14 January 2000
Christopher Price, former Labour chairman of the Commons education select committee and former principal of Leeds Metropolitan University, is to chair the Local Government Association commission.
He said the overriding reason for change would be to promote more effective school learning. 'If the government is really talking about modernisation and improved standards, then it seems illogical to leave this issue off the agenda.'
He stressed that the commission had an open mind about any change it might recommend, but that flexibility was a key issue. 'We need to inject flexibility into a system which is rigid and has not changed for years. There is no quick fix and any change will take place over a considerable period of time,' he said.
Launching the commission inquiry on January 11, Price said there were two main arguments for change to the present system. One was the complete resistance of the teaching unions to any change, which left education with a producer-driven system rather than a consumer-driven one.
He also highlighted the changes in learning practices in recent years. Learning no longer involves 'chalk, talk and classrooms', he said, and the increasing advances in technology meant further changes were inevitable.
'The paradox is that all ministerial statements tend to be about trying to create an environment where kids learn more effectively,' he added. 'A more rational look at how we could divide up the months of the year may provide more effective school learning and reduce the great vacuum in the holidays.'
The inquiry panel includes Tony Higgins, the chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, John Dunford from the Secondary Heads Association, and Heather du Quesnay, executive director for education at Lambeth.
Written evidence is being invited and will be followed by select committee-style hearings on May 8 and 22, and June 5.