Take the glory, but not the name

1st December 2000 at 00:00
CONGRATULATIONS to Thomas Telford school for showing us ways to improve performance.

I have used its site regularly in staff development forums to illustrate many aspects of good practice, particularly for information and technology and distance learning, and I congratulate staff and pupils on their performance.

However, the issue which really irritates is that of the media and the school (which should know better), claiming to be "the best-performing comprehensive school".

The Department for Education and Employment describes a comprehensive school as: "takes all pupils, regardless of their ability, aptitude, or whether they have been selected for a place at a selective school".

If you download Thomas Telford's "rules" you will find reference to their ability-banding selection procedure (dubious by some interpretations, but fine in principle), you will also find reference to"a defined catchment area" and "any proximity test (distance between home and school) is irrelevant.

"Preference is not given in favour of siblings or of those with medical conditions."

And, most interestingly, "the headmaster will select students from within ability bands and, in exercising his professional judgment, will take into account the following ... competence in technology, science and mathematics - attainment and effort will be given a score in each of the subjects. Applicants with the highest score in each band of ability will be given priority."

I am sorry, Thomas Telford is not a comprehensive school by these measures (and by many others, some would say). So please claim your rightful success and glory, but don't claim you are comprehensive.

Dr Nigel Leigh Oldfield

Head of science

98 St George's Road

New Mills

High Peak, Derbyshire

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