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Don't brand school a failure without the facts

I refer to your recent article 'Sixteen failing schools probed after inspections' (News, September 17).

Assessing and comparing school performance and naming some as failing without taking into account all the factors, is just plain daft. Secondary schools inspections ignore basic considerations like school position and catchment area. They overlook the fact that, in our large towns, C and D grade transfer test pupils who would have previously gone to secondary schools are now creamed off by so-called 'grammar' schools.

Thus, many schools' Year 8 is made up of D grade pupils or those deemed too weak at primary school to even be entered. It is not rocket science to realise that GCSE results in Year 12 significantly reflect pupil ability in Year 8. So it can be argued that exam results in Year 12 has little to do with poor teaching - teachers are not miracle-workers. If inspectors report a school as 'failing' it's hardly good for teacher morale.

Its findings drive away undecided parents and children and the school therefore receives less funding and has less to spend on essentials, like teachers, classroom assistants and Special Needs provision, and standards will fall.

Let's encourage and help those teachers who choose to battle on in tough urban schools rather than demoralise and demonise them by publishing reports that clearly do not paint the whole picture.

T J McCLEAN

Belfast

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