Suppression – it’s an ugly word whichever way you look at it, but one it seems to me is descriptive of Hampshire County Council’s decision that you don’t need to know.
Don’t need to know, that is, how many children who picked a particular secondary school as their first choice actually got a place there.
Last week, as part of a nationwide release of information, the public was told that 93.7 per cent of first-choice applications were successful in Hampshire.
Other authorities such as Portsmouth City Council immediately released school-by-school statistics to show detail on how many places were filled with children who had, respectively, expressed first, second and third preferences (because of selection criteria, some of the latter can be admitted in favour of first-choice applicants).
In the case of over-subscribed schools in particular, this detailed breakdown is of interest, because it gives a complete picture of the education authority’s ability location by location to satisfy a pupil’s predominant wish.
But despite requests over several days, Hampshire refused to give us this breakdown, arguing that it might mislead parents into believing that a first-choice application carried more weight than perhaps it actually does.
Did you ever hear anything so patronising?
Apart from anything else, actually if the release of specific information does give parents a clearer understanding of the relative worth of a first-choice application, then all the more reason to empower people with that knowledge.
So today, I extend an open invitation to Roy Perry, the councillor responsible for education in Hampshire.
Last week, as has often been his wont, he would not take a phone call from a News reporter but asked us instead to contact the council’s press office.
Today our request to him is simple: Don’t pass the buck, accept that answering questions posed by a newspaper on behalf of its readers is part of the day-to-day accountability we expect of our elected representatives – and then pick up the phone and enable us to give people that information. In the name of democracy.