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Monday, 12 February, 2001, 16:25 GMT
Comprehensives set for overhaul
The government intends to overhaul the secondary school system in England, ditching "the bog standard comprehensive", if it wins the next general election.

There is to be another new type of secondary school, building on what ministers see as the success of specialist schools.

The Education Secretary, David Blunkett, told MPs the role of these "advanced specialist schools" would include assisting in training teachers and school leaders.

Outlining a green paper on the future of secondary schools, Schools: Building on Success, Mr Blunkett said there would be new "demanding" targets for 14 year olds.

And there would be consultation on a tougher new target for 11 year olds, expecting 85% to reach the level expected for their age by 2004 - and 35% the level above that.

Tests for 12 year olds

He said pupils' achievements at the age of 14 were "a key determinant" of GCSE performance.

Green paper proposals
Specialist schools increased
Advanced specialist status for top schools
National Centre for Gifted and Talented Youth
Religious schools to increase
Support for sport and arts in inner city schools
Failing schools face private take-over
Early GCSEs for gifted pupils
New targets at 11 and 14
Tests at 12 extended
Recruitment incentives for teachers

Ninety-three per cent of those who reached the level they were expected to at 14 went on to get at least five good GCSE passes, he said.

So new forms of teaching, with extra help and tests for 12-year-old slower learners, are to be extended to all schools from September, at a cost of 82m.

The green paper's proposed new targets for 14 year olds - announced for consultation last July - are that by 2007, 85% of them should reach the level expected of their age in national curriculum tests in English, maths, and information and communication technology (ICT), and 80% in science.

As a "milestone", by 2004 the targets will be 80% in maths, 75% in English and ICT and 70% in science.

Schools in the most disadvantaged areas would get extra support.

The national curriculum would remain a basic entitlement but there would be a new focus on diversity and choice "to ensure that the individual talent of pupils is fostered and that their weaknesses are addressed."

Speaking earlier to an audience of head teachers, the prime minister said: "We intend to change the law to allow external sponsors ... to play a far greater role in the management of schools against demanding performance contracts."

If sponsors - business or educational or voluntary - wanted to take over a failing school, or if a successful school wanted to have outside partners - that would be encouraged.

Mr Blunkett also announced in the Commons that "over time" every child in primary school would have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument and to experience one of a range of sports.

Fast track for gifted pupils

There would be experimental tests for pupils at 13 rather than 14 and accelerated entry to GCSEs - usually taken at the age of 16.

We have today moved beyond the old arguments to create a school system for the 21st Century

David Blunkett

This will be backed by a new national centre for gifted and talented pupils.

Mr Blunkett also confirmed that the number of specialist schools would be doubled, with the target of having 1,000 brought forward to 2003 and the aim of having 1,500 within five years.

The government was also proposing new forms of partnership with the voluntary and private sectors to support schools.

The programme of beacon schools is to be extended to include those "with demonstrated excellence in working with their communities".

david blunkett
David Blunkett: "Equality to every child"

He confirmed also that the government wanted to see more voluntary-aided schools for different faiths where parents wished it.

To assist them, the requirement to find 15% of capital costs was being cut to 10%.

Teacher recruitment

To help with recruiting teachers, universities are to be consulted on providing teaching modules for students on "a wide range" of undergraduate courses so they can have a taste of school work.

There will be an accelerated programme to get some into teaching more quickly.

And he confirmed the government's intention to repay the student loans of those who go into teaching at the rate of 10% a year, provided they stay in the state sector - during which time they will not have to repay any of their loans.

Outisde the Commons, the prime minister's official spokesman told political correspondents that the days of the "bog standard" comprehensive were over.

Mr Blunkett put it differently as he summed up to MPs.

"Our policies are designed to develop the potential of and to offer equality to every child whatever their background and whatever school they attend," he said.

"We have today moved beyond the old arguments to create a school system for the 21st Century."

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See also:

09 Feb 01 | Education
02 Jan 01 | Education
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