Evoking spirit of specialists

26th November 2004 at 00:00
I was somewhat dismayed to read Dawn Savage's "Sounding Off" (TES, November 12) describing the effect that specialist school status has had and she thinks may have in the future.

The plan should not present schools with too much difficulty: it is about whole-school planning as well as developing the subject specialism. A key element is the extent to which the proposed specialism will benefit the whole school, and therefore any attempt to marginalise other departments is against the spirit of specialism.

I hope that if Ms Savage's school is successful she will find her fears of marginalisation are groundless. But it does require a change of thinking. There is more money to spend on implementing the specialism but this means the remainder of the school budget is available for other areas.

Any specialist subject is only one of many studied. Many of our subject leaders were involved in the planning process and it became something that we all wanted. And we all benefit from improvement - if students are doing very well in science then higher standards should permeate the rest of the school. Success breeds success if we all want it to.

An added bonus, which Ms Savage may not appreciate, is that being part of the Specialist Schools Trust provides access to a wide range of development events - there is nothing to stop languages teachers going to language college events, whatever their school's specialism.

Specialism presents a tremendous opportunity to access increased funding for students and professional development opportunities for teachers. Together they can help to raise standards for all the children in specialist schools - that can only be a good thing.

Susan Tranter Associate head, Matthew Arnold school (science college) Oxford

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