For me, a key issue is not about giving parents choice of school, but providing children with real choices when they are actually in school. At the school where I currently teach we've always involved pupils in the process of choosing teachers, much in the way that the Children's Commissioner, Maggie Atkinson, advocates in the press yesterday
. Dr Atkinson said: "Young people are a school's customers, and they see lots of different teaching styles over the course of a school career. Our research shows that they understand teaching is a challenging job which requires a wide range of skills from teachers - it is not just about their academic qualifications or how loudly they can shout." I would disagree with Atkinson that children are a school "customers" - the relationship between pupil and teacher is much more complex than that -- but I agree that on the whole children have a good understanding of what makes a good teacher, particularly if they've experienced good and bad teaching in their school careers.
I'd go further, children should have more say in schools as a whole. The Student Voice
movement is an important one because it provides children with a chance to say what teachers they like and why, and what improvements they'd like to see in lessons. I've seen it go too far -- with pupils giving mock-Ofsteds using forms they don't understand -- but when it's done well and children speak in their "own language", it can be very valuable. Regularly surveying children's views on their lessons is a great idea; on the whole it shows what teachers are doing a great job and what ones need extra support to improve their lessons. As Dylan William points out it's not so much WHAT school a child goes to that's important, it's the teachers that they get there that's crucial.
We need to build and develop all mechanisms that help schools get better; I believe involving pupils in the recruitment process and making their voices heard is important to help schools improve.