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Can Partick match the champions?

here must be a DDOP file in the Scottish Executive - dusting down old proposals. This week's initiative aimed at turning around the fortunes of the 20 most "failing" schools will bring a wry smile to those with long, if not acute, memories. Improving Achievement in Scottish Schools, published in 1996 during the Tory government's final full year, recommended action in Scotland's worst schools, provoking the language of "hit squads". The report's definition of underperformance was interesting: schools where at least 25 per cent of pupils did not gain Standard grades 1-6. At that time, 8 per cent of secondaries fell into that category: 30 "failing" schools.

For 30, read 20; for failing, read "schools most in need of transformation". Recent education history is littered with attempts to target such schools, with little lasting impact. So the question remains: how do you turn Partick Thistle into Celtic? All good managers will say it's the players on the park that matter.

While we have been here before - almost - we have not had a sustained national drive behind such measures before. If this latest initiative genuinely frees schools to do what they think best for their own pupils, backed by imaginative thinking on such factors as the length of the school day and how to attract teachers, it might stand a better chance than its predecessors.

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