'Escalator schools go down as well as up'

Tim Brighouse warns ministers that their plans for comprehensive education will fail. Jon Slater reports

PRIVATE and state school pupils should be taught together as part of a radical overhaul of comprehensive education in urban areas, one of the most respected figures in education will say tomorrow.

Professor Tim Brighouse, hotly tipped to be the Government's education "tsar" for London, will say that the attempt to create comprehensive education in urban areas has failed. He believes parental choice, competition between schools and selective admissions policies have undermined efforts to create schools that are representative of their communities.

And Professor Brighouse, Birmingham's outgoing director of education, says current reforms, designed to create an escalator of school improvement, will not raise standards for all. "Unless it is an escalator that defies all the rules of physics (it) will take some schools down while other schools rise."

His answer is to create new "international collegiates", groups of six or seven schools plus a major further education college or university, which would share ideas, resources and teaching expertise.

Each collegiate would include at least one faith school, one special school and a selective school or successful comprehensive and would have links to "sister schools" overseas. Private schools should be invited to join "in some places and for some purposes".

Pupils from schools within the group would communicate using information technology and join together for "substantial periods" - including lessons, events and sporting activities.

Speaking at the Caroline Benn Brian Simon memorial lecture, Professor Brighouse will suggest that new city academies should become the resource centres of the new collegiates and focus mainly on post-16 study.

Beacon status should be awarded to cutting-edge departments within the group rather than to whole schools as at present.

Professor Brighouse will warn: "Without such a development .... we shall condemn a substantial proportion of the most challenged young people living in urban areas to a life of unnecessary failure."

Professor Brighouse's lecture will take place at the Institute of Education, University of London, tomorrow (September 28) at 2.30pm. Admission is free

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