Letter: More research on assisted places

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From Mr David J. Woodhead

Sir: Professor Joan Freeman's assertions about the assisted places scheme (letter, 22 December) are based on research which the researchers themselves admitted was flawed.

The study by Edwards, Fitz and Whitty was conducted in the early years of the scheme, although not published until 1980. The authors confessed that "we did not aspire to neutrality". They admitted that their sample of assisted place pupils "falls short of the representativeness for which we had hoped".

In fact, they interviewed only 157 pupils (and 90 of their parents) from half a dozen schools in three areas of the country. On the other hand, Professor Freeman prefers to ignore research conducted by MORI four years ago based on a national sample of almost 3,500 pupils from 31 schools. It is this which shows at least four-fifths of assisted place pupils coming from working-class and lower middle-class homes. She should also remember that the average household income of parents of assisted place holders is pounds 10,600 and that more than 40 per cent of places are free because their household incomes are less than pounds 9,500.

Yours faithfully,

David J. Woodhead

National Director

Independent Schools

Information Service

London, SW1

22 December