Our own college's results are getting better, with a rate of annual improvement that considerably exceeds the national one, without significant change in the students' qualifications at entry. I am quite sure that being better at organising and promoting students' learning leads to better results.
However, the idea that ability is fixed is a firmly held belief of some teachers, "a damaging ambiguity", to use Professor Winter's phrase - even though it is directly contradicted by commonplace observations of human behaviour.
The current danger induced by the schools and colleges league tables is that of acting on this belief and allowing only "worthy" students through to the examination entry stage. Many of the "top 100" state schools, according to the A-level results, are producing a surprisingly small number of successful candidates. Instead of being "filters", educational institutions should be "pumps", judged by "volume" and "pressure" of the output. That is, league tables should rank schools and colleges by total numbers of successful students at several levels of attainment, rather than just average score per student.
TERRY PITCHER Chief executive South East Essex College Southend-on-Sea Essex