Eyes on the PRISE

Warwick Mansell's preview of the TUC congress ("Unions assault on elitist ladder", TES, September 6) draws attention to teacher unions' fears of a "post-comprehensive" structure fostering elitism and inequality.

Waves of reform have passed under the bridge in the past two decades but the ideals that inspired comprehensive education have not been swept away.

Readers of The TES from the mid-70s to the early 90s may be interested to know that the Programme for Reform in Secondary Education - a pressure group formed by a number of prominent educationists including Caroline Benn and Harry Ree - is now formally winding up.

A Harry Ree archive has been established at the Institute of Education in London and this now contains PRISE papers and publications.

PRISE's modest residual funds will be donated to two linked school councils to support pupil initiatives in easing primary to secondary transfer.

PRISE was an active group, attracting a membership of committed professionals and presenting an authoritative view on the development of comprehensive education.

Issues of the day - including mixed-ability teaching, the curriculum and continuing professional development - were vigorously debated.

Many of its members went on to translate its ideas and ambitions into practice and demonstrate that education is better driven by philosophy than economics.

The debates are just as keen today as they were when the group was formed and there is as great a need for the kind of free-thinking and free-speaking forum that PRISE provided: why not a REPRISE?

George Varnava

Former PRISE chairman

Zoe Image, secretary

Meg Maunder, treasurer

Fortune House

New Road

Ham Richmond, London

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