13 December 2002
A response to the Secretary of State for Education's comments to Select
Committee on Education.
Support Kent Schools welcomes the news that Charles Clarke, Secretary
of State for Education, has called for an end to the ideological arguments
about selection. In his comments to the Select Committee on Education,
he emphasised that the only question that matters is that of educational
standards. SKS congratulates Kent secondary schools on the county's
impressive performance at GCSE in July 2002, when the proportion of
children gaining 5 or more GCSE grades A*-C climbed to 53%, well above
the national average and improving at faster than the national rate.
Kent's GCSE performance is in the top third of all local authorities,
a tribute to the value added by its secondary schools, when the level
of its primary school achievement at Key Stage 2 is in the bottom third.
The selective system continues to offer children success through a range
of secondary schooling tailored to the individual.
The overwhelming support by parents for the selective system in Kent
has been reaffirmed annually through their refusal to support a petition
to hold a ballot for the removal of grammar schools. Parents enter well
over half of the children in Kent for the selection-tests, wishing to
give them a chance of seeing whether this special type of education
is suitable for them. It is deplorable that campaigners against the
selective system have again exploited the legal process in a cynical
manoeuvre to force all schools to compile a statutory list of parents
eligible to vote in a ballot, which they know will not happen; schools
are rightly enraged at this deliberate waste of money which should be
spent on children's learning.
Parents of Year 6 children are currently struggling with the process
of getting the right secondary school for their child. SKS condemns
the new hurdle introduced by some secondary schools of treating parents'
stated preference as "conditional" ie of lower priority, if
the child has been entered for the selection-process. This discriminates
against parents of many children who need further academic assessment
before the most appropriate type of schooling can be identified for
them. Kent LEA has started a consultation for schools and parents about
the future process of transfer which will both simplify and make it
fairer. SKS strongly agrees with the move to a completely unified system
which cuts out conditionality and allows parents to express real preferences
without fear of being discriminated against.
Kent LEA is moving rapidly towards having more "specialist"
schools, following Government policy. SKS believes that this will extend
the range of opportunities for young people, building on the diversity
of types of school already available in Kent. It will be helpful to
parents to have the maximum amount of information about their child's
progress, attainment, aptitude and ability during the primary years,
so that they can make well-informed decisions about the suitability
of particular subject-specialisms, including the academically-specialist
grammar schools. SKS has always upheld the principle of parents knowing
all relevant information before expressing preferences for schools and
we support Kent in seeking to supplement formal testing of ability with
what the pre-consultation document calls "continuous assessment".
SKS is asking for a meeting with Charles Clarke,
to press the case for retaining and enhancing the status quo in Kent.
SKS is a non-political organisation. Contact
for further details: Mr Anthony Stanton
Tel: 01227 463711 (Work) 01227 700421 (Home)