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Schools can't do it all

Research in the 1980s on school effectiveness and improvement over-emphasised the extent to which success or failure depends on in-school factors, Walter Humes, professor of education at Strathclyde University, said.

Factors such as poverty, health, unemployment and crime were equally powerful. "I am not arguing that schools cannot make a difference - they can make a difference in seriously disadvantaged areas - but there are limits to what they can do on their own, even with the best headteacher in the world," Professor Humes said.

Such a devolution of responsibility for change to public service professionals prepared the ground for a culture of blame.

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