LETTER: Better ways of spending money for education

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From Professor Joan Freeman

Sir: Now we have the evidence that private schooling has little or no effect on children's adult achievements ("Value of private schooling may be over-estimated", 14 December) - what really counts in life is ability - it is time for a rethink on the Government's Assisted Places Scheme. This scheme moves bright children, whose parents could not pay the fees, from state to private schools. Instead, the Government pays for them, a practice that costs the taxpayer about pounds 105m a year.

Independent research has shown that most of the chosen children are from professional homes, such as those of schoolteachers, and that the most socially deprived children are the least likely to be taken up for these places. As the results from Sussex University, carried out on 17,000 people, show that there is precious little benefit to the pupils from private education, who is gaining? It can only be the private schools, who are not only benefiting from this financial largess, but also by having the leaven of so many of the brightest children in their classrooms.

In fact, if the state schools are doing as well by their pupils with very much less to hand, what couldn't they do with an equal amount? I expect that any state schoolteacher, particularly those whose brightest pupils have been removed from their care for "improved" education, could think of many better ways of spending that money.

Yours faithfully,

Joan Freeman

University of Middlesex

London, W1

15 December