Ambition and the urge to travel

7th April 2006 at 01:00
It would be strange indeed if Peter Peacock's advisers suggested he visit school systems in countries that might have uncomfortable political messages for him. Presumably this is why, like his boss, he is therefore more often to be found overseas than in England. The latest member of the benchmarking club to play host to Mr Peacock is Ontario and the minister is in no doubt that it is an appropriate choice, not least because it is of similar size to Scotland and is a comprehensive system with tiny numbers opting for independent schools.

The value of such ministerial visits is perhaps not crystal clear in the average staffroom. They will always be a mix of the revelatory and the confirmatory, opening ministerial eyes to new solutions but also emphasising that native policies are going with the grain if they are replicated elsewhere: so watch for glowing references to Ontario's "Turn Around" school change programme, aka the Schools of Ambition initiative.

In a world where it is easy to be complacent and protective of home-grown policies, and where easy answers to difficult problems are not readily found, it would be a foolish minister who turned his or her cheek against learning from experiences elsewhere.

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