The widening achievement gap between children educated in state and independent schools has prompted new concern about the impact of rising class sizes and Government education reforms.
Official figures published in a parliamentary written answer show average performance at GCSE is improving faster in private schols than in state schools. They also show that for the bottom 15 per cent in state schools, average GCSE scores fell last year.
The figures, in reply to a request from David Blunkett, Labour's education spokesman, showed average GCSE scores in private schools rose between 1992 and 1994 by 4.6 points, compared with 2.5 points in state schools (gradeA = 7 points, grade B = 6, etc.
But comparing the performance of the bottom 15 per cent showed that while scores rose by 1.6 points in independent schools, they fell by 0.1 points in the state sector.
Professor Michael Barber, an adviser to both the Government and the Labour party on school improvement initiatives, believes the growing gap is a cause for concern and reflects the spending advantages of the independent sector.