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Commission to seek key to success

A national campaign to raise standards in disadvantaged schools should be led by a Government minister, according to the National Commission on Education.

In its first briefing paper since the publication of Learning To Succeed a year ago, the commission highlights five major areas of action which it believes should have priority in improving British education. It is particularly interested in how schools in disadvantaged areas can be helped to improve, and has instituted its own research project which will report late next Spring.

Commission chairman Lord Walton of Detchant said the project, called Success Against The Odds, was looking at schools in disadvantaged areas which were achieving high standards in education. "We hope it will give information and lessons which can be applied in schools which are not doing so well," he said.

The commission's paper suggests that a sustained national drive should be made to raise educational standards in these areas, and that this should not simply involve throwing money at the problem. It wants the Department for Education to lead the campaign, studying problems in detail with other groups which have similar national and local responsibilities and stimulating and encouraging a range of actions which could bring about improvement.

"One problem is the persistence of an anti-education ethos in some parts of the country and it is not going to be easy to overcome except by developing some degree of parental participation in schools," said Lord Walton.

He is also critical of the Government's decision to establish the Teacher Training Agency, describing it as "misguided" and running a serious risk of marginalising the contribution of higher education, and stresses the importance of providing both nursery education and smaller primary classes. The briefing also highlights the Commission's view that post-16 qualifications should be broadened and HE funding reformed.

The commission expects to produce around 10 more briefings before it is wound up next summer.

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