Crystal-ball gazing or the right way forward?

1st December 2006 at 00:00
Teachers will be replaced by "leaders of learning", according to a government-commissioned report.

A confidential briefing on the 2020 personalisation review says schools have reached "a plateau on improvement" and traditional solutions are no longer working.

The review is led by Christine Gilbert, the new head of Ofsted, whose annual report last week criticised continuing failure in many schools.

Personalised learning is a government priority in addressing the needs of talented students and those who are falling behind.

The final report is not due until later this month, but it is clear Ms Gilbert will find it tough to please everyone. The briefing emphasises the need for:

children to take ownership of their learning

the formation of national and international networks of schools

teachers to be replaced with leaders of learning.

Such broad language may reassure some groups, such as the Association of School and College Leaders, which said the report should not be too prescriptive. But others, including the Professional Association of Teachers, fear it will mean nothing more than "crystal-ball gazing".

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers expressed its disgust. Its policy says: "The language of the debate on personalisation is a dangerous assertion of the primacy of the individual, whereas schools, above all, are places committed to the understanding and development of the social."

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL, said the review would be no use unless it went beyond its remit to overhaul the national curriculum and the overwhelming emphasis on testing pupils. "To be fair to the review group, they've had to work with a sexy politician's phrase which, in reality, means little more than motherhood and apple pie," she said.

Several unions and the General Teaching Council have asked the 2020 review to recommend a move away from individualised testing, but there is no sign that Ms Gilbert will take that route.

The Prime Minister, who first spoke about personalised learning in 2003, is still a committed believer. "Our best schools and good teachers have been personalising learning with great success for many years, and I think pupils should have a say in that," he says in The TES today.

Blair interview, page 14-15 Tony Blair writes, page 26

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