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As safe as air traffic control

The "high-reliability" programme, presented at a conference in London last week, aims to make secondary schools' performance as consistent as systems such as air traffic control, where failure can spell disaster.

US researchers developed the concept after a study in Louisiana showed consistently good teaching was a feature of all successful schools.

High-reliability schools pursue two to four goals and constantly evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. Mediocre teachers learn from competent colleagues by peer observation.

There have been three UK pilots. The first two, in England, did not work until the programme focused on good practice in the classroom. The third, with 12 schools in Wales, started in 1996-97 and has since seen schools'

GCSE results improve at twice the rate for all Welsh schools and nearly three times the rate for English schools.

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