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Ofsted's real view of specialists

Your piece on specialist schools (TES, November 29) refers to evidence from the Office for Standards in Education given to MPs on November 27. We should like to make two things clear.

First, the evidence we gave was based firmly on our report published in October 2001, supplemented on occasion by our more recent analysis, which suggested a slight fall in the GCSE improvement trend for specialist schools, so that this is now broadly in line with the trend of improvement nationally. Our report showed that most of the schools covered by our study were in large measure achieving the aims of the programme and making use of their specialist status to sustain or accelerate improvement.

Second, you describe us as saying that "a fifth of schools had gone specialist purely to get the extra cash". As the transcript of the education select committee hearing will show, this is not what was said. We referred to a fifth of schools that had not used the opportunities and resources of the scheme to good effect. We were asked if in our view schools were only interested in the money, and clarified that what we had said in 2001 was that within the 20 per cent of schools there were those whose commitment to specialist status did not seem strong. That is a long way from saying that they were only interested in the money.

David Bell

Chief inspector

Office for Standards in Education

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