London to lead into the future

28th January 2005 at 00:00
Capital to pilot changes to secondary schools envisaged by ministers and Tomlinson, reports Warwick Mansell

All pupils will have personal tutors and schools will be linked to universities, which will provide lessons on campus or online.

Secondary schools will develop partnerships with at least one company, signing an agreement which sets out how they will work together to support pupils and staff, for their mutual benefit.

Each pupil will receive a high quality, coherent programme of academic, vocational or work-based learning, offered at whichever school, college, employer or university is best placed to deliver it.

Welcome to a vision of the future of secondary education, as set out by ministers. A consultation launched by the Department for Education and Skills without publicity sets out these ideas within proposals to improve 14 to 19 education across London over the next five years.

The idea is that the capital's schools will lead the way in implementing the changes envisaged in Mike Tomlinson's report into the future of secondary education. The proposals offer further ammunition to those who say the Government will reject central aspects of the plans in its White Paper response to the former chief inspector's 18-month review.

This week, Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, said: "We need to make sure that we have GCSEs and A-levels remaining in place and build upon that." Mr Tomlinson has said that the names should be dropped within a diploma system.

There is speculation the Government might introduce a diploma, consisting of English, maths and computing, but it would not be a requirement for all students. High-achievers might continue to take GCSEs and A-levels.

One source said: "That would be death on wheels for the Tomlinson proposals. The diploma would be seen as a default option for the less academic, and universities might just look at GCSE and A-level achievements."

Although ministers argue that details of the implications for London of Tomlinson's report will not emerge until the White Paper is published next month, its supporters worry there is no mention of the diploma in the consultation.

Under the "pan-London 14 to 19 learner offer", all pupils will be given access to a personal tutor, study skills and "employability" courses and advice on which qualifications to study. The concept is that schools, colleges, employers, universities, local authorities and Learning and Skills Councils work together to offer a choice of good courses, across the capital.

The consultation says: "We want to see London leading the way in the development of a 14 to 19 phase of education and training that gives all young people the opportunity to achieve their potential." The paper says demand for high levels of education and training is increasing in the capital. There are some boroughs where low-skilled employment is prevalent but that is expected to decline.

There was also a need to address underachievement among boys, the poor and those from some ethnic minorities.

London is seen as ripe to pilot radical changes because of its particular difficulties and the fact that scores of schools, colleges, universities and employers are within travelling distance of pupils.

John Bangs, National Union of Teachers' head of education, said: "If the Government can deliver a personal tutor for every child from 14 to 19, that is a fantastic opportunity for London youngsters."

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