Dour schools 'are stifling pupils'

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The Independent Online

Many state secondary schools are offering pupils a "dour" education which stifles their enjoyment of learning, a former head of the Government's education service said yesterday.

Sir Michael Bichard, who was head of the Department of Education under David Blunkett when Labour came to power in 1997, said: "The cost of failing to deliver an education experience which children enjoy... is that some underperform and too many others find a way of leaving the system altogether."

Sir Michael, who was addressing the North of England education conference in York, added: "School life will not always be easy or enjoyable but have our secondary schools in particular become too dour? Of course, there are joyous exceptions – but are there enough?"

Sir Michael said many of his most talented students "had been frustrated at school because they had not felt that their particular talents had been valued or nurtured and partly because they did not feel that the potential of the arts to unlock other pupils' potential had been realised".

He added: "Sadly, too often our education system does educate people out of their creativity and that is partly because the arts... are too often still at the bottom of the list... rather than central components of a rounded education."

Sir Michael said the Government's record on persuading 16- to 19-year-olds to stay on in education was "frankly unacceptable".