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Stability must be secured for good

tability and change. These have been the entirely contradictory promises that politicians have been making to schools for more years than we might care to remember. The Conservative years could be characterised as they reportedly were by Michael Forsyth, the party's turbulent Education Minister, as a period of "permanent revolution" in schools. Labour came to power promising to bring all the ferment to an end and usher in stability - since when, barely a month has gone by without the announcement of yet another initiative.

A ministerial mantra pledging the excitement of stability may earn plaudits from professionals but not from pundits, or perhaps the public. The uncomfortable truth is that a policy of what the 19th-century Scottish philosopher Sir James Mackintosh described as "wise and masterly inactivity" is only possible where the performance of schools is beyond reproach. While significant progress is being made, it is not yet secure.

That is the real challenge for 2005 and beyond. And a happy year to come for all our readers!

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