Your Views: 'Coasting' image is misleading

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The Independent Online
Your article "Could do better - leafy suburbs hide low achievers" 19 March, Education+) was disappointing. Warwickshire is keen to use statistics such as those published by the Audit Commission in its improvement work. We welcome the Government's standards agenda. We have adopted the highest literacy target for Key Stage 2 in the Government's range. The article suffers from being superficial and impressionistic.

North Leamington School stands among the magnolias but serves a mixed area, including the most deprived ward in Leamington. The cohort which produced the reported GCSE outcomes had within it 24 per cent of young people receiving free school meals, not 9 per cent which is the county average.

Some useful facts: Warwickshire GCSE results are above the national average and within 1 per cent of the shire county average - not poor.

It is well documented that Warwickshire receives less money - in fact, we receive pounds 184 less per secondary pupil than the county average.

Our recent reorganisation, praised by the same Audit Commission, and our school improvement programme, will produce even better results across all our schools.

Eric Wood

County Education Officer,


As a governor of two Warwickshire schools, I know that our local education authority is highly regarded by its schools for its support and advice. It is ironic that when we were looking for a fairer deal in terms of money allocated to the county, we were told that we were not doing so badly because our performance in the league tables was creditable.

If we are to have a truly value-added table, all schools should be counted, not just the grant-maintained schools, but also the high number of private schools who cream off so many bright pupils, many of which have substantial charitable funds.

Or does this latest data show that the presence of grammar schools depresses the overall standards of pupils?

Nichola Gregory, Warwick

Your article on the Audit Commission's attempt to explain variations in educational attainment ("Pupils let down by affluent councils", 12 March) highlights a fundamental misconception in understanding and explaining variations in educational attainment, and how this might be expected to relate to the social and economic characteristics of the population.

The crucial point is that any explanation of the variations in children who do well - for instance, those who achieve five or more grades A to C at GCSE - does not lie in looking at variations in children who are disadvantaged, but at variations in those who are advantaged. In other words, we would expect good GCSE performance to correlate very well with the number of children from managerial and professional backgrounds.

Now, it does happen that some London boroughs do have high levels of disadvantaged pupils, but they also have high numbers of advantaged pupils. Camden is such a borough. It has, in fact, slightly more children from managerial/professional backgrounds than Lincolnshire - an authority claimed by the Audit Commission to be affluent. It should not be surprising, therefore, that Camden has a similar level of achievement to Lincolnshire.

In some respects, the Audit Commission's analysis is simplistic and unhelpful. Indeed, it could well point to the wrong conclusion for individual authorities.

David Smith Principal research officer, Sheffield City Council

Ofsted error

I welcome Ben Russell's account of last week's meeting of senior academics to discuss the inspection of initial teacher education ("Reform inspection, teacher trainers demand", Education+, 19 March). However, the statement in the last paragraph is incorrect. An Ofsted spokeswoman claimed that I declined an invitation to take part in a working party with the CVCP to discuss these issues. In fact, I received no such invitation.

I remain hopeful that the recommendations published following last week's meeting will be considered by that working group, in their efforts to establish a more effective and fair system of inspection.

Peter Mortimore

Director, Institute of Education, University of London

Six strange words

What induced the designers of the new national literacy strategy ("Tough words to test our children", 21 March) to select the list of six words that 11-year-old children will be expected to understand? What has the understanding of such unfamiliar words got to do with the ability to read?

Pronouncements such as this only prove how out of touch are those who pontificate from above. Teachers who have managed to avoid all the new approaches to methods of teaching reading will continue to teach using the successful combination of "Look and Say" phonics, while inexperienced or unsuccessful teachers will be more confused than ever.

Jane Jerbury-Sweeney Oswaldkirk, York