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I'm not so sure that "too harsh" marking (19 October) is the main reason for the massive upgrading that took place in the English Key Stage Three tests. At this school, 148 out of 228 (65 per cent) were upgraded. Eight were upgraded by two levels, which is equivalent to three years' development in English. There is, in my view, evidence of inconsistency rather than just harshness. There must be schools where children were given higher grades than anticipated, thus invalidating any comparisons of schools' results.

The impact of such incompetent marking on the pupils cannot be ignored. I wrote to the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority about this and received a fairly brief, mildly apologetic letter, which studiously avoided several of my points. Astonishing, after marking two out of every three of the pupils' scripts wrongly!

Terry Ayres

Headteacher

Cranbourne School

Basingstoke

While in an ideal world I would support Janet Lash's point of view on the assisted places scheme, she is obviously lucky enough to live near an excellent state school.

Would she have sacrificed her son's education for those principles if she lived where I do in Streatham, in Lambeth? Four years ago, when we were looking for a school for our son, the quality of most secondary schools was extremely poor and the few of a somewhat better standard were heavily oversubscribed.

Although we are lucky enough to be able to pay the fees to our son's independent school, many parents who could not have reason to be extremely grateful to the assisted places scheme, which has enabled their sons to attend schools of the very highest quality.

The quality of state schools must be raised before parents like us will be happy to send our children to them. It's the old chicken and egg story - which comes first?

Sarah Griggs

Streatham

London SW16

If you have any comments on education, write to the Education Editor, the 'Independent',1 Canada Square Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL, or fax to 0171 293 2056. Please include a day-time telephone number.

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