Good omens for specialist primaries

22nd June 2007 at 01:00
Having read our front-page story about plans to introduce specialist schools to their sector, many primary teachers will have mixed feelings.

Surely, specialising at seven or eight (or even younger) is too early?

They should not worry. The experience of the secondary sector, in which the number of specialist schools has risen spectacularly during Tony Blair's time in office, is instructive.

First, specialist schools are popular, bringing pride and distinction to pupils, parents and staff alike. Second, they encourage innovation and confidence, recognising and building on their innate strengths. Third, they bring considerable extra cash to enable schools to redesign the curriculum, improve facilities and bring in specialist staff. And fourth, they are supported by an effective national network that would benefit primaries.

Of course, there are some concerns. If specialisation means a narrower curriculum that closes down options to children too young to decide on their adult futures, it will fail. The emphasis should be on identifying and nurturing children's talent, whatever their level of ability.

The Government is right to experiment, using school clusters to ensure a collaborative approach. Schools might want to develop specialisms that draw on their strengths, such as learning through play. Exciting times lie ahead.

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