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Johnson to follow US scheme

alan johnson, the Education Secretary, yesterday committed himself to removing the barriers which stop disadvantaged children reaching their potential.

He told 700 new headteachers that disparities among some ethnic groups and problems with underachieving boys had to be addressed.

"It was not these children's unavoidable destiny to fail," Mr Johnson told the National College for School Leadership New Heads annual conference in London.

He said many children were bright and talented but lost motivation and headteachers and the Government had to stop that happening. Referring to a visit to the United States earlier year, Mr Johnson said he had been inspired by the work of the Knowledge Is Power Programme, an educational network that works with disadvantaged communities.

The programme which prepares children for university is running in 16 states and working with 12,000 pupils. Its work had helped turn pupil performance around and created a culture of success, Mr Johnson said.

He paid tribute to hard work by headteachers and school staff and said he wanted the best performance of some state schools reproduced in every school and for every child.

Mr Johnson reiterated the Government's commitment to personalised learning, a plan to tailor teaching to individual needs, which will receive pound;1 billion in funding in 2007.

He said he was looking forward to getting a report on the progress of the plan written by Christine Gilbert, the chief inspector.

Ways to implement her proposals were being considered but he added that it was not going to be a case of more legislation. He wanted an open debate about personalised learning and maximising the chances of every child.

Ms Gilbert has spent eight months heading the review of personalised learning an0d is due to present her final report in December. She said last month that it need not place an extra burden on teachers.

Yesterday's conference was the ninth held by the NCSL to help give new headteachers ideas and insights into the job.

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