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Byers gives Pounds 1.8m to encourage sharing

Seventy-five chosen schools will get up to Pounds 50,000 each under the Government's beacon schools initiative. Geraldine Hackett reports.

THE Government is to give between Pounds 20,000 and Pounds 50,000 to each of the first 75 beacon schools chosen to share the secrets of their success.

Under the Pounds 1.8 million pilot scheme starting in September, the selected schools will be expected to use their funds to invite others to view their areas of expertise or to pass on their experience by visiting neighbouring schools.

Launching the scheme, Stephen Byers, the school standards minister, said: "We want beacon schools to share their secrets of success with others so that all can benefit. These schools represent a cross-section of the best in education practice which we want to spread out to other schools."

The schools are drawn from the 159 best-performing schools in the 199697 annual report of the Office for Standards in Education. Nine opted not to take part, including the Judd grammar school in Tonbridge.

The Department for Education and Employment is not naming the schools that have rejected the prospect of up to Pounds 50,000 for passing on their expertise, but there was an admission that nine of 159 eligible for prizes had not applied.

In the case of the Judd school, Keith Starling, the head, said the scheme would have been too costly in terms of staff and teacher time. He believes the disadvantages outweight the possible financial gain: "I also think there is a certain irony about being approached to be a beacon school by a government that also thinks we should be subject to a process which might mean we cannot continue."

However, the decision not to apply was taken as the running of a successful school required staff to spend a great deal of time doing just that, Mr Starling said.

Schools were selected to ensure a geographical spread and all had schemes that could be implemented by September. The proposals include: Anchorsholme primary in Lancashire, Pounds 35,000 to develop a monitoring and evaluation strategy; Ashton-on-Mersey high school in Trafford, Pounds 50,000 for supply cover to allow teachers from other schools to attend seminars and provision of intranet facilities for primary schools; Knowle Church of England primary in Solihull, Pounds 50,000 to encourage spread of accelerated learning techniques; and New Invention primary in the West Midlands, Pounds 24,000 for training for students and new teachers in information technology.

The scheme received a mixed response from teacher unions. The National Union of Teachers welcomed the scheme. Doug McAvoy, the general secretary, said: "Too often schools have worked in isolation because of the last government's attempts to get them to compete. This will end that. Now schools will know what works."

However, Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the NASUWT, said the beacon schools would attract greater parental interest and would be able to select some of their intake as a consequence.

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