You cannot be serious, Roy

20th November 1998 at 00:00
I CANNOT believe that Roy Hattersley had his heart in the feeble, rambling, illogical critique of grammar schools (TES, November 6), quite unlike his normal joyful penetrating prose. Does he really believe that today's grammar schools are the same as those of the 1960s which he painted so dismally? Today's grammar schools are not better resourced than "the comprehensive or secondary modern down the road". For example in Medway this year the budget share per pupil is Pounds 2,263 for non-selective schools and Pounds 2, 234 for grammars.

In KentMedway the grammar schools admit approximately the cleverest 25-29 per cent of the ability-range, not "15 per cent". They are taught by highly-qualified teachers and, yes, they have their quota of children recognised as "high-fliers", but one should not overlook the 3-4 per cent of children in their intake with recognised special educational needs.

David Normington accuses "some grammar schools of coasting", actually about 14 of the 166 remaining grammar schools fall within his definition of coasting and he is absolutely right to scrutinise them with concern or perhaps disdain, but what of Hattersley's conclusion that "the good schools are not so good after all" - what, all of them or just 14?

Finally, he believes that the appeal of the selective system is "status rather than education". Wrong again, parents want the best and most appropriate education for their child; grammar schools educate able children better than comprehensives do (the Office for Standards in Education concludes); parents are prepared to pursue that goal.

He misses the real target. There are good schools and failing schools in all the different categories. Grammar schools and their non-selective counterparts are practical ways of matching education closely to children's needs. After decades of national under-performance from comprehensive systems, the selective system is an idea whose time has come - again.

Anthony Stanton Headteacher Simon Langton girls' grammar Canterbury

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