Benchmark criteria are lacking

13th February 1998 at 00:00
I have just received 1997 benchmark information for key stages 1 and 2. I find there are only two criteria for benchmarking - free school meals and English as an additional language.

Three weeks ago, I received the Excellence in Schools booklet from the Department for Education and Employment on inclusive education, and I was heartened to see that schools were encouraged to include a whole range of special needs children in mainstream education, as this school already does.

My difficulty is that I cannot see that schools will embrace inclusive education if the consequent inevitable loss of performance is not reflected in the benchmark.

In November my school underwent an inspection by the Office for Standards in Education. I was surprised when I received the pre-inspection context of school indicator (PICSI) that no reference was made either to our special needs unit (20 children from out of zone, all with moderate learning difficulty statements) or to the high level of special needs integrated into mainstream classes (10 children with full statements of special educational needs). When I contacted OFSTED I was appalled to find that they didn't even know.

In many schools English as an additional language and free school meals are utterly insignificant factors when compared to the level of special educational need. Unless the DFEE recognises this, the benchmarking information and consequent performance setting will be meaningless for many schools.

PHILIP R ROY Headteacher Wyche Primary School Nantwich Cheshire

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