New catchment areas for schools?
A recent article on the BBC website looks into the way that catchment areas for comprehensive schools may be about to change. Catchment areas are usually used to ensure that pupils live within a certain distance of schools. This system however, has its flaws as it can lead to inflated house prices near the ‘best’ schools as parents try to ensure that their children get a place. A recent study found that using the distance between homes and schools to select students is one of the biggest drivers of social division in schools. However, by having a diverse mix of social backgrounds represented in school could potentially provide students with a more rounded education. In ‘a deliberate attempt to create a mixed intake - mixed in terms of socio-economics, ethnicity and academic ability’ a new academy in Birmingham is attempting to solve this problem. This academy is twinned with the University of Birmingham and they plan on splitting their catchment area into four different areas in order to prevent the location-based bias that exists in the current system. Their first intake of student will come from a mix of 61 primary schools in Birmingham.
I personally agree with the approach taken by this new academy in Birmingham. I think that their policy is not without flaws but I agree that direct proximity to schools should not be the only factor in offering school places. I have personal experience of this as I grew up in a deprived area and the address that I lived in when I was at primary school was in the catchment area of two secondary schools that were known locally as being ‘bad schools’ and my mum would have been left with no choice but to send my brother and I to one of those schools. Luckily my mum had, and took the opportunity to move us into the catchment area of a much better school and we attended that one instead. However, I understand that not everyone has the means to do this and it is unfair that currently a lot of children have no choice but to attend ‘bad’ schools purely because of where they live. I think that the new way of recruiting students demonstrated by the new academy in Birmingham will help to solve this problem as parent would no longer have to move house in order to guarantee a better future for their children. It would also mean that children would mix with other children from all over their city and therefore would possibly be better prepared for adult life when mixing with people from all walks of life is inevitable. However, this new system could again simply lead to house prices rising in these specific catchment areas that are not particularly close to the academy. Therefore whilst this new approach seems to solve one problem it could just be moving the problem from one area of a city to another.