Letters extra: choice and specialist schools

6th July 2001 at 01:00

Over the last few months it has become clear that many headteachers share my concerns about the government's policy to encourage the development of specialist schools. Despite the overall "variety" and "high standards" these schools appear to offer across the UK, we all know that for individual children in individual communities they reduce choice.

If your local school becomes a specialist sports school, where do the good arts or science teachers go? Probably to a specialist technology or visual arts school in another town. If your children are no good at sport but very keen on physics or pottery, how can they possibly benefit from such teachers' skills, unless we introduce the quite unacceptable policy of bussing?

What is needed is for every comprehensive to offer a wide range of subjects taught by well supported teachers who are relevantly qualified and who are enthusiastic about their subject. However, because so much money is being offered in bribes to heads to apply for specialist school status, we keep hearing about "reluctant" heads feeling they "have to" apply so that their schools can benefit from these inducements.

It's time for headteachers (and union representatives and classroom teachers) who disagree with the policy to say so. If everyone refuses to be bribed, the government will have to abandon the policy and start looking at other ways to finance improvements to all our schools.

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