Wednesday 31 October 2007

Brown's education promise

Gordon Brown is set to make his first major education speech today. Advance reports suggest two main proposals. The first is to set a new 2013 target that would see schools not getting five good GCSEs including English and Maths having to close, though academies or alternative providers would replace them in many cases before that happened. This is an excellent policy based on solid evidence that it works. Contrary to what Nick Robinson asserted on Today (sound file from 3.20 minutes in) this morning, it doesn't represent a shift from structures to standards, rather it blends standards and structures with the same mix of floor targets and innovation that characterised a successful drive against school failure in Labour's last ten years. Since 1997, Labour has halved the number of schools deemed failing at any one time, and floor targets have seen the proportion of schools where fewer than 25% of pupils get five good GCSEs fell from 613 to 47 last year (and the figure is probably lower still this year). On this new measure, already trailed by Andrew Adonis some weeks ago, there were 1600 schools with fewer than 5 good GCSEs including English and Maths in 1997 - half of all state secondary schools. Today, there are around 700 - fewer than a quarter. The second measure, Brown's boost for apprenticeships, is also welcome, with £15,000 to employers to take on advanced apprentices at 18. But the government, in pushing Diplomas, should ensure that the system doesn't fail to support those who want to join pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship courses from the age of 14, where a work-based route is best for them. At present, education maintenance allowances have served to make these options less attractive. There must be a level playing field.
UPDATE: The full speech, which reads very well, is here.
1pm UPDATE: I was interviewed about the speech together with Gareth Jones, Principal of Geoffrey Chaucer Technology College on the Simon Mayo show on Five Live. The interview should be available to listen again here.

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