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Specialist schools

Specialist schools have fewer pupils eligible for free meals than other secondaries, school standards minister Estelle Morris admitted this week.

In answer to a question by Labour MP Hilary Benn, Ms Morris said that 16 per cent of specialist school pupils qualify for free meals compared to 18 per cent at other secondary schools.

These figures, which were taken from the annual schools' census caried out in January 2000, will be seen by critics as confirmation that the planned expansion in the number of specialist schools will create a two-tier education system.

However, the minister pointed out that the free meals figure for specialist schools set up since 1996 was closer to the national average - 17 per cent compared to only 14 per cent in the more established specialist schools.

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