First, the latest statistics should convince even the most hardened sceptic that the scheme is meeting the needs of low-income families. The proportion of free places in 1994-95 was 42 per cent, because these parents had relevant incomes below Pounds 9,352. This proportion is estimated to have been maintained in the current academic year. The average income of all families benefiting from the scheme in 1994-95 was Pounds 10,795. It is estimated at Pounds 10,600 in the current year.
The only comprehensive socio-economic survey of assisted pupils found that four in 10 were from working-class backgrounds and another four in 10 were from lower middle-class homes.
Second, the scheme is fully subscribed at the main age of entry (11), and has been for some years.
Third, more than 90 per cent of assisted pupils go on to university degree courses. They achieve public examination results similar to those of full fee-payers in their schools, with pass rates of 90 per cent or above at GCSE and A-level. Mr Maden must have a tenuous hold on reality if he thinks it is a "myth" that the scheme provides a valuable opportunity for these high-achievers.
DAVID J WOODHEAD National director Independent Schools Information Service 56 Buckingham Gate London SW1