Council is still squirming rather than issue facts

COMMENT: Carrier sends out a strong message to the world

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It was interesting to see a few days ago that a government minister hit out at a lack of good schools after one in six children failed to get into their first-choice secondary, particularly as it throws into sharp focus the inexplicable decision by Hampshire County Council to withhold from parents information about the process.

Readers may recall that in this column two weeks ago I made a simple request of the county councillor responsible for education, Roy Perry, to give us a school-by-school breakdown of the number of first, second and third-choice applicants who had been given places.

It’s a means by which parents can see precisely by how far each school was under-subscribed or over-subscribed with first-choice applicants.

The information had been released by other authorities but Hampshire refused, claiming that the information might ‘mislead’ parents.

I invited Cllr Perry to recognise the folly and unsustainability of this stance and to simply call us with the information in order that we might make it available to the public. Two weeks on, and the silence has been deafening.

Now Schools Minister Nick Gibb, who revealed that nationally 79,000 pupils failed to secure their first choice, has said: ‘These figures expose the fact that there simply aren’t enough good schools. Too many parents are forced to choose between schools which don’t deliver the academic standards and good behaviour they demand.’

We’re trying to force the details out of Hampshire by means of the Freedom of Information Act, which says they must tell us promptly unless there’s good reason for the public not to know. (The potential to mislead is not a valid reason to withhold facts, by the way).

Two weeks on, they’ve still failed to deliver details they have at their fingertips. I’ll keep you posted on the squirmings of this recalcitrant council.