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Realism, please

As a Sheffield headteacher, I was dismayed to see that Earl Marshall, a school trying desperately hard to raise standards for its very disadvantaged clientele, was extrapolated from the figures on attendance to feature in a table titled "Truancy: The Worst Schools".

The difficulties faced by those schools finding themselves consistently at the bottom of league tables are obvious even to outsiders: anger is followed by a worsening of self-esteem for staff and pupils alike; fewer parents are willing to "risk" their child by choosing those institutions; and such schools thereafter find the long haul towards a more "respectable" position becomes almost impossible.

What is all the more galling - and, I must say, extremely difficult to believe - is that there are schools at the top of the "truancy" table who claim to have no truancy whatsoever; I bet they don't have any bullying, either. Schools like Earl Marshall, which are honest, are punished accordingly.

Is there any possibility that we might recapture a little realism in comparing the achievements of schools? The children at Earl Marshall are well aware of the massive advantages enjoyed by their peers on the more prosperous west side of Sheffield. It would be heartening if there was some recognition of this from those who, like yourselves, should know better.

HELEN FREEBORN

Headteacher

Westfield School

Mosborough, Sheffield

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