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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 July, 2004, 18:22 GMT 19:22 UK
School selection under scrutiny
Classroom
About one in 20 specialist schools select up to a tenth of pupils
The schools minister says he is considering calls to restrict the selection of secondary school pupils by "aptitude".

Currently, specialist schools in England can choose up to 10% of their intake according to their aptitude for subjects such as technology and art.

But a committee of MPs last week called for an end to this partial selection.

Education minister Stephen Twigg said he was "considering" the recommendations.

SELECTION BY 'APTITUDE'
Specialist schools which can select 10% of pupils:
performing arts, sports, music, modern languages and technology
Specialist schools which cannot select:
maths, science, engineering, business and enterprise and humanities
Over 60% of English secondary schools are specialists

Answering questions at the Professional Association of Teachers (PAT) conference in Bournemouth, Mr Twigg said that there might be a "natural aptitude" for sport and music.

But when it came to using selection for technology, art and modern languages, there was "less of a case ... if I'm honest", said the minister.

Mr Twigg said that he and Education Secretary Charles Clarke were "on the same wavelength on this".

Real attitudes

The Commons education select committee said there was no difference between selecting pupils according to their academic ability and their aptitude for a particular subject.

The admissions ombudsman, the Chief Schools Adjudicator, Philip Hunter, said last year: "Finding a difference between the meaning of two such words is the sort of exercise lexicographers get up to when they haven't enough to do."

The select committee demanded that ministers be honest about their real attitudes to selection.

It urged them to scrap the 10% selection power.

Mr Twigg told PAT delegates: "Sports colleges, I can see a particularly strong case for the opportunity that is given for a child that excels in sport and physical education."

Stephen Twigg
Stephen Twigg said ministers would respond to MPs' concerns

A similar argument could be made for selecting children with an aptitude for music, he went on.

He said ministers were thinking about what the select committee had said.

"We are considering their suggestion that the 10% aptitude requirement might be dropped and we will be responding in due course."

The government promised in its five-year education plan published earlier this month that it would not extend selection.

Just under 2,000 of England's 3,500 or so secondary schools have gained specialist status, with the rest due to follow by 2008.

Only about 6% of existing specialist schools have used their power to choose part of their intake by aptitude.

A spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills said ministers had welcomed the select committee's report, would consider its recommendations very carefully and would respond in due course.

Tim Collins, the Shadow Education Secretary, told BBC Radio 4's World at One there was "no real difference" between aptitude and ability tests.

He added: "What is strange is to say that there's such a thing as an aptitude for football or drama that can be tested, but if schools specialise in maths, that there's no way of testing it."


SEE ALSO:
Selection blamed over school places
22 Jul 04  |  Education
School choice 'causes distress'
22 Jul 04  |  Education
School choice? What choice?
22 Jul 04  |  Education


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