Brighton high on a tide of optimism

16th February 2001 at 00:00
IT was a coincidence that Professor Michael Barber, the Government's standards guru, was booked to address heads and teachers from Sussex on the day the Green Paper was unveiled. However, as it turned out, he did not have to try too hard to sell ministers' vision for secondary schools.

The staff from Brighton and Hove's 10 secondaries are among those piloting the new key stage 3 programme with its emphasis on literacy, numeracy and science. The scheme, which will go national from September, was already showing signs of raising standards among their pupils, said staff.

Peter Evans, headteacher of the city's Cardinal Newman school, said: "I have no doubt that the key stage 3 developments will transform secondary education and the materials and training staff have received have been extremely good.

"However, we have had real problems finding cover for staff to attend the training and timetabling the 'catch-up' lessons for pupils."

The long-term plan to condense KS3 into two years was cautiously welcomed. Liz Fletcher, headteacher of Patcham high school, said: "Anything that gives more strucure to Year 8, which is famously a year when pupils 'tread water', must be good."

Neil Hunter, head of Hove's Blatchington Mill school, said the prospect of offering pupils more vocational options was essential, but he added: "It is vital they share the same currency as other subjects otherwise we will create another dual system similar to GCEs and CSEs."

The delegates' biggest fear was that plans to create greater diversity in secondary education would inevitably lead to a two-tier system.

Rose Hetherton, deputy head of Downlands community school, Hassocks, said:

"If some schools are receiving more funding and getting better results, then that is where every parent is going to want to send their child. Those schools will flourish and others will suffer. It seems to go against the whole idea of equal opportunities for all children."

David Hawker, Brighton and Hove's director of education criticised the Green Paper for playing-down the role of local education authorities and "failing to recognise the key role they should play in strategic planning and school improvement."

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