A bumpy ride ahead

16th May 2003 at 01:00
THE education sections of the new partnership agreement between Labour and the Liberal Democrats were never going to be the most contentious aspects, when set against youth crime and proportional representation for local government. Indeed, the plans could have been easily foreshadowed: they are in essence not even choice cuts from the two parties' election manifestos but, with one or two exceptions, are distilled from the previous Executive's response to the national debate on education which formed the basis of their manifestos.

So no surprises there then. Critics of the agreement will no doubt point the finger alleging complacency, on the usual basis that there are no radical initiatives when compared with moves south of the border.

Schools will know differently. Cuts in class sizes, the recruitment of 3,000 more teachers, a review of the curriculum, an overhaul of assessment, the targeting of underperforming schools and greater financial powers for headteachers can hardly be described as a timid agenda. But what schools will also want to know, as our columns have illustrated in recent weeks, is who is in charge of all these initiatives, what the priorities and time-scales are intended to be, whether there are any costs involved and how teacher workload will be affected.

Initiatives drawn up to make coalition government workable may be "cobbled together" in backrooms (probably smoke-free these days) or represent the outcome of the people's will, depending on one's point of view. The trouble is somebody has to put them into effect and schools will face a bumpy ride if they are expected to put flesh on the bones of all the skeletal "priorities" agreed this week.

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