No flash in pan

Phil Revell asks: "Just what is it about Shropshire?" ("Spam, Spam, Spam and Blunkett", TES, September 19).

As an education officer in the county for 25 years, and as its chief education officer from 1987 to 1994, I may be qualified to offer a suggestion.

But before I do, let me assure your readers that the local authority was no more responsible for the young Blunkett's educational soul than it was for his diet, for his was one of the many independent schools which sprang up after the war in the largest country mansions. Suffice to say that had he been fed by the Shropshire school meals service, then even in those days of rationing, his appetite would have been satisfied!

Shropshire's success has had something to do, I think, with the recognition by the local education authority that the pursuit of quality does not have quick or spectacular returns.

Central to it was the notion that nothing should be left to chance in the appointment of the right people both to the education department and to headships.

And those appointed were given the room to develop their distinctivity with good measures not only of freedom, but also of support on the occasions that their influence excited controversy or resistance.

Finally, what was done was consolidated quietly, rather than having the effort displaced by the lure of publicity.

PETER CATES

Shore Copse Woodside Wootton Bridge Isle of Wight

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