Despite rising scores of top Form One students, they say they cannot cope with pupils at the lower end of the spectrum English-medium secondary schools are demanding a review of the school place allocation system, claiming they cannot cope with students of a broad range of ability. This is despite the findings of a study showing that the English scores of top Form One students at these schools have risen over the past two years. The same study, however, has also shown that these students' Chinese and mathematics scores have declined. The Association of English Medium Secondary Schools, which conducted the study, said at its general meeting yesterday that it was possible that the additional emphasis primary schools put on drilling students' English skills was at the expense of other subjects. The study found that the percentage of students scoring 81 marks or above in the mathematics paper of the Hong Kong Attainment Test - a government test to assess primary and junior secondary student standards - had shrunk from 47 to 32 per cent between 2000 and 2002. Those attaining the same scores in the Chinese-language paper had dropped from 10 to 6 per cent over the same period. However, the percentage of students scoring top marks in the English-language paper had jumped from 30 to 40. Although the best Form One students are doing better in English, the 112-member association feels that not all band one students can cope with studying in English after the band was widened to include students of varying ability. It urges the government to take this into account in reviewing the mechanism for allocating secondary school places and the mother-tongue education policy next year. Students had been grouped into five bands according to their scores at school. Now they are grouped into three bands after the scores are adjusted to reflect variations of standards across schools. However, a government advisory committee has reportedly proposed doing away with the adjustment process, so all schools will group students into three bands. The association is concerned that such a move could lead to a dilution in standards among band one students, who are more likely to choose to go to English-medium secondary schools. Lisa Yip Sau-wah, principal of an English-medium school in Sha Tin, said: 'We cannot cater to such a wide range of diversity in large classes. If there is a class with 30 top students and 10 weaker ones, teachers will automatically focus their attention on the weaker ones, thus jeopardising the learning of the top students.' However, Lam Seung-wan, committee member of Hong Kong Association of Primary School Heads, said schools should not teach only bright students. He said the government could set a basic threshold for primary schools, with those meeting the required standards allowed to designate one-third of their students as band one. Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, Secretary for Education and Manpower, who addressed the meeting, said education groups had been asked their views of the banding system.