'Unfair' to ignore the poverty factor

THE Government was taken to task this week for dismissing the effects of poverty in assessing schools.

Professor Peter Mortimore, the director of London University's Institute of Education, says it is unfair to ignore a school's intake when making judgments. His book on school effectiveness says ministers should stop blaming schools which have disadvantaged students for not achieving.

In The Road to Improvement: Reflections on School Effectiveness he says:

"This is not being patronising about the disadvantaged, but simply to recognise that such students have to compete with their peers in what amounts to a schooling race in which they begin from way behind the starting line. "

He calls for changes to school inspections which, he says, are too harsh. "Inspection teams are too distant from the day-to-day, week-to-week realities of the school."

But chief inspector Chris Woodhead says schools in disadvantaged areas should be assessed on the same basis. "Do we change our inspection system regime in disadvantaged areas? Do we give those schools a softer ride? That doesn't do anybody any good," he said.

Professor Mortimore's book is published by Swet Zeilinger, the Netherlands. E-mail pub@swets.nl

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