Letter: School gimmicks

Sir: Having had two children from my family experience the challenges of comprehensive education I, like Deborah Orr (Comment, 23 March), find the idea of extra tuition for the so-called talented risible. It suggests an uneasy balance between remaining nationally committed to non-selective education while at the same time promoting internal selection procedures which will be identified by staff and children alike as divisive and arbitrary. When I was a governor of Pimlico school I would never have sanctioned such special treatment.

Comprehensives, if they are to work, must create a community of talent in which the less able never feel excluded. Pimlico offered all the support necessary to the bright and determined children but was struggling to cope with the marginal ones who needed focusing. These children could benefit from extra tuition and a whole variety of extra-curricular activities. Sadly, comprehensives, because of their comparatively low-income parents, are rarely able to raise enough money from the PTAs. Hence the private sector wins. That is where the Government should be directing the money.

By endorsing Tory marketing concepts which encourage us all to scrutinise the league tables, the Government has fallen on its face. It is unrealistic to expect that those middle-class parents whose sole concern is their own child's prospects, and who are locked into the relentless scramble for selective secondary school places, will be converted to comprehensive education by this offering.


London SW11