Vision of local pupils in local schools

10th December 2004 at 00:00
No doubt the benefits of the specialist school movement described by Susan Tranter, associate head of Matthew Arnold school, Oxford, really do exist (Letters, TES, November 26).

However, there is no reason to suppose that non-specialist schools should not be able to operate in a similar way and reach equally high standards.

Many do, despite not receiving the increased funding that accompanies specialist school status.

Specialist schools are supposed to offer parents and pupils choice, but they are randomly distributed across the country and it is only in the larger metropolitan areas, and particularly London, that this is a realistic aspiration.

Even in these areas, it seems odd for the Government to be promoting a policy that will encourage polluting, cross-city journeys when it should be taking action to combat the growth of obesity in young people by encouraging them to walk or cycle to school.

Why, when we have been told for years that 11 is too early an age to label young people in terms of their academic potential, do we now seem so ready to believe that it is possible, or even desirable, to identify pupils'

"aptitude" for particular subjects?

If I live in a small town where my one local school offers a specialism in, say, mathematics, just what sort of choice does this offer me as a parent?

And if the schools are "not really all that specialist", but favour all subjects equally, then what is their purpose?

In five or six years' time there will probably be a movement dedicated to promoting a new type of school: locally-based, free of selection, within easy reach of pupils, sufficiently well-resourced to offer the full curriculum range, and not involving parents in complex strategies to negotiate their children's entry to one of many different types of school, or staff in time-consuming bidding processes.

Those who advocate such schools will probably be dismissed as dangerous visionaries.

Chris Clark 34 Vicarage Drive Eastbourne East Sussex

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