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Assisted Places alone cannot break poverty barrier

Readers are right to note that 40 per cent of those eligible for an Assisted Place in the independent sector are entitled to full fee remission (TES, March 17).

But, as the Child Poverty Action Group publication points out, it is striking that so few children from disadvantaged families seem to be benefiting from the scheme. Instead it would seem to be helping those children who would be most likely to succeed within the state sector anyway: a high proportion of places have been allocated to children of professional or managerial parents, many of whom went to either private or selective schools themselves.

Education Divides documents an abundance of research findings concerning education expenditure and the impact of recent reforms. It concludes that there is evidence of a growing educational divide which is failing to help children escape from poverty.

The assisted places scheme alone could not address this divide: the report calls for action to halt the erosion of educational funding for disadvantaged areas, in the context of wide-ranging measures to tackle child poverty, for example, improving level of benefits and the availability of child care.

In publishing Education Divides, CPAG hoped to reintroduce the social dimension into discussions about education. It is gratifying that a debate seems to have started. We very much hope it will lead to action which is urgently needed if the educational chances of poorer children are to improve.

LISA HARKER

Research and information officer

Child Poverty Action Group

Fourth floor, 1-5 Bath Street

London EC1V

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