No matter their ability, every child has potential

14th March 1997 at 00:00
It is strange to read in your columns quite so many appeals to the Labour party from the independent sector, calling on the shadow education secretary David Blunkett to recognise the benefits of the Assisted Places Scheme. Mr Acheson is the latest such contributor (TES, Letters, February 28).

He makes an extraordinary, and to me offensive, statement when he comments that these awards have gone to children "with real potential". Is he suggesting that those children who fail to gain a place at his school have no potential? What sort of education would he recommend for these pupils? Indeed, what sort of teacher should I become to teach such children?

At no point does Mr Acheson address the problem that this scheme exacerbates: it has the constant and unavoidable consequence that the "ordinary" schools within that neighbourhood are denied the contribution which more able pupils and their parents make to a school. Mr Acheson is well aware of this contribution and the virtuous circle that results from the recruitment of more able pupils. By holding rigorous entry examinations, and drawing on pupils with assisted places, he ensures that the effects of this virtuous circle are strongly channelled into his sector.

He insists that many of the awards go to pupils from less wealthy families. It would clearly be in any parent's interest to make their income seem as low as possible when applying for such places, and I am afraid I do not share his confidence in these statistics.

He also comments on the findings of polls that suggest a majority of parents support the scheme. This is perhaps rather a mark of the unfortunate naivety of the electorate, since the vast majority of parents will not find their children receive the advantages of an assisted place.

HUGH CULLEN Bridge House Caynham Ludlow, Shropshire

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