Social mix is still better than most

2nd April 2004 at 01:00
You carried an opinion piece by Phil Collins, director of the Social Market Foundation, which commented critically on the conclusions drawn by Fiona Millar in her recent Channel 4 documentary on the perils of parental choice (TES, March 19).

These two disagreed on what to do about it, but were firmly agreed "it is true that the British school system is the most socially segregated in the Western world". In this, they are both wrong and, therefore, any policy built around this premise will be flawed.

In fact, the available evidence, of the kind which policy-makers claim they wish to base policy on, shows the reverse. Every recent international dataset confirms that the UK has one of the most socially-mixed school systems in the world. See, for example, the current issue of Comparative Education, 40 (1), pp.15-32.

The situation could be even better, but that is no reason to reject what we have without clear evidence that our suggested replacement is to be preferred. The Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) 2000 study shows that segregation is at its lowest in school systems where the schools are largely controlled by the Government but chosen by the parents, where there is little academic or religious selection, and no specialisation. Until recently, that is what we had in the UK.

Professor Stephen Gorard Cardiff University School of Social Sciences Glamorgan Building King Edward VII Avenue Cardiff

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