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Minister for School Standards, Estelle Morris
"All schools now are better funded"
 real 28k

General Secretary, SHA John Dunford
"It should really be open to everyone"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 2 January, 2001, 11:22 GMT
Heads attack specialist funding
Exams
The government wants 1,000 specialists by 2004
Extra funding for specialist schools leaves other state schools at an unfair disadvantage, say head teachers.

The leader of the Secondary Heads Association, John Dunford, has written to the Education Secretary David Blunkett calling for "wide-ranging reforms" of the government's specialist school initiative.

But the government says that specialist schools are delivering results - and that it plans to lift "temporary" restrictions on the numbers of specialist schools in each area.

Specialist schools are given extra funding to become centres of excellence in a subject area, such as technology, the arts or modern languages.

John Dunford
John Dunford has written to the education secretary calling for an overhaul of specialist status
But the head teachers' union says the proposed expansion of this scheme to about a quarter of secondary schools threatens to create a "two-tier system".

The government says that exam results in specialist schools have improved more quickly than in other types of comprehensive - and that it wants to replicate this pattern of success.

Selection

But the Secondary Heads Association says that the improvement in results reflects the improved funding - and that all schools should be able to receive a similar level of funding.

St Marylebone
A specialist school, St Marylebone in Westminster, was the most improved this year
Such diversity of funding was at odds with the government's ambitions for equality of opportunity, said Mr Dunford.

Instead the union says that all schools should be able to apply for specialist status - and that there should be no areas of the country where specialist status is not available.

And as a way of speeding up the process of spreading specialist status more widely, the union proposes halving the extra funding per school and doubling the numbers participating in the scheme.

In his letter to the education secretary, Mr Dunford also proposes the removal of specialist schools' right to select 10% of pupils and calls for the widening of the categories of specialisms.

But the government points to the success of specialist schools and says that it will be easier for schools to apply for specialist status in areas where specialist schools already exist.

"A temporary ceiling on the new designation of specialist schools in areas with large numbers of those schools will be lifted and additional resources made available," said a government spokesperson.

"But the objective of that restriction was to help schools in the most challenging areas and to secure a balanced and fair distribution of specialist provision."

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See also:

28 Sep 00 | Education
Education manifesto takes shape
17 Oct 00 | Education
Fears over 'two-tier' schools system
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