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Use the C word rather than F word

In the face of anticipated public expenditure cuts, you report that the unions are recommending schools heed the exhortations of Schools Secretary Ed Balls for schools to federate in order to increase cost-effectiveness through sharing resources ("'Tighten belts now,' warn unions", January 1).

The argument has obvious validity, but the F word already has too many negative connotations. It is the quality of the collaboration that counts. There is plenty of evidence where schools have collaborated effectively, this has depended on a gradual "bottom-up" building of trust between the staff, the governors, the parents of the schools and their communities.

Developing creative collaboration between schools could offer the defining development of the education system in the new decade since it offers an opportunity to sweep away so many of the current debilitating rigidities. However, this opportunity will be lost if collaboration is seen solely as a "top-down" expediential imposition.

K Wedell, Emeritus professor of education, Institute of Education, University of London.

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