Selection denies access for many;Letter

25th June 1999 at 01:00
I was impressed with the concern for equity that Councillor Malcolm Grimston showed in his letter (TES, June 18). I was less impressed with the evidence for his implicit assertion that the advantages of selection at age 11 are manifold.

He refers to evidence of rising standards in schools that are operating selection. These rises are measured in terms of GCSE results and I do not dispute them. It may be possible that more subtle, "value added" measures of achievement would show similar trends. This kind of measure, however, tells no one anything about the extent to which those schools are actually serving the children of Wandsworth.

In May, approximately 200 children in Wandsworth primary schools were without offers of places in secondary schools. According to Councillor Grimston, this diverse group has had equality of access to Wandsworth's secondary schools. Within this large group, children from ethnic minorities, children with special needs, children in receipt of free school meals are all significantly over-represented. This is hard to explain as "equity".

What is Mr Grimston's evidence for suggesting that the small group of active parents in the Campaign for Local Education is representative only of an "extraordinary racial and social monoculture?" What if it were? It is surely naive, in terms of simple statistics, to expect a small group to be representative. However, the meetings organised by CLE and the local Labour party have been attended by large groups. These anxious parents have certainly been representative of the richly diverse society in which we live, and these are the people signing the petitions and writing letters.

The adjudication procedure that is about to begin is to be evidence-based. The adjudicator will be able to step outside the discourse of educational standards and consider evidence based on the real lives of Wandsworth children and their parents. Our evidence shows that most of these people want access to high-quality local schools. The evidence shows that far too many are denied this.

Peter Winbourne Campaign for Local Education co 19 Pendle Road, London SW16

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