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Wednesday, 5 February, 2003, 16:45 GMT
Call to end London's selective schools
Pupil at Tiffin Girls School, Kensington, west London
The IPPR has called for a review of selective schools
A report setting out radical changes to the way pupils are selected for secondary schools in London has recommended scrapping selection of pupils by interview and ability.

The plans, which would mean all schools selecting pupils the same way, were put forward by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) at a conference on Wednesday morning.

London has 19 grammar schools but the IPPR argues that academic selection creates a scramble for secondary school places.

The think-tank also said church and former grant-maintained schools should lose the power to control their own admissions, claiming that they use it to cream off the brightest pupils.

Martin Johnson
Balancing the intake is the way to improve the performance of all pupils

Martin Johnson

The proposals will raise further questions about Labour's stance on selection, coming weeks after Education Secretary Charles Clarke questioned the impact of grammar schools on pupil achievement.

The conference on the future of London schools was attended by Education Minister Stephen Twigg and Professor Tim Brighouse, appointed by the government to improve school standards in London.

Prof Brighouse has already made clear he believes the school admissions system in London is a priority for reform but the proposals go much further than anything he or Mr Twigg is likely to support in public.

The academic who devised the IPPR proposals, former London teacher Martin Johnson, predicted ministers would be driven "by the weight of the evidence" to consider them.

Schools oversubscribed

Mr Johnson said selection had created a scramble for places.

That claim was backed by figures which showed that 21 of London's 405 secondary schools had twice the average percentage of pupils eligible for free meals, while 67 schools had half the average.

This latter group includes 21 selective schools and 18 church schools that interview children for places.

Grammar schools and the most successful church and former grant-maintained schools take children from across the capital. Many are up to 10 times oversubscribed.

Mixed intake

Currently, one-in-three parents in London fail to get their child into the secondary school of their choice.

Mr Johnson said: "Balancing the intake is the way to improve the performance of all pupils. The evidence does not support the claim that the brightest pupils suffer."

In the long term, the IPPR paper proposes children should not be admitted to individual schools but to "federations" of schools, then allocated to maintain a "socially mixed intake".

Local education authorities, which would resume control of all school admissions, would co-ordinate the process across the capital.

Ministers have argued that the way to overcome imbalances in admissions is to improve the performance of the worst schools, until more parents are persuaded to choose them.

But the IPPR argues that selection will prevent many poorly performing schools from ever improving.


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See also:

31 Jan 03 | Education
14 Feb 03 | Education
14 Feb 03 | Education
01 Jul 02 | Education
14 Jun 02 | Breakfast
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