The big ideas that will shape your future

9th July 2004 at 01:00
Within the next five years, the Government plans to:

Have 200 academies in development (by 200910) Pros: Will mean greatest funding goes to schools in poorer areas. Will provide a fresh start for failing secondaries.

Cons: Heads fear that academies' vast building costs will siphon investment from other schools. City schools see academies as a threat if they compete for the same pupils.

How new? The first academy opened in 2002. But the target number of academies is significantly larger than originally suggested by the Government.

Give foundation schools more freedom and make it simpler for schools to apply for the status Pros: Will give heads and governors more flexibility to provide the education pupils need.

Cons: Fears that schools will become less collaborative and try to out-bid each other for teachers.

How new? There are already more than 500 foundation schools.

Make all secondary schools into specialist colleges Pros: Will provide each school with an average of pound;600,000 extra over four years and encourage them to collaborate with other primary and secondary schools.

Cons: Schools cannot become specialist unless they have good and improving GCSE results - so those facing most challenges may never get the status and be further disadvantaged.

How new? Charles Clarke, Education Secretary, announced that he wanted all schools to be specialist more than a year ago.

Allow popular and oversubscribed schools to expand Pros: Will let more pupils attend popular schools, making parents happier.

Cons: Ofsted warned against expanding popular schools as it can make others "spiral" into decline. Many popular schools are over-crowded already and unclear how they can expand without building on playing fields.

How new? The Government has encouraged popular schools to expand for years, offering them grants of up to pound;500,000 to do so since last September.

However, the process will be made easier if rules on surplus places are lifted.

Ring-fence education funding to allow schools three-year budgets Pros: Gives heads security and the chance to make spending plans more than one year ahead.

Cons: Inequalities locked into system for longer. Civil servants admit it will be hard to implement.

How new? Only funding anoraks will notice the difference between ring-fencing spending and the current system of councils "passporting" (passing on) budget rises from central government. Three-year budgets won support after last year's funding crisis. They are a logical extension of the Government's switch to three-year spending reviews.

Let parents and charities set up their own schools Pros: Would increase diversity, allow parents more choice and push failing schools to improve.

Cons: Do many parents really want this? Can these schools meet existing standards? They could also have a negative impact on local schools.

How new? A 2001 White Paper set out plans to allow the voluntary sector to bid to set up secondaries. The Tories have promised parents vouchers allowing them to set up their own school.

Establish "rigorous teaching and learning reviews" to ensure teachers develop their skills and are paid appropriately.

Pros: Teachers will welcome extra opportunities for professional development. Higher pay for good teachers should attract more people into the profession.

Cons: Performance-related pay is controversial. Many believe it will undermine teamwork and cause resentment in the staffroom.

How new? Labour introduced performance-related pay in 2000 for teachers at the top of the main scale. The Government announced in March that from September 2005 heads must write an annual report on each teacher saying whether they deserve to progress up the main scale.

Significantly expand support for under-fives Pros: Research shows that spending on early years has the biggest impact on life chances, particularly for poorer children. If successful will reduce the challenge facing primary schools.

Cons: Can attract criticisms of a nanny state. Improvements take years to show in league tables. Will not help those already at school.

How new? Early years has been a key theme since Labour came to power. Will build on promise of nursery places for all three and four-year-olds and schemes such as Sure Start.

Create a "personalised" education service Pros: Pupils will receive an education tailored to their individual needs and learning styles.

Cons: Schools are not sure how it is supposed to work or how teachers will find the time. Ministers seem to think it should involve a greater focus on computers and pupil-tracking data.

How new? Ministers have been talking about personalised services since last year's Labour party conference. But teachers point out education has always been personalised, to some extent.

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