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Chance to specialise twice

Dozens of schools hope to take on a second specialism this autumn, reports Dorothy Lepkowska

Up to 70 specialist schools and colleges could take on a second specialism when their status comes up for renewal this autumn, it has been revealed.

The move would give them an extra pound;60 per pupil on top of the pound;129 per pupil they already get for the first specialism.

At least one sports college, The Colne community school, in Essex is already considering adding science, with more changes planned every four years thereafter.

Schools must apply to the Department for Education and Skills for renewal of their specialist status every four years. The DfES will approve the renewal, as long as performance is up to scratch.

Bids for a second specialism have been made possible by the Government's recent five-year strategy for education which will allow successful schools that have met their targets to diversify.

Schools with a humanities slant can already take on a "sub-specialism" such as classics or citizenship but do not get extra funding.

The TES revealed last week that the Specialist Schools Trust was encouraging all of its schools to seek foundation status - effectively creating a new grant-maintained sector. The trust said this week that 70 schools, whose status is coming up for renewal, are eligible to take on another specialism.

Co-operation with neighbouring secondaries could provide more choice of subject for local children, and ensure that the full range of subjects is available in each area.

Sir Cyril Taylor, the trust's chairman, said schools would decide on their own how to do this.

He said: "These things are best decided on a local level, with clusters of say six or seven schools working together to address the needs of their areas.

"But we will also be doing an audit to find out what is out there and where, and how best provision can be improved."

Terry Creissen, Colne's headteacher, said the school had been discussing a change in specialism for the past year.

The school became a sports college in 2000 and is considering taking on science as its second specialism this autumn because the two disciplines are linked.

In 2008 the school would then drop its well-established sport specialism and add another one to complement science, such as technology or mathematics.

Mr Creissen said: "This would be taking the specialist model one step further. There comes a point when you are a specialist school that you have achieved a level of expertise required, so there is no reason why another subject cannot be developed. The aim is to continually improve all areas of the school."

A DfES spokesman said: "All the evidence suggests that specialism in one area raises standards in all areas.

"This is a really exciting opportunity for schools to deepen their expertise and so continue raising standards. It also nails the myth that specialist schools are only good at one thing."

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