Private schools are winners

The figures that R Acheson quotes in support of the Assisted Places Scheme are interpretable in different ways, and are certainly not "the truth".

One could point out, for example, that some private schools now depend on these government-paid places for up to 40 per cent of their intake. Is it any wonder that they are pushing so hard to keep this gift?

In fact, there is evidence that up to two-thirds of those taking up places for the first time at 16 were already fee-paying pupils in the school for which they won the Assisted Place. Someone must have paid for them.

As to the supposed low income of the pupils and the single-parent families, this index can be affected if the income taken is that of the mother rather than of the higher-earning father.

The underlying assumption that the children will be better off going to private schools is unwarranted. After all, wherever they were at school, they were already high achievers as evidenced by their examination successes. Children of high potential but poor educational circumstances would be likely to fail that hurdle.

The Assisted Places score is simple: private schools get both money and bright kids; the state schools who may well have brought the children to that level of achievement lose both.

PROFESSOR JOAN FREEMAN 21 Montagu Square London W1

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