Wednesday, 24 June 2009

The benefits of chain gangs

Ed Balls gave an encouraging interview to the Times this week ahead of next week's long overdue schools white paper. He used it to promote the idea of chains of like-minded schools working with a common approach to pedagogy and gaining economies of scale from working together in areas like teacher training, as well as seeing them as a way for strong schools to takeover weak ones. This is something where Academies have been particularly good. Indeed, it is likely that the Tories too will need to turn to the academy chains like Ark, Harris and United Learning Trust to act as promoters for their Swedish-style free schools.

However, it is important that next week's White Paper doesn't indulge in mixed signals. The Government has - despite its acceleration of academies and the unsung growth of trust schools - been to shy in promoting its diversity credentials. There are suggestions that good schools will be forced rather than encouraged into chains, which would be a huge mistake. And government ambiguity on accountability is likely to be reinforced unless it is clear about the limitations as well as the potential of its new report card. Labour has a good record on schools over the last 12 years. The White Paper is a chance to remind people of that - and to be clear about the role of diversity and standards in promoting further school improvement in the years ahead.

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