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Let London look its best

How annoying it is to see the headline "Secondaries fail to please" over an article which reports that 90 per cent of parents in London are happy with their youngsters' secondary schooling (TES, March 4).

The gap between the numbers in London who think their child's school does a good job (nine in 10) and those who think their borough's schools as a group do (four in 10) is striking. The number "satisfied" with London schools as a whole is lower again. These observations obviously cannot be explained by reference to the quality of education alone.

A number of factors seem to be in play. The reputation of the capital's failed education system under the Inner London Education Authority is clearly one. Schools in London are closer together so parents see youngsters from several of them - large groups of youngsters can appear intimidating even when they are doing nothing more than enjoying themselves at the end of the school day, and this would appear to create false assumptions about the quality of education in that school. More parents in London have actively chosen the secondary school to which to send their youngsters, with the result that there is a "vested interest" in believing their choice was the best one.

We, as local politicians, may bear some of the blame. There is a small group in London - generally those in opposition in a particular borough - who bend the facts in their desire to score points. We must make sure that we do not play the game of talking down educational standards for some short-term political gain.

The gap between the best and worst in London has always been wide, but it is narrowing. In every band of free school meals percentages, London secondary youngsters consistently achieve better exam results than the national average. London boasts the two local education authorities in the country with the most rapid improvements in GCSE results from 1998 to 2003 (Tower Hamlets and Wandsworth).

It can serve no purpose to become complacent, but equally The TES should not talk down the capital's very real achievements.

Malcolm Grimston

Vice-chairman (Conservative)

Association of London Government Education Steering Group

591Z2 Southwark Street

London SE1

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