21 JUNE 1963, Page 17


`�Mr, Pedley, in his article, Parents' Privilege, of 'tte Spectator of June 14, contrasts the failure htWenty-nine Labour Councils to adopt the two- vamPrehensive system of junior and senior high theals with the fact that 'one of the .first things otin Ile* Labour Government will do is to abolish ,_e and for all the eleven-plus exam.' He sees vh,'n,is merely one more example of a process by to be locallocal educational authorities seem likely the reduced to the status of mere instruments of

,central government'

thisat the matter is infinitely more complex than lutoAnYone who has visited the Leicestershire Lab— and senior high schools might think that °14 Councils did well to hesitate before plunging

locally into an experiment which has little of the flexibility and variety found within either the large Comprehensive school or the fairly large cross- setted school of the Tripartite system.

The intermediate high school I visited—one of four contributing to a senior high school—streamed on entry. Two streams only did French. More than this was impossible with the existing teacher/pupil ratio (already three above a corresponding Secondary Modern School's quota of staff), because what was valid French for the child with an '.Q. of 130 was not valid French for 'the kiddy with an 1.0 of 70.' Latin, begun in the second of the three years with one stream was even more difficult, as a specialist teacher was needed in each of the four contributory schools for about a third of the week. This and similar difficulties with other subjects bore out what Mr. Raymond King, Headmaster of Wandsworth Comprehensive School, insisted on. Size is of the essence of the successful Comprehensive School. Without it the full ability range is catered for in an inferior way by rigid streaming and narrow syllabus.

In the 'two-tier comprehensive' system a large number of children are in the receiving high school for six terms, the first of which will certainly be spent on sorting out the results of the different teaching and different facilities of four contributory schools. Here again there was streaming on entry and the feeling was obviously that though selection was not talked about, one had to select.

This rigidity of streaming in the junior high schools and the short time spent by many in the senior high schools make it a scheme which would function fairly successfully only if pace were not dictated nationally by 7 per cent in the private system, and money and able teachers drawn off to this. The full ability range brought together under one roof needs a far higher ratio of teachers and it is never likely to gel them while the private system overbids for the best and uses them on small classes. Mr. Pedley may contrast what Labour does locally and nation- ally, but his deduction that local initiative is lacking is wrong. What are needed are a sense of reality and courage at the centre. Either the central government must tackle both areas of inequality at once (between Grammar and Modern on the one hand and Private and State on the other) or must let a sense of reality prevail and merely get rid of the eleven-plus by substituting school quota, teachers' recommendation and parents' choice based on a guarantee to stay to a particular age for a particular school geared to cope with this.

Otherwise local initiative will give certain un- fortunate areas a two-tier system in a very different sense from Mr. Pedley's—one in which the private system has all the advantages and the State none.

21 Edith's Way, Cambridge