LETTER : Selection of skills in schools

Sir: Those who argue for separate schools for higher ability groups base their argument almost entirely on the premise that low performance is highly contagious, while high performance is quite the reverse. So if high performers come into contact with lower performers their performance will be in danger, but the lower performers will not benefit at all from the presence of the higher performers. If high and low performers are mixed it will always result in an overall reduction in performance.

There is no evidence for this at all. Furthermore, most advocates of selective schooling have the temerity to attack the levels of performance achieved in inner city schools, which are themselves the product of a highly selective, if voluntary, education process, whereby all the high performers have moved on, leaving a residue of low performers. This is the (unstated) downside of selection - the gradual debasement of standards in the non-selective schools as all the higher performers are attracted to the selective schools.

Michael Waddilove

Harpenden, Hertfordshire

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