The head of an Oxford middle school has attacked an upper school for claiming that 75 per cent of its pupils are well below expected targets when they arrive.

Martin Thomas, headteacher of Temple Cowley Middle School, Oxford, is fuming at the claims made by a teacher at Peers School, Littlemore, where many of his pupils go.

The teacher at Peers, who did not want to be named, told a conference that three quarters of her 13-year-old pupils were capable of level three in National Curriculum tests when they joined the school in year nine.

The Government expects pupils of that age to be at level five.

Mr Thomas said that last year 86 per cent of his former pupils had reached level five in key stage three National Curriculum tests taken at upper schools two terms after leaving Temple Cowley. He also criticised remarks made by Peers headteacher, Chris Dark, that pupils would do better if they cut out middle school and went to his school two years earlier at the age of 11.

He added that pupils studied for key stage three for two years at middle school - and achieved considerable progress in that time.

He added: "I think this stance over middle schools is grossly unfair. In Suffolk where they have two tier and three tier systems in different areas of the county, the three tier outperforms the two tier.

"National research shows that a child at middle school, whether they leave after two, three or four years, does better at GCSE than if they had gone straight to a secondary school.

"It is nothing to do with the system, it is to do with catchment areas."

The Peers School teacher made the remarks at the launch of the national strategies for English and maths for key stage three of the National Curriculum, at Enstone a week ago.

Mr Thomas added that while middle schools had been teaching the national strategies for several years, they were new to the upper schools.