Letters Extra: Specialist school programme is no remedy

Peter Wilby writes sensibly on educational topics, but his touch seems to have deserted him when he writes in support of the specialist school programme.

It is true that some of our secondary schools, particularly in the large cities, have problems, but the specialist school programme is no remedy. It is illogical - how can you test accurately a ten year-old pupil for an 'aptitude' in, say, languages or technology, even if this were thought to be desirable at such a young age? It is arbitrary - the pattern of provision will offer a completely random choice, dependent on where you happen to live. It is divisive - some schools will get better resources than others and, through exercising some element of selection over their intake, appeal to the wish for exclusivity that many undeniably find seductive.

It is based on an untested premise - that diversity is inherently superior to other forms of organisation - and a false analogy - that education is a consumer product like any other. It reflects the ignorance of politicians who claim that what we currently have is a one-size-fits-all system, whereas in reality comprehensive schools have been very different from each other. It also betrays metropolitan bias, since only very large cities can provide a suitably wide range of choices and the transport infrastructure to allow people to take advantage of them.

What most parents would probably settle for is a well-resourced and well-staffed school, reasonably close at hand and offering a full range of curriculum choices. Not too difficult a concept to grasp really, and one that would have the additional benefit of avoiding an increase in polluting car journeys.

C R Clark,nbsp;Eastbourne, East Sussexnbsp;nbsp;nbsp;

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