Letter: Saving the comprehensive school ideal

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Sir: Tony Blair's commitment to ending mixed-ability teaching (report, 7 June) is to be welcomed, as is his continued commitment to the comprehensive ideal.

Comprehensives led to the extinction of the pernicious secondary moderns, and if they did nothing else would be worthwhile for this alone. However, they also achieved a social purpose, allowing children from all socioeconomic groupings the opportunity to work and play together. They also enabled gifted children in certain areas such as sport, art, music and drama the chance to fulfil themselves irrespective of their ability in the more academic subjects.

The failure of the system to fulfil many of the hopes at its inception is the result of the misguided attempt to introduce mixed-ability teaching; the greater emphasis on children "taking responsibility", which, sadly, resulted in many schools becoming pools of indiscipline; and the comprehensive schools being generally too large.

However, the the success of the comprehensive experiment can be judged by the Government's own league tables. Had such tables been published in 1960, say, how many secondary moderns would have featured?

STUART RUSSELL

Cirencester, Gloucestershire

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