Penalty for independent sector

6th December 1996 at 00:00
If Geraldine Hackett were a sports writer, would she, I wonder, have reported Everton's recent 7-1 win over Southampton by concentrating on the defensive lapse which led to Southampton's goal? I only ask, because that was the tenor of her front-page story on the exam results of independent schools with assisted places (TES, November 29).

The fact that 336 of the 355 schools in question (that is, 95 per cent) exceeded not just the national average GCSE score but the - much higher - average for independent schools was turned on its head to highlight the results of three of the 19 which did not.

It is, in any case, not the overall results from the schools that should be the centre of public interest, but those of the pupils on whom public money is spent.

Provisional figures from the Department for Education and Employment show that assisted-place pupils in 1996 had a 97 per cent A*-C pass rate at GCSE, actually outscoring their full-fee-paying contemporaries. And the London School of Economics study, published earlier this year, demonstrated that assisted-place holders also outscore state school contemporaries of similar ability atA-level.

Inadvertently, your reporter identified both the reason for the relatively lower showing of some schools and the major objection independent schools have to the DFEE's method of publishing exam results.

The recognition of 15-year-olds' results only, rather than those of all pupils in Year 11, artificially depresses the actual GCSE score of many independent schools, especially those with boarders and with overseas pupils.

RICHARD DAVISON

Deputy director

Independent Schools Information Service

56 Buckingham Gate

London SW1

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