I was disappointed, however, in some of his views about secondary education. I doubt that pupils, recently relieved of the burden of pursuing large numbers of subjects to examination standard for GCSE, would welcome his advocacy of "replacing A-levels with a truly broad and flexible examination".
A-levels represent their first opportunity to focus on a small number of areas in greater depth, and one of the advances noticed by parents of my generation is that pupils can now choose a mixture of subjects they enjoy and think they can excel in rather than conventional groups of sciences, languages or arts. At the same time, small and diverse modules can be taken without the restriction of passing exams.
I was also disturbed by Sir Claus's continuing infatuation with the universal comprehensive school. Parents have been demonstrating for decades their commitment to good secondary education; and this is not just the parents of the 8 per cent who opt for independent schools, but the unknown but large number who choose where they live having established in advance that the local state schools are of a high standard. They do not wish to see destructive levelling out by imposition of a single style of school and many are unconvinced of the evils of selection.
There must be a recognition of the fact that there are different problems in different geographical areas, and that, contrary to Gillian Shephard's assertions, resources are all important. Schools with more problem children should be helped by allocation of larger budgets, enabling smaller class sizes and higher quality teachers.
Dr Mark Wansbrough-Jones
London SE19Reuse content