Cash plea to help lowest achievers

2nd January 2004 at 00:00
Tim Brighouse wants pupils who do poorly in tests to have extra money for other activities. Michael Shaw reports

Schools and parents of pupils who perform worst in tests should receive extra government money, Tim Brighouse, London schools' commissioner says.

In a speech next week to the North of England Education Conference in Belfast, Professor Brighouse will propose a financial incentive for schools to take on poorer-performing students.

Parents of these students would also have access to some of the extra money which they could spend on activities such as ballet or sport that would support their child's education.

Professor Brighouse told The TES: "It could be ballet school, it could be drama classes - but they couldn't spend it on betting," Ministers are due to revise schools' funding formula in two years' time.

Professor Brighouse, who is president of the conference, said that the Government should weight it according to students' results in baseline tests before entering primary school and their national tests before secondary school.

This would help to reverse the growing polarisation between successful and unsuccessful schools, he said.

The commissioner said he had decided that the funding should be weighted according to pupils' results, rather than factors such as parental incomes, because there was a strong correlation between academic outcomes and socio-economic status.

However, he said a limit could be set so very well-off parents would not benefit from the extra money.

Professor Brighouse will also say that the Government's policy of promoting diversity in secondary schools risks creating a divided society.

He said he plans to compliment the Government on its work supporting under-fives but said he would be critical of its drive to support specialist schools.

"There can be a huge danger - in urban areas in particular - that you can separate people and they will have no experience of each others' lives," he said.

The professor's comments are in keeping with the theme of this year's conference, "Education in a pluralist society". The event is expected to attract around 800 delegates - more than double the number of recent years - a third of whom will be classroom teachers.

Although the conference has often been a platform for major government announcements, no keynote speech is scheduled this year from an English education minister.

Instead, Charles Clarke, Education Secretary, is expected to take part in a question-and-answer session on a panel which could include his counterparts from Wales and Scotland, Jane Davidson and Peter Peacock.

The main speeches will come from figures in Northern Ireland's education system, including Marion Matchett, the country's chief inspector, and Gerry McGinn, permanent secretary with its education department.

A group of delegates will also pay a visit to the parliamentary buildings at Stormont at a time when a question mark is still likely to hang over the country's devolved government.

There they will be hosted by Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein, former education minister, and Danny Kennedy of the Ulster Unionist party, former chairman of the assembly's education committee.

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