Letter: Parents' feet vote against selection

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The Independent Online
Sir: I read with interest Matthew Symonds' article 'John Patten's school days grow happier' (3 November) extolling the virtues of education in Buckinghamshire. His statement 'If the Tories looked as if they could deliver Buckinghamshire across the country, I suspect they would walk the next general election' seems particularly ill-founded. The evidence from Oxfordshire suggests the reverse. Parents vote with their feet in the opposite direction to that suggested by Mr Symonds.

On the latest available figures, 794 secondary pupils under the age of 16 chose Oxfordshire's comprehensive system in preference to selection in Buckinghamshire, while only 58 travelled in the reverse direction. Post-16, the same trend holds true in that 159 sixth-formers came from Buckinghamshire into Oxfordshire while only 25 went the opposite way.

I can understand the preference for comprehensive education. The league tables which mean so much to the Independent show that the average A/AS points score per candidate for co-educational grammar schools nationally in 1992 was 16.7. My local comprehensive school, King Alfred's in Wantage, easily outperformed this figure. In 1992, the average A/AS points score per candidate at King Alfred's was 17.0, and by 1993 this figure had risen to 17.3.

It may not suit Matthew Symonds' prejudices, but many of us 'liberals' remain opposed to selection.

My local example shows that excellent exam results are possible in addition to the other benefits of the comprehensive system.

Yours faithfully,

SHEILA TERRY

Leader

Liberal Democrat Group

Oxfordshire County Council

Oxford

3 November

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