Letter: `Worst' schools

Sir: My spirits sagged when I saw your crass banner on the school league tables: "Guide to the best and worst primary schools in England" (23 February).

With that unthinking headline you undermined the efforts of thousands of children, teachers and parents throughout the country. When deciding best or worst, the final test results must be measured against starting points.

I am acting head teacher of a "near the bottom of the league" London primary school. We have had real success in bringing children who have only been in the country a few years and are still learning English, traumatised refugee children, and traveller children with limited experience of schooling, close to the benchmark Level 4 for 11-year-olds.

Many of those who had just missed Level 4 had struggled to express themselves in a foreign tongue, had tussled valiantly with complex questions without help, and had made a supreme effort. I dare say a bunch of English children arriving in Kosovo and taking local tests in Albanian might not compare so well with neighbouring schools. Would it be fair for the press to then condemn the schools the English children attended as the "worst in Kosovo"?

Our children achieve really well against the odds and it really hits them when their efforts are dismissed. If our school, with a 26 per cent refugee population and only 30 per cent of Year 6 pupils having attended the school since reception, achieved as well as 90 per cent indigenous schools in the leafy suburbs, there would be something seriously wrong with standards in the suburbs!

MARTIN FRANCIS

London NW10

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