Blair's Britain: Schools guru to enforce pledges

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The Independent Online
The school improvement guru who headed Labour's literacy task force was yesterday appointed special adviser to the Government on standards and effectiveness in schools.

Michael Barber, the London University academic who has advised the Labour leadership on education for two years, as well as heading research projects for the Conservative government, will oversee implementation of Labour's manifesto pledges aimed at raising educational standards.

Among his responsibilities will be programmes on school target-setting, failing schools, home school contracts and homework requirements.

Professor Barber, 41, former Dean of New Initiatives at London University's Institute of Education, is a New Labour favourite and "ideas man". Last year he suggested the post of Education and Employment Secretary should be elevated to a similar rank to the Foreign Secretary. His proposals for an education revolution based on guaranteeing standards and encouraging lifetime learning, set out last year in his book The Learning Game, were praised as "provocative and timely," by Tony Blair.

Professor Barber will begin preparatory work tomorrow on elements of the Government's Education White Paper, expected to be out by June.

The paper would include policies requiring legislation, such as plans to abolish grant maintained status, but would also "set out the Government's broader aims and ambitions on education," he said.

As part of Labour's School Improvement Strategy, local Education Authorities will be required to submit education development plans to the Department for Education and Employment. "There has never been a Labour government with such a mandate or with such a clear programme on education," he said.