Blinkered policies waste talent

28th September 2007 at 01:00
The Sutton Trust's "sponsored research" often highlights what should be striking data but then routinely misses the point. That "100 schools dominate Oxbridge" (TES, September 21), is indeed a "sad waste of talent". But little attempt is made to analyse this appalling state of affairs. Instead we are left little more than innuendo.

My experience is limited to mathematics. But after 30 years working to counteract the traditional English bias of privilege, it is clear that the real "waste" of the last 20 years stems from the myopic educational vision imposed on ordinary schools by the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

In contrast, some "elite schools" still have teachers who know what is important for long-term development and who have the freedom to work towards that end. Ordinary schools may achieve "equivalent" Ucas points, but their efforts are too often targeted on easier subjects and on narrowly focused examination success, which does their students a disservice.

The facts are indefensible. But it is the wilful blindness of our politicians and civil servants (as illustrated by your September 21 front page and leader) that is primarily at fault.

Dr Tony Gardiner

Director, UK Mathematics Foundation, University of Birmingham

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