Just for fun, let’s design a secondary school system and let’s try to make it the most user-unfriendly possible.
We’ll start by making the choice of school bewildering. It’ll be impossible to go to the local school, which will be oversubscribed or useless or both, and anyway that choice would define you as bad parents.
You’ll need to compare and contrast all the schools within about fifty miles. It won’t help you though because there won’t be any chance of getting into any of the good schools if they’re outside your immediate locality, as they’ll be 400% oversubscribed.
You’ll have to compare state comprehensive schools with grammar schools, which have a different criteria for entry and will set their own entrance exams. Which will all be different. And there’ll be private schools too, to compare with, even though comparison is pretty much impossible. Each of these will have its own entrance exams too. Different ones for each school. If your kids want to do those exams, we’ll make sure they cover subjects that they haven’t actually studies, so you’ll need to set the whole thing up well in advance to leave time for some private tutoring in stuff like non-verbal reasoning which nobody can do. And the admissions admin will be crap too (take a bow CLFS). And expensive.
The league tables that you get to compare the schools will be worse than useless because the entrance criteria are all different and the catchment areas are different too. The most selective schools will have great results because only brilliant kids get in. So you won’t learn anything useful there.
We’ll also make sure that schools are only judged on a really narrow set of goals – basically the results you need to go through the university entrance sausage machine. So they’ll be irrelevant to the half of the population who aren’t going to Uni and as unhelpful as possible to the half that do.
We’ll definitely pay no attention to sports, culture and general welfare of the kids or – and now I’m chuckling as I write this – whether it’s a nice place to go to school. Titter.
Is that difficult enough? No not quite.
We can make it hilariously messy by having the changeover between primary and secondary schools happen at different ages. That’s a nice twist. Say change schools at eleven for state schools but thirteen for private schools. That’ll make it really difficult. And the schools themselves can help by making sure their open days clash with competing schools. That way, you won’t even be able to go there to find out more. Genius.
Now we’re getting somewhere. Hang on. What’s that you say? That’s the actual system in England right now? Oh.
Only one thing (or one man) could make it worse.