A parent’s right to some form of choice of school remains a controversial area. Back in 1944 the Education Act set out what parents could expect.
“The minister and local education authorities shall have regard to the general principle that, so far as it is compatible with the provision of efficient instruction and training and the avoidance of unreasonable public expenditure, children are to be educated in accordance with the wishes of their parents.”
The Eleven Plus meant that only around 20% of parents ended up with a right of choice – because they were the parents of children who had passed the Eleven Plus.
The Eleven Plus is now restricted to a small number of grammar schools. Even fewer parents there have freedom of choice. If every parent could freely choose where they want their child to go, then school would need to be flexible enough to be able to accommodate fluctuating numbers of children. If we were all suddenly given the ability to go to a popular comprehensive, we could land up with a large intake one year – that could simply overwhelm the teachers and the ability to provide classroom space. In some school there would be a surplus of teachers and classrooms.