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Meals are not the best measure

I get fed up with the story reproduced by Michael Barber (TES, October 11). He believes a "huge range in performance among schools of similar types" is illustrated by the variation of GCSE scores between schools with over half of pupils on free school meals.

I know of no work which shows that the free school meals figure is a satisfactory measurement of the social factors related to poor academic performance. Most inner-city teachers know that it's all much more complicated. The only reason it's used is that it's the only measurement there is. It is intellectually indefensible and politically irresponsible to pretend we can make any statement about school performance using such figures.

No one denies these days that school makes a difference. The problem lies with those academics and politicians who want to deny that the social nature of the intake makes much more difference.

MARTIN JOHNSON National executive member National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers Wendle Court 131-137 Wandsworth Road London SW8

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