P.O. Box 921 Maidstone Kent ME14 5WZ
Telephone 01622 734098 Web site: www.support-kent-schools.org.uk

Support Kent Schools

David Jesson's recent report on Secondary Education in Kent and Medway has been met with considerable scepticism. His long record of opposition to Grammar schools is matched only by that of his sponsor Dr. Stephen Ladyman M.P. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the result of this latest "research" serves only to reinforce their prejudices. SKS has long said it would support any truly independent review of the selective system in Kent. Jesson's report fails this test.

Indeed, Fred Naylor, Educational Consultant, has written a response to Jesson's report which exposes its faulty reasoning, partial use of statistics and invalid conclusions. This response was not commissioned by SKS, but we have the author's permission to use it.

Naylor suggests that any hopes aroused by Professor Jesson that his investigation into the merits of the selective and comprehensive systems would be on the basis of strictly educational arguments are quickly dashed when his "evidence" is examined. No researcher who has any desire to see his or her work treated seriously would rely on a single year's statistics as the sole evidence base. Nor would he or she produce incomplete tables from which nothing more than, as Naylor puts it, "wishful thinking" rather than sound conclusions emanate. Jesson is guilty on both counts.

His previous flawed research, characterised by masses of statistical "evidence", has been replaced on this occasion by superficial analysis.

Jesson's claim that Kent and Medway grammar schools are underperforming is strongly refuted. He
well knows that when comparisons are made between grammar schools, small differences in performance (of just a few percentage points) can see a school move from a top grade A to a grade E
or E*. Jesson , of course, chooses only the performance measure which apparently suits his cause. The average points score per pupil depends very much on the number of subjects a student is entered for. Perhaps that is why the DfES is this year "capping" the number of subjects per GCSE candidate at 8 for its 2002 performance tables - a fact Jesson completely ignores.

There is no aspect of Jesson's work which is other than highly suspect. He "selects" his reference groups of grammar schools - again to suit his needs - sometimes ignoring the performance of a group of grammar schools which on another occasion he includes. And then he has the cheek to quote the performance of a single "COMPREHENSIVE school" (his emphasis) as his evidence base.

Perhaps what is more worrying, and it continues to be the case with almost every letter published in the local press, opponents of selective education seem to be intent only on destroying successful schools - high and grammar. Not once has there been any constructive proposal which takes full account of Mr Blair's own acknowledgement that it is necessary to get away from "the one size fits all concept" nor his firm conclusion that "the comprehensive system has not lived up to expectations". These thoughts are emphasised by all current Government educational initiatives.

At a time when the government has recognised the need to provide badly needed additional funding for all schools the massive costs of complete reorganisation in Kent and Medway are never mentioned, even in passing, by the anti selective brigade. Every youngster is entitled to an education which best serves his or her need and there is still, despite Jesson's efforts, no firm evidence to support a change from the current system.

What is needed is for parents to receive proper guidance on the most appropriate secondary school for their child, before preferences are expressed. This will increasingly apply, even in non-selective systems, as more of the Government's "specialist" schools emerge.

Note:- Copy of Fred Naylor's analysis attached

1. For further information or comment please contact Keith Williams on 01634 844008/01622 832762 (Home) or visit Support Kent Schools web site at support-kent-schools.org.uk
2. Support Kent Schools is a non-political organisation whose membership cuts across the political divide and which wishes to work with all schools to ensure each and every youngster is given an education appropriate to his or her needs.

July 2002