Not so special

6th June 2008 at 01:00
Elizabeth Reid ("Absolutely no call for BoKo and Co", TES, May 30) says that "having a specialism does make a difference across the whole curriculum"
Elizabeth Reid ("Absolutely no call for BoKo and Co", TES, May 30) says that "having a specialism does make a difference across the whole curriculum". How does she know? A specialist school is given extra money. Naturally, schools respond positively to that, but why should she assume that it is the specialism rather than the extra money that is making the difference? If that were so, what would be the point of providing the extra money?

On performance, everyone hopes that academies will do well. Newly built secondaries usually do, at least at first. But academies start from a low performance base, so conclusions derived from comparing their rate of improvement with the average - including schools with little room to improve because up to 100 per cent of the age group already reach the required performance level - aren't worth much. Like has to be compared with like before comparisons can be taken seriously.

The important question I asked ("Seven reasons why Old Etonians might run our schools jolly well", TES, May 23) was this: is there anything of educational importance that academies can do that cannot be done equally well, at a fraction of the cost, by voluntary aided schools, as established under the 1944 Education Act? Nobody I've asked so far has been able to give a satisfactory answer to that.

Sir Peter Newsam, Former chief schools adjudicator, Pickering, North Yorkshire.

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