It's beginning to get personal up North

It was 20 years ago that the North of England Education Conference was used to announce the national curriculum. And it was back on the agenda at this week's conference in Preston, Lancashire. But this time delegates were discussing how it should be personalised for pupils, instead of its existence.

Jim Knight, schools minister, was yesterday due to set out the Government's response to the Gilbert review, which aims to make classroom practice until 2020 more tailored to pupils.

But what was also occupying the minds of many of the 500 delegates at the 104th NEEC was an initiative that has been running for nearly four years: Every Child Matters.

The programme has had a profound effect on the jobs of the senior local government officials who make up a significant proportion of the delegates.

All but a handful now head children's services, rather than education, departments.

This change was reflected in the conference programme which included seminars on child protection on the internet and leading children's services.

Louis Crouan, 2007 conference director, said: "We are beginning to see the involvement of people from social services backgrounds."

Professor Andy Hargreaves, returning from Boston College in America to his native Lancashire to chair the event, argued that sustainable achievement in education depended on renewing teachers' and pupils' energy.

And Jude Kelly, South Bank Centre artistic director, was due to call for more creative risk and higher expectations in the classroom.

"For children, the world-view we are creating is one of low to moderate aspiration," she said. "When humans realise that others have low expectations of them, they will mainly deliver to that target."

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