Kelly's pot of gold

24th March 2006 at 00:00
Chancellor gives the Education Secretary funding for reform.

Jon Slater reports

This week's Budget has given Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, fresh ammunition to take into battle with Labour's rebellious backbenchers over the education Bill.

Soon, pound;1 billion a year will be spent on delivering personalised learning in state schools and the Chancellor has promised that school funding will keep on rising until it matches that enjoyed by the private sector.

Fresh from the Budget day in the Commons, Ms Kelly gave an exclusive interview to The TES setting out her vision for personalised learning and a promise to deliver "schools of tomorrow today".

Looking relaxed and upbeat in her office on the seventh floor of Sanctuary Buildings, Ms Kelly said the Budget revealed the big differences between Labour and the Tories.

She said: "The point of this Budget is political as well as educational.

Gordon Brown has shown his Budget choice is to invest in our schools. The Conservatives' budget choice over time would be to reduce taxes. They say they want reform but they are not prepared to put in the resources needed."

Ms Kelly said it is an exciting time to be in education, and that the extra money is good news for teachers whose jobs might otherwise be under threat from falling pupil numbers.

"This is a big commitment on our behalf to invest in teaching and support staff. I don't think there's a stronger message from the Budget than that,"

she said.

Mr Brown promised an additional pound;220 million next year and pound;365m in 2007-8, which will be paid directly to schools to help personalise learning for pupils. This comes on top of pound;220m and pound;565m previously announced.

Ms Kelly said this money could be used to provide intensive support for disadvantaged pupils and to ensure lessons stretch the brightest children.

An expert review team, announced last week and headed by Christine Gilbert, chief executive of Tower Hamlets council in east London and a former headteacher, will examine good practice across the country and report back with a vision of what classroom practice will look like in 2020.

She declined an invitation to provide a snappy definition of the term, which has caused confusion in staffrooms across the country because, Ms Kelly said, different schools could adopt different approaches.

Instead, she preferred to give examples of how schools could tailor learning to the needs of individual pupils.

"It might mean small group teaching or one-to-one tuition. Schools might want to mix large group teaching with catch-up support," she said.

Schools might want to follow the example of Bridgemary community school, in Portsmouth, where pupils are grouped according to ability rather than age.

Or they could learn from Chafford Hundred Campus in Essex, where pupils can use a wireless network to check their daily progress. This includes access to their school report, target progress, attendance and behaviour.

Ms Kelly repeated her backing for The TES Time to Care campaign and said personalised learning would make a big difference to the education of children looked after by local authorities.

"You can't think of where personalisation is more important than with children in care," she said. "I frankly think the outcomes at the moment for children in care are scandalous."

The Government will follow up last week's announcement that children in care will be guaranteed a place in their first choice school with a green paper, due to be published in the summer.

The Education Secretary refused to be drawn on details of the proposals but added: "I want a bold package. Nothing is ruled in or out at this stage."

* jon.slater@tes.co.uk

BUDGET IN BRIEF

* Target to raise spending per pupil to the level it currently is at for private schools.

* Schools to get pound;440 million more directly in their budgets from next week.

* Amount of money going directly each year to a typical secondary to rise from pound;98,000 to pound;150,000 from next week - then pound;190,000 next year, twice what it is now.

* Amount of money going directly each year to a typical primary to rise from pound;31,000 to pound;44,000 from next week.

* 3,000 additional science teachers to be recruited.

* Pupils to gain entitlement to study full range of sciences at GCSE.

* Science results to be benchmarked just as English and maths are already.

* Free A-level courses in further education colleges for all those up to the age of 25.

* An annual schools Olympics from now until 2012.

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