School reforms go on despite delays

19 Jul 01
The government is to push ahead with plans for school reform despite stalling its much-trailed education white paper because of concerns about privatisation and the contentious issue of single-faith schools.

20 July 2001

Education Secretary Estelle Morris fleshed out some details in an announcement on July 16, including plans for a Schools Innovation Unit that will look at radical ways to deliver higher standards.

But the publication of the white paper itself has been put on the back burner until September. This was to include plans for increased use of the private sector in schools, with teachers employed by private companies. There would also be compulsory privatisation for failing schools.

Officials have maintained that the paper was postponed to allow proper consultation with teachers, who are about to break up for the school holidays.

But, off the record, officials have been concerned to play down the privatisation issue and allow racial tensions in Bradford and Oldham to die down before bringing up the issue of an increase in single-faith schools.

The Local Government Association welcomed the paper's delay. Education chair Graham Lane said it would give all parties a chance to work through exactly what kind of role the private sector should have.

He said: 'There are a lot of details that must be got right. We do not want a botch job. We are not opposed to privatisation but we will resist any moves to move teachers to the private sector.

'That could simply allow private companies to cut wages and would not necessarily improve teaching or the standard of education in schools.'

Speaking this week, Morris was more conciliatory and said the Schools Innovation Unit would build on best practice work being done in schools around the country.

As well as twinning successful schools with low-achieving ones, the government plans to put up to a thousand lesson plans on-line as a resource for teachers.

Head teachers will be given leeway to push through radical reform with the support of other teachers who will be seconded to the unit.

Making the announcement, Morris said: 'Great work is being done right now by teachers across the country to raise standards – and this new unit will help develop the next generation of ideas for school improvement.

'The Schools Innovation Unit will support head teachers from successful schools in their groundbreaking work, and help the very best schools work with weaker ones to share the secrets of their success.'


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