The problems

Just over three years on, it would be no exaggeration to say our reforms are at a critical stage. A great many elements are currently in intensive implementation. The capacity of the system (not to mention many individual heads and teachers), is stretched. Only if each element of the programme is well-planned and implemented, can we achieve successful and irreversible reform.

In the meantime, the challenges remain substantial:

too few teachers see the big picture of reform and the experience of the past decade leaves them sceptical about whether any government ever sees reform through;

in order to promote radical change, the Government has to spell out a compelling critique of the present but in doing so, it is often reported as portraying schools and teachers negatively;

the sustained drive from central government is perceived as an entirely top-down reform with its associated pressures to conform, whereas all evidence suggests that successful reform requires a combination of top- down and botom-up change;

the growing assertiveness of government on the one hand and heads of successful schools on the other, has placed local education authorities, the middle tier, in an uncomfortable position, criticised from the school end for being interfering bureaucrats and from the centre, for not being sufficiently effective in implementing reform;

the system for funding schools has been too complex, has lacked sufficient transparency and has been a cause of tension; too often it provided an excuse for schools or LEAs not to take responsibility for reform and, from a central government point of view, does not always deliver the substantial extra resources to the frontline where it makes most difference;

and, of course even highly competent governments make mistakes occasionally, which, even in a context of broadly successful progress, create "noise" and frustration in the system.

Our success in bringing about irreversible reform will depend on our ability to address these problems.

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