproportionately” happening in voluntary aided and foundation schools which control their own admissions, Ed Balls said.
Some secondary schools were found to be charging parents hundreds of pounds as part of the application process to find the school of their choice.
The minister said: “For any school that is imposing financial obligations on the parents I want to be clear that this practice must stop immediately.
“Parents must not be required to pay any contribution to the school as a condition of admission whatever they may have agreed to do when making their application.
“Any school that has asked parents to make a financial contribution as a condition of admission must make clear to those parents now that such a payment is not mandatory,” he said.
Well quite – although stiffing the school of its ill-gotten ‘voluntary contributions’ will be little comfort to those parents who put their kids forward unsuccessfully for places at these schools only now to find that their offspring has missed out due to their inability or unwillingness to adequately ‘grease the wheels’ of the admissions process.
So with that in mind, what is Ed going to do about this unsatisfactory state of affairs?
The abuse of the present admissions system prompted the minister to announce he was taking steps to tighten up the procedure.
You fucking what?
You know that some schools have been soliciting/taking at least the promise of a backhander from parents in order to guarantee that their offspring bucks the statutory admissions system and the best you can do is take ‘steps’ to ‘tighten up the procedure’?
Are you a minister or a fucking mouse?
One way or another head teachers and others involved in the admissions system, like school governors, will be covered as public officials under the terms of either the Public Bodies Corrupt Practices Act 1889, which covers local government and public officials providing services funded by rates (i.e. Council Tax, these days) or the Prevention of Corruption Act of 1906, which covers public officials working in or funded by the Crown and central government. Precisely which of these two Acts is applicable is somewhat immaterial as the upshot of either is that it is a criminal offence, punishable by up to seven years imprisonment – for any public official to solicit a bribe in order that they should be unduly influenced in the carrying out of public duties.
Never mind mucking about with the rules for next year, if you want to put a stop to this practice then a few police investigations and prosecutions for corruption will drive the message home far more effectively than any civil service circular you might care to issue.
Not to forget, of course, that those parents whose children didn’t get the school place the wanted because they didn’t choose to grease the right palms along the way would appear to a justifiable civil claim against any school that has been found to corruptly allocated places on the back of promised ‘contributions’ to school coffers, provided that those parents are notified that they’ve been bilked.
Rarely, if ever, has a family name looked quite such as misnomer as when it comes to the matter of balls, its looks for all the world like Ed ain’t got any.
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Who would you go for? The schools, for requesting the bribes? The parents, for paying them? Both?
I believe the usual approach in this kind of case would be to go after the school for soliciting the bribe while using the possibility of going for parents who promised to cough up as leverage to persuade them to give evidence.
Unity – did you watch last night’s Newsnight. Worth a look (if online) for the Tory local councillor’s attempt to blame the govt., Chris Woodhead’s suggestion of abolishing all admission rules, and the duty minister’s pathetic defence.