To the back of the class

How can anyone come to the conclusion that "David Blunkett's specialist schools scheme at least creates the possibility of a fairer system", as you do in your editorial of 19 February? You recognise that it creates two classes of schools, one of which is funded at a higher level than the other. Is that fairer? Differential funding on the basis of need would be fairer, but that is not what is being proposed.

There can be no doubt, however, that the green paper and the publicity surrounding it will make it more difficult for those of us in Buckinghamshire who are trying to obtain 18,450 signatures just so that parents can be granted a ballot to decide whether selection continues here or not. There can be no doubt about the inequity of a system that divides children at ten-plus on the basis of an invalid exam, labels 70 per cent of them as failures, and spends millions of pounds testing children and busing them across the county.

Malcolm Horne
Media Secretary
Bucks Parents for Comprehensive Education

Francis Beckett always seems so keen to hammer David Blunkett ("The end of Blunkett's grand illusion", 19 February) that he fails to see any success whatsoever in education action zones and makes a sweeping, unfounded comment on Lambeth's city academy.

The Lambeth Education Zone, working in firm partnership with the Centre for British Teachers, Shell International Ltd, IBM, the National Theatre and the Royal Festival Hall, among others, has discovered a whole array of innovative ways to promote school improvement. For example, we are establishing a partnership with Psion Computers to enable youngsters to have hand-held computers. And pupils at Lilian Baylis School are participating in music workshops with their peers from a secondary school in Paris.

Overall, this zone (covering 28 schools in the borough) has seen a huge rise in the number of 11-year-olds reaching the standard expected of them in English and maths.

Cllr Ty Goddard
Executive Councillor for Education
London Borough of Lambeth, SW2

This article first appeared in the 05 March 2001 issue of the New Statesman, The New Statesman Essay - Democracy can be bad for you