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Beacon successor is a damp squib

Last week I attended a Department for Education and Skills conference aimed at consulting headteachers over the latest ideas to come off the Government's assembly-line.

One of the proposals was to scrap beacon schools - huge cheer! In their place, advanced schools - loud groans! When will the penny drop that by rewarding certain schools, usually on their quota of so called "good" GCSE passes, it only alienates others who achieve highly in value-added terms?

At the conference, the question was put: "Instead of advanced schools, why not have advanced clusters of schools? For example, if a group of schools were to collaborate effectively, there would be different specialisms so that every school contributes equally with good practice shared and resources distributed equitably."

Everyone, including the minister Stephen Twigg, appeared to agree it would be a much better way of enabling schools "to make a difference together". But are these conferences genuinely consultative or merely cosmetic? We shall see.

Nigel Jepson

Headteacher, Haslingden high school

Haslingden, Lancashire

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