Ambition's fine, but is it enough?
The individual initiatives which won each of the 20 schools a place on the programme make fascinating reading, not least because so many have opted to do the same kind of things. James Boyle and his cultural commissioners will be delighted at the extent to which the arts are seen as a vehicle to bring about improvements (see below). There are common themes, too, in the extent to which schools see ICT, enterprise, creativity, pupil choice and curriculum innovation as key ingredients for revival.
The progress of these measures will be equally fascinating to watch. It is always better to be optimistic, but experience south of the border shows that expectations are not always fulfilled. It has been recently reported that one of England's city academies in Middlesborough has been placed in "special measures", and also that more than half of specialist schools had failed to meet GCSE targets in their chosen subjects.
There are other indicators of success, of course, and David Bell, the chief inspector in England, may well be right that being part of "an optimistic network of like-minded schools" creates an impetus for improvement. There is certainly no harm in being ambitious.