Mossbourne supremacy

The Mossbourne Community Academy in Hackney is misunderstood. It is located within a severely deprived community and reserves 60 per cent of its intake places for pupils living within a kilometre of the school. It is comprehensive and it succeeds in enhancing the life chances of its pupils. But not mentioned by Andrew Adonis, Mehdi Hasan or Melissa Benn (Education Debate, 19 March) is that Mossbourne operates a banded admissions policy based on cognitive ability tests (CATs) taken in year six. It selects its 200-pupil annual intake using CAT scores to produce a balanced ability profile.

Mossbourne's triumph is in demonstrating that an all-ability comprehensive can overcome social and economic disadvantage to provide an excellent education for all. Academy status has nothing to do with it, beyond the vital power to achieve balanced admissions, which uniquely in Hackney also applies to its excellent and successful local authority community schools within the LA-wide system.
Roger Titcombe
Ulverston, Cumbria


School's out

In his enthusiasm for free schools, Andrew Adonis ("Finishing what we started", 19 March) overlooks the question of accountability. Academies may have their advantages but, for the most part, there is little parental and virtually no local authority involvement. In times of scarce resources, someone other than a remote secretary of state must have oversight of the local school system and seek to protect it from the potential ravages of the kind of competitive market that threatens the NHS.
Jeremy Beecham
House of Lords
London SW1

Andrew Adonis suggests a number of interesting ideas for improving our schools but fast-tracking talented teachers into headships "within four years" isn't one of them. Leadership capacities develop over time. Pursuing this would cause our schools harm by providing career opportunities for egotistical, "born-to-lead" types - the sort making such a mess of governing the country.
Ross A MacLennan

On academy funding, Mehdi Hasan ("Playground tactics", 19 March) is incorrect - per-pupil funding for academies is based on the same formula as for other local schools - and he doesn't paint an accurate picture of the Haringey situation. Results at Downhills Primary School have been poor for years. Last month, Ofsted found it was "failing". He is also wrong on teachers' pay and exam results. Pay is not lower in academies, and figures show children on free school meals at academies are improving more quickly than similar pupils in all other schools. Hasan claims there is a lack of support for academies but at schools such as the Ark Academy in Wembley, there are six applications per place. He fails to mention that the best academies combine superb leadership with brilliant teaching and an ethos centred on learning and success.
Lord Hill
Department for Education
London SW1

Roll with it

Alwyn W Turner writes from the viewpoint of the hero of High Fidelity who has not followed the middle-class route ("Things can only get bitter", 19 March). The point he misses is that the middle-class route is the norm. For us, the 1980s and 1990s may have brought the retreat of the corporatist state, trade unions and one employer for life. But as well as obligation and responsibility, they brought unprecedented choice and freedom. Our experience was hardly one of disillusion.
Ted Morris
Via email

Alwyn W Turner provides no evidence for his assertion that the 1992 election defeat led to a generation of Labour supporters giving up politics. He therefore falls into the trap of believing correlation equals causation.
Paul Edwards

The Reich stuff

A N Wilson cannot rescue his biography of Adolf Hitler (Correspondence, 19 March). He claims to read German; why, then, does he cite in his endnotes only books that are available in English? He would not have swallowed the fantasist Fritz Reck's claim to aristocratic or "high-born" or landowning origins if he had read Alphons Kappeler's book Ein Fall von "Pseudologia phantastica" in der deutschen Literatur: Fritz Reck-Malleczewen. Confusing the Reichstag delegation leader of the Centre Party Heinrich Brüning with the party's leader is not a trivial error, because the party leader was a Catholic priest, Ludwig Kaas, which affected the party's relations with the Vatican.

Robert Gellately's praise for Wilson's book has no bearing at all on how Wilson quoted an incorrect statistic from Gellately's book without noticing the correct statistic in the next sentence.
Richard J Evans
Wolfson College

Group think

Bryan Appleyard speculates on how events of the past 40 years might have led Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking to their anti-faith positions ("The God wars", 27 February). Fifty years ago, as a representative of the Oxford University humanist group, I collected Hawking's half-crown subscription each term. Steve's attitude to religion then was as he expresses in The Grand Design (2010). Another acquaintance from the group was the courteous Dawkins, whose attitudes then were those he expresses in The God Delusion (2006). Hawking and Dawkins rightly defend science from the ethical view each had taken up before the age of 19.
Connaire Kensit
London SW15

Crossed wires

Nicholas Wapshott is confused (Letter from America, 19 March). Whatever else David Cameron is doing, he's not "paying down British debt". The Treasury's forecast shows net public debt rising from £760bn in 2009-2010 to £1.4trn in 2014-2015. Nor is he "slashing the size of the state": Treasury forecasts expect public expenditure in 2014-2015 to be 42.2 per cent of GDP, a figure exceeded only by the last government in its final two years.
Mark Younger
London SW6

On the take

Helen Lewis lets my generation off lightly (First Thoughts, 19 March). She could have mentioned how we plundered final-salary pension schemes and enjoyed free university education but won't fund it now. Some of us feel guilty but my peers seem to have a sense of entitlement so monstrous that they are immune to criticism.
Robert Ireland
Bewdley, Worcestershire

Knickers in a twist

I enjoy the wit and perceptiveness of Rachel Cooke's TV column but I wonder if she needs to broaden her frame of reference. She claims (The Critics, 19 March) that the actor Rob James-Collier is best known for his role in Downton Abbey. Perhaps he is to a fragment of the audience but his stint as the hunk Liam Connor in Coronation Street, the Heathcliff of the knicker factory, was relished by a far broader demographic.
Andy Medhurst
Sussex University

This article first appeared in the 26 March 2012 issue of the New Statesman, Mission impossible