American dream to be on call has a hollow ring

26th February 2010 at 00:00

It comes as no surprise that the Government's scheme to transform education in deprived areas has had little impact ("#163;250 million spent on most deprived pupils fails to improve results", February 19). Deep-seated problems generally require radical solutions. What troubled children need most is a supportive learning environment where they are taught a curriculum that is relevant to their lives by a small number of teachers who know them well.

The burgeoning small schools movement in the US has shown that in these learning communities there are fewer dropouts, fewer course failures, fewer incidents of poor discipline and higher satisfaction levels than in large schools. A very high proportion of students proceed to university. As a direct consequence, the Chicago School Board, for example, has called for 100 new small schools to be opened by the end of 2010 and this move is being replicated across the US.

The next Government here needs to take bolder steps to create learning settings in which the most needy children can flourish.

Fiona Carnie, Visiting research associate, Institute of Education, London.

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