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Banding worked well to balance ability of intake

Splendid journalist and editor though she was, Patricia Rowan does "banding" a disservice in her account of the Inner London Education Authority's system during its last 20 years ("The most turbulent time for schools in TES history", September 10).

The system of ensuring schools took the entire spectrum of ability, and did not pick and choose from those applying for entry, demanded a resolute process and one that had to be seen as fair even if it dispensed "rough justice" to some extent.

"Banding" was a great success. All pupils in their final primary school year sat a demanding, broad attainment test at the start of their final year at primary school. Assessments were managed by the authority, not the schools. Allocations to secondary school (based naturally enough on parental preferences) were managed as far as possible to achieve a balanced intake, with 25 per cent from the lowest ability band, 50 per cent from the middle band and 25 per cent from the highest.

In fact, the target of ensuring a broadly comprehensive intake to all secondary schools was met as fully as possible. The idea that some schools or parents were able to side-step the system is neither feasible nor historically accurate.

Neil Fletcher, Leader of the Inner London Education Authority, 1987-1990.

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