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Academics back comprehensives

EIGHT of the country's leading education academics have warned the Government of the dangers of its secondary reforms and launched a stout defence of comprehensive schools.

In a paper published yesterday by the Campaign for State Education and sent to MPs and peers, they say comprehensives must take the credit for a 30-year rise in standards.

And they knock down the arguments of the pro-selection lobby, saying that grammar schools provide no "escape from poverty" but instead are "in the main schools for the middle classes".

CASE convened the panel of professors - including the directors of London's Institute of Education and Oxford University's department of educational studies - to pull together evidence to counter what it considers the misinformation of selection supporters.

David Chaytor, Labour MP and CASE member, said: "We've been put on the defensive by a range of arguments which are based on false assumptions."

With a title which wryly echoes the Government's Green Paper, Building on Success, the paper warns that England's education system has traditionally been unable to create a diversity of schools without creating hierarchies.

Efforts to raise levels of achievement across the board could be undermined by an increase in specialist schools, the paper warns.

And it argues that where inner-city schools have failed it is not because they are comprehensive but because their most able students have been creamed off.

Members of the group include Professors Geoff Whitty, of the Institute of Education; Richard Pring of Oxford University; Margaret Maden of Keele University; Clyde Chitty, head of Goldsmiths College department of educational studies; Tony Edwards, emeritus professor of education at Newcastle University; and Dr Anne West, director of the centre for educational research at the London School of Economics.

'Comprehensive Secondary Education: building on success' is available from CASE on 020 8944

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