Pupils' personal advisers

5th January 2007 at 00:00
But 'learning guides' for every secondary student need not be teachers

PRIVATE TUTORS, school caretakers, and retired business people should be among those employed to tailor learning to every pupil by 2020, the Government was advised this week.

Its 2020 Vision group led by Christine Gilbert, now chief schools inspector, said high-quality teachers would lead the drive to transform education. The group calls for revamped on-the-job-training and sabbaticals for those in the toughest schools.

But the group's report, published yesterday, proposes that a wider team is needed to make personalised learning a reality for all.

The report recommends that every secondary pupil has a "learning guide" who will meet them at least once every half-term, monitor their progress and act as their advocate in the school. But there is no need for them to be teachers. Ms Gilbert told The TES that one school that had already adopted the system was using its caretaker for the task.

Asked if such staff could stand up to teachers in a dispute over a pupil's learning, she said: "I don't think it would be as outlandish as you might be suggesting".

Speaking yesterday at the North of England Education Conference in Preston, Jim Knight, schools minister, said: "I don't believe personalisation is possible without workforce remodelling, or without the 150,000 extra teaching assistants in the past ten years."

The report also backs calls for schools to be judged on the progress that individual pupils make rather than their average results. Ministers are expected to respond this month by consulting on a new league-table measure.

Schools could be asked to ensure that all their pupils make two national curriculum levels' progress in reading, writing and maths between each key stage, up to the age of 14. They would then be ranked on the percentage of pupils doing so.

The review group recommends that primary and secondary pupils falling behind in English and maths should be entitled to additional support, partially distributed through a voucher system.

Ms Gilbert said that private tuition should be among the options available.

The review group suggested schools could "buy in" skills such as mentoring or finance from retired business people and heads.

It proposes more parental and pupil involvement in what is taught and that pupils could sit tests earlier, if ready.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teachers' union, said without more detailed guidance on implementation the report could mean increased bureaucracy and workload.

The Department for Education and Skills, which commissioned the study, welcomed the report but has not decided when or if it will make a detailed, formal response.

Full reports, page 5 North of England, page 17 Leader, page 26

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