Plenty to be said for living around here

PUBLISHED: 14:53 10 March 2009 | UPDATED: 15:59 11 May 2010

ALTHOUGH we all like to have a whinge about our local environment from time to time, there are many reasons to be thankful for living in Royston. There are few other places in the country where you can see medieval carvings of the type that adorn the wall

ALTHOUGH we all like to have a whinge about our local environment from time to time, there are many reasons to be thankful for living in Royston.

There are few other places in the country where you can see medieval carvings of the type that adorn the walls of Royston Cave, and I'm fairly certain that no other town has a road (Sun Hill) that inspired the name for the police station in long-running television drama The Bill.

On a more serious note, when compared to other parts of the world, the quality of life in the Royston area is pretty good. Crime and anti-social behaviour are relatively low, and we have some excellent schools and educational facilities.

And I'm pleased to report that, unlike in other areas, problems with obtaining a place at the school of your choice are few and far between in Crow country.

Mostly it is a case of children going to the place where they and their parents feel they will get the best education possible in an environment that suits them.

Unfortunately this can't be said of everywhere else, and the issue of school admissions hit the headlines last week when it was revealed that, in some places, up to 20 per cent of children are not getting accepted at their first choice school.

Over in Stevenage, for example, not one pupil who attends Knebworth Primary School has been given a place at their nearest secondary school, Barnwell School. Instead they have been sent to the Thomas Alleyne School, located on the other side of town.

The situation has got so bad that 25 local authorities, acting on the advice of the government, are using lotteries to determine places at the most over-subscribed schools.

To me this seems like a totally baffling, not to mention illogical, system.

I can totally understand why parents want to send their children to the best school available, but if places at that school are limited, then surely they should go to the people who live nearest to it?

That way, children are more likely to be kept together in their friendship groups and thus more likely to have a happy stay at secondary school, rather than potentially being isolated because they don't know anybody.

Furthermore, introducing a totally arbitrary element into proceedings is likely to push us towards a two-tier education system.

More and more parents will apply for the places at the perceived "good" schools in the hope of getting lucky, and in turn this makes it more difficult for the less good schools to turn things around. Again I can't really blame parents for wanting the best for their kids, but the fact that they are allowed to do this in the first place is completely wrong.

Education secretary Ed Balls last week pledged to review the rules surrounding school admissions, and in my opinion this review can't come soon enough.

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