Heads admit 'specialist' schools are not so special

15th September 2000 at 01:00
MANY "specialist" secondaries are not centres of excellence in their nominated specialism. In fact new research suggests more than half are stronger in another curriculum area, writes Sarah Cassidy.

The Government has established more than 500 schools focusing on sport, technology, languages or the arts. Each has received a pound;100,000 grant and a promise of pound;100 per pupil per year, for three years, if they raise pound;100,000 in private sponsorship.

But most schools want specialist status for the extra funding rather than to raise standards or develop a particular subject, London School of Economics researchers told the British Educational Research Association conerence.

More than half of the 138 specialist school heads questioned said that their supposed "specialism" was not the school's strongest teaching area. A further 31 per cent said it had not been their best area but had been strengthened using the extra funds awarded.

More than half of the heads also admitted that extra funding had been their primary motive for becoming a specialist school. Fewer than a third said they had changed status to raise standards.

Researchers Anne West and Philip Noden said schools should be allowed to choose their own specialism, playing to their strengths, to raise standards without "distorting" their activities.

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