Reid's remit expands as England boosts specialist school numbers

6th February 2004 at 00:00
The former director of education in Lothian Region and Edinburgh is now in charge of more than half of England's secondary schools.

Liz Reid, Lossiemouth-born, ran the education service in the Lothians and Edinburgh from 1993-98 and has been chief executive of the Specialist Schools Trust south of the border since 2001.

The latest round of schools to be awarded specialist status, announced last week, has brought the total number to 1,686 - 54 per cent of England's secondary schools.

The 238 additions include the first designated specialist music colleges and four humanities colleges. A new category of rural schools has yet to be applied for.

The Scottish Executive has set its face against such schools, believing that all pupils should have access to specialist teaching. There are a number of specialist schools for gifted youngsters, such as the School of Sport at Bellahouston Academy in Glasgow and the centre for the performing arts at Plockton High in Wester Ross.

Authorities like North Lanarkshire are experimenting with music and sport provision.

Ms Reid said: "I am delighted that the number of specialist schools has continued to grow and with the first music and humanities specialist schools, the programme has entered a new phase with a wide range of specialisms for schools to choose."

The trust is confident that nearly all schools will be specialist by 2006.

But the largest teaching unions remain sceptical. John Bangs, head of education at the National Union of Teachers, said he was concerned that a two-tier system of funding is being constructed. Specialist status qualifies a school for a one-off capital grant of pound;100,000 from the Government followed by annual grants of pound;126 per pupil.

Chris Keates, deputy general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said it had concerns about the ability of schools to select a percentage of pupils and the real possibility of a two-tier education system.

The most popular choices for specialisms were: science (54 schools); maths and computing (37); arts (32); and sport (30).

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