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Beacons dim as leading edge takes flight

THE names of the schools which ministers want to lead their drive to transform secondary education will be revealed later this month.

The Government is to identify a select few secondaries as Leading Edge schools, which will be funded to work with other local comprehensives to promote innovation and share good practice.

The news will be greeted wistfully, however, by many beacon schools. The beacon scheme is being run down to make way for the new programme, and many beacons will not qualify. There are 1,150 beacons, embracing primary, middle, secondary and special. There will be only 300 Leading Edge schools, all secondaries.

The beacon scheme, which will finish in 2005, is at least in part a victim of government moves to transfer money from ring-fenced projects to schools'

core budgets.

Research has also found that beacon schools often have not done enough to share good practice with their neighbours.

Ministers wanted to label the new scheme Advanced Specialist Schools but have since opened it up to non-specialists. The advanced school label, put forward by former education secretary Estelle Morris, was rejected by her successor Charles Clarke as too divisive.

A source from one school which will be in the Leading Edge scheme said:

"The number of schools being selected for the programme is much smaller than those that had beacon status. There are going to be a lot of disappointed heads out there."

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