Platform: Play your part in a momentous year

The summer has given us all time for quiet reflection. I hope teachers will + join me in starting the new school year with a renewed vigour and enthusiasm + for the opportunities and challenges ahead. I want to harness that energy to + help sustain and motivate the profession in the drive to boost standards.This + will be a momentous year for education. The consultation on our White Paper, + Excellence in Schools, is the most significant education exercise since 1944. + To implement our vision we need the views of those who work at the sharp end in+ the classroom. You know the names and faces of the next generation and their + true capabilities.Since being elected in May, the new Government has already + committed well over #163;2 billion for education to tackle repairs, build for + the future and to help raise standards. As yesterday's education summit at 10 + Downing Street demonstrated, the Prime Minister is clearly focused on the + challenges ahead. He wants to stimulate a full debate on standards - and + yesterday we heard from more than 30 headteachers and others from the world of + education about how they succeeded, often against the odds.Four main themes + were discussed at the summit. These are four of the most important issues which+ we want teachers, heads, parents and others in education to discuss together + in the month ahead.First we must examine how we stretch the abilities of the + brightest children while at the same time offering support to those who need + extra help. Most youngsters have strengths in some subjects and weaknesses in + others. They need encouragement to enable them to play to their strengths and + support in tackling subjects where they need to improve. The White Paper + discusses how we can use setting by ability in certain subjects, make effective+ use of specialist schools and new technology, as well as linking with + employers and further education to fulfil the potential of every child. We want+ to hear what strategies you are using to achieve this. Second, we must + strengthen leadership. Invariably, a successful school has a good dedicated + headteacher. We want all schools to have this advantage. To achieve this we + intend to introduce a national training programme for existing headteachers and+ a professional headship qualification for those with leadership potential. + Local educational authorities will have a new role in supporting the standards + drive, acting as champions for parents and pupils. Senior educations officers + have an important role in helping schools to set and meet targets, to raise + standards continuously and to apply pressure where they do not. We want senior + officers to have the appropriat e skills to support schools and we are + discussing means of providing new training opportunities for them with local + government representatives. We want to hear your views on how leadership can be+ improved at both school and local education authority level.Third, we want to + improve both the quality of teaching and the motivation of teachers. The two go+ hand in hand. Our New Deal for teachers will mean better training for existing+ teachers to make sure the most effective methods are used and focused in + particular on literacy, numeracy and information technology. There will also be+ a new General Teaching Council to promote and regulate the profession; new + induction arrangements for all newly-qualified teachers; better assessment of + how well heads and teachers do their jobs; and effective appraisal for teachers+ and headteachers. We want to hear views from the chalkface about how we can + best introduce our new deal. While there are clearly problems with standards in+ a significant minority of schools, many teachers are achieving small miracles + every day in the classroom. We must celebrate and learn from such achievements.+ Our fourth strand involves a willingness to tackle underperformance in + schools. Together we must ensure that every school achieves its best. Many + schools do succeed against the odds and we must spread the best practice to the+ rest.That is why we are introducing a new system of targets for schools and + localities. These targets - including those for literacy and numeracy - will + be realistic goals which will enable us to achieve the quantum leap in + standards we need to succeed as a nation. From the start of primary school + through secondary education we must no longer tolerate a culture of complacency+ from some while others are able to work wonders in similar situations.This is + not just about failing schools - we have already announced measures to match + pressure with support for both failing schools and failing local education + authorities. It is as much about those schools which could do much better than + at present, where their pupils are simply not achieving the success they + should. I will also be addressing issues of educational and social exclusion + in the weeks ahead. Higher expectations and real improvement are essential - + and we want to hear from the chalkface about how we can achieve this. These are+ four key strands in our consultation. There are four weeks left in which to + participate. In the next two weeks, there will be seven regional consultation + conferences where parents, teachers, headteachers, directors of education, + chief education officers, union officials and representatives from the business+ community will be putting their views to ministers.I am very pleased that + local authorities, teaching unions and The TES are organising other events + around the country to take forward the debate.But this is debate which should + be taking place in every school. This is why we sent each school a copy of the + White Paper and a video setting out the key issues. I hope that you will take + the opportunity to promote discussion with parents and school staff so that you+ can convey fully the views of your school community. When we publish our + Education Bill I want teachers and parents to feel that their views have been + heard. This cannot happen if you don't take part in the consultation.We all + have a part to play in the future of education. We all want what is best for + our children. Our vision is one of excellence in every school. You are the key + to putting it into practice.Together we are responsible for getting it + right.How to respondWritten or taped comments can be sent to Stuart Miller, + DFEE, Excellence in Schools, Room 4.63, Sanctuary Buildings, Great Smith + Street, London SW1P 3BT or by fax 0171-925 6425The White Paper and its summary + version are available on the Internet. The address is + Comments can be e-mailed to: + summary version of the White Paper is available free of + charge by calling 0800 99 66 00.More information about this and other + consultation exercises described in the White Paper is available from the + Excellence in Schools helpline: 0645 123 001 (open 9am-5pm Monday- Friday until+ October 7)

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