Friday, 12 September 2008

A good week for school reform

There has been a welcome sign of purposeful activity from the awkwardly-named Department for Children, Schools and Families this week, and an unusually high degree of reasonably well reported good news stories.

* The opening of 180 new schools, including 47 new academies, has given positive prominence to the school building programme not just nationally but locally too.
* Details of plans to bring back the compulsory cooking lessons agreed by Tony Blair with Jamie Oliver have been strong and without equivocation. The difference between 'food technology' and cooking is being well understood.
* Plans for 100 new trust schools run with the co-operative movement echo an idea floated at a time when trust schools were hugely controversial. It is good to see the key proposal from the 2006 education act being taken forward with enthusiasm.
* Plans announced today for £10 million investment in boarding places for vulnerable children are particularly welcome, although select committee chairman Barry Sheerman's odd reaction to the idea suggests that this is a policy battle not yet fully won.

And what characterises these four excellent proposals? They represent a welcome continuity of the education policies developed by Tony Blair as Prime Minister. They have a level of detail and plausibility that remains lacking in the Conservative proposals. And they confirm that early signs of a retreat on reform in education after Gordon Brown became PM have been firmly abandoned.

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