It is one of New Labour's favourite education buzz words. It features in most key education documents and initiatives. The Department for Education and Skills has even included the term in its motto.
But Donald Gillies of Strathclyde university suggests that the Government's use of the word "excellence" is delusional and virtually meaningless.
Mr Gillies suggests that New Labour picked up the word from the business world, where it has already fallen out of favour, being seen as evidence of "burgeoning spin and corporate gobbledygook".
He said that it was logically impossible for all schools to be excellent if this was defined as being the top of a hierarchy. If excellence was defined as the highest standard according to objective measurements, it was a "utopian" or "delusional" expectation for every school. And if it was defined as the best an organisation could be expected to achieve, it might lead to acceptance of mediocrity.
"Excellence and education: rhetoric and reality."