Coming soon to a school near you...

4th September 1998 at 01:00
AS THE new term kicks off, the new boys and girls and the seasoned incumbents at the Department for Education and Employment will be perusing their in-trays for the major tasks ahead.

Education Secretary David Blunkett will be welcoming his new ministers, Charles Clarke, Margaret Hodge and George Mudie, and assigning them their responsibilities.

The Green Paper on the modernisation of the teaching profession, due later this autumn, is the most eagerly awaited announcement. The aim is to head off a potential recruitment crisis and to make a closer link between pay and performance. The paper will also examine the use of classroom assistants and how to improve school leadership.

Estelle Morris, promoted during the summer reshuffle to school standards minister, will oversee the Green Paper. She in turn will have to negotiate with her predecessor, Stephen Byers, who has become Chief Secretary to the Treasury and will have a say in the teachers' pay bill.

A National Union of Teachers salaries conference this month will keep pay to the top of the agenda.

Mr Blunkett will be launching the National Year of Reading. Publishers, booksellers, businesses and soap opera writers have been called in by Government advisers to devise an all-singing, all-dancing promotion, to encourage the nation to read, including a TV campaign and logos on crisp packets.

With both education Bills on the statute books, the task now for ministers will be implementation and the approving of regulations following a mammoth consultation exercise on many aspects of the proposed changes.

This term, most primary schools will be expected to adopt the literacy hour, as part of the national literacy strategy. And all four- and five-year-olds will take baseline tests, so their progress through school can be monitored.

This month, schools will have to publish their own performance targets. Next month, the local education authorities will say how they intend to reduce class sizes for infants. Regulations on grammar-school ballots and possibly the first draft of the new admissions code of conduct are also expected.

Consultation on the way schools are funded will continue in earnest in a bid to resolve the tension between ministers' desire for more money to reach school budgets and the local authorities' wish to fulfil their role in raising standards.

Twelve of the 25 education action zones will be officially operational, with the rest coming on stream in January.

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority will be stepping up its work advising the Government on the review of the national curriculum in 2000. In the shorter term, it will be publishing the Crick Report on citizenship and pilot studies on guidance for moral and spiritual teaching will take place.

Mr Clarke will be overseeing the first "vocational" courses for 14-year-olds in mainstream schools; they will be allowed to attend workplaces or colleges one day a week. He will be responsible for the Government's strategy to deal with the 50,000 pupils who leave school with no qualifications.

Margaret Hodge, employment minister responsible for equal opportunities and the disabled, will be considering recommendations by the Equal Opportunities Commission and making an announcement on size of firms covered by the Disability Discrimination Act.

A new chair for the education select committee will have to be appointed to replace Ms Hodge. The committee will be taking evidence and reporting on the Office for Standards in Education.

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