State secondaries are not failing pupils in Edinburgh

10th October 1997 at 01:00
I would like to challenge the research findings quoted by Elizabeth Maginnis (TESS, October 3) that parents are opting for the independent sector because they see pupils "wasting their time in the first year of secondary".

Whatever they may tell researchers, most parents who opt for the independent sector make their decision when their children are still in primary school and without sampling a state secondary.

The reason is twofold. First, most education is now seen as a "positional good" which delivers more to those who achieve the most. In modern parlance this means better jobs and higher salaries - vide the current argument that the salary benefits deriving from university education make graduates well placed to repay tuition loans.

Second, the private sector is seen by many parents as the route by which they can achieve educational advantage for their children. This is partly because people believe that anything they have to pay for is inevitably better, and partly because the headlines associated with state education are currently all so negative.

They are all about the need for raising standards, time wasting in S1 and S2, underfunding, poor buildings, failing teachers and so on. Such a press frightens off many who understand the "positional good" nature of education.

If you add in the fact that many teachers who work in the state sector send their children to school in the private sector, then it is not surprising that so many parents opt for the private sector. But the negative headlines do a grave disservice not only to the schools within the state sector but even more to the great bunch of youngsters who get their education in such schools. Having been associated with Boroughmuir High School for the past 12 years, I can testify that the majority of students who emerge from their years there are great individuals, confident, amusing and diversely able. Some even managed to achieve five Highers in fifth year and some even with A grades.

There is no room for complacency in education but it is important not to belittle the achievements of the many thousands of youngsters who have experienced state education. They are after all the bulk of us.

JUDITH GILLESPIE

Findhorn Place Edinburgh

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