Labour gives up shaming schools

The Government is to scrap its controversial policy of naming and shaming failing schools as it seeks to forge a new deal with teachers based on positive partnerships.

Education Secretary David Blunkett told The TES at this week's Labour party conference that never again would schools be singled out by the Government for humiliation in the national press.

This and measures officially unveiled in Blackpool demonstrate that ministers want to stress the positive side of their tough love approach in the drive to raise educational standards.

Mr Blunkett said "teachers were doing a first-rate job" and "in future would be doing it with Government support".

Initiatives include a 20, 000-strong army of classroom assistants and opportunities for them to train as teachers. However, the Government has also emphasised that the #163;19 billion of new money for education over the next three years - including more than a #163;1bn to boost teachers' pay - would be in return for high standards and good performance.

And the new mood does not mean the profession can expect an easy ride from ministers. Mr Blunkett's asides at a conference fringe meeting attacking staffroom "cynics" who criticised Government initiatives were widely reported.

Shortly after came Prime Minister Tony Blair's keynote speech, when he said headteachers who let pupils down would face the sack. But, he added, heads who turned round a failing school could expect salaries as high as #163;70, 000.

Naming and shaming, a policy enacted just weeks after Labour took office,caused great hostility within education. Morale in the schools plummeted, heads reported serious difficulties recruiting and retaining staff and scores of parents withdrew their children.

Mr Blunkett said the policy had been "subsumed" under new procedures which give schools publicly identified by OFSTEDas failing two years to turn themselves around before action is taken.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, welcomed the move. He said: "I think the Government realises it was a bad policy. Schools in special measures or with serious weaknesses already have the sword of Damocles hanging over them. Public humiliation is not a method which anyone who has the best interest of a school at heart would pursue."

Lloyd Marshall, head of Dulwich boys high in south London, one of the 18 named and shamed schools, said: "It was a shameful and insensitive policy." His school now faces closure.

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