Wednesday, 20 October 2010

The loss of specialist leverage

The news - not entirely unexpected - that the coalition is scrapping specialist school funding and handing the money to local authorities to distribute as they choose illustrates a central failing of the government's education policy. It is unwilling to support the means to achieve its goals. A wise government would have recognised that the levers in specialist schools could be harnessed to achieve many of its goals - a tougher rebidding process could have made schools more businesslike, while the specialist networks could ensure that the academic subjects ministers wish for were actually delivered. Its modest funding could have had significantly more impact than the pupil premium, which in the absence of any accountability will simply become a prop in schools to compensate for the wider cuts. Instead, a programme that has direct links to Kenneth Baker's CTC programme and which - contrary to what Paul Waugh claims - was actually created by the Tories in 1994 - even if Labour greatly expanded them - is to be dropped for the sake of ideological consistency. This is a big mistake and a huge loss of the leverage which was crucial to higher standards over the last 15 years. Michael Gove will come to regret it.

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