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Building blocks for social justice

Organisations are always looking for the perfect structure that will make the world operate the way they want. Comprehensive schools were supposed to bring equal opportunities. Today, city academies are trying to do this in a different way. The literacy hour was supposed to neutralise mediocre teaching and raise standards.

The problems arise when such edifices become prisons - when they are so constricting that individuals find it hard to flourish. After all, it's the people who really matter. Inspirational heads and creative teachers are what make a difference, and the shiniest, highest-tech new school can't compensate for the lack of them. Nevertheless, the system they work in can support or hamper their efforts.

The Government's bravest attempt to design a structure for social justice is the Children Act along with the 'Every Child Matters' guidance. These plans to build services around children and families, rather than the professionals who provide them, represent Labour's most joined-up thinking.

But it will not be easy. The old structures have deep foundations.

This supplement, the third in our series asking What is Education For, looks at the implications of the changes coming into force.

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