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School improvement: Play fair for maximum advantage

Schools for our Cities By Richard Riddell Trentham Books pound;17.99 Action for Social Justice in Education Morwenna Griffiths and others Open University Press pound;18.99 Schools of Hope: a new agenda for school improvement By Terry Wrigley Trentham Books pound;15.99

Shadow Chancellor Oliver Letwin's comment that he would rather beg than send his children to his local Lambeth secondary was politically unwise but educationally revealing. The quasi-market in education created by his party and enthusiastically embraced by New Labour has led, as was intended, to a hierarchy of schools. Those at the bottom, overwhelmingly working-class, are multiply disadvantaged. By definition they are schools in challenging circumstances; success, when they achieve it, is hard-won indeed. It is these schools and the policy and social frameworks that create them that Richard Riddell examines in Schools for our Cities. Riddell knows what he is talking about. As chief education officer for Bristol, he presided over a highly stratified system that lost 20 per cent of its children to private education and suffered more than its share of inner-city deprivation.

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