Education: Letter - Burning issues for beacon schools

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The Independent Online
I can understand the misgivings arising about the likelihood of beacon schools becoming elitist and selective, if they are not these already. However, it would be a mistake for heads and staff at other schools to shun the idea completely. Consider the advantages of two-way movement between beacon and non-beacon schools.

Firstly, it is possible that staff in beacon schools will have got something right regardless of catchment area. Visits to beacon schools could bring learning benefits to other schools in their areas.

Secondly, however, the only way of proving whether or not the beacon schools' excellence is due to favourable intake and neighbourhood is to have their staff teaching in less favoured schools. This temporary transfer of proven excellence in beacon schools to others should be strongly encouraged.

Standards overall will best be raised by giving the most disadvantaged schools the best possible teachers. If the "transferees" were to perform brilliantly in less supportive circumstances, they could be offered permanent posts at higher salaries than they were receiving in their former schools.

If, on the other hand, their performance is adversely affected by their new environment, we shall know for certain that environment makes a decisive difference to educational performance. Either that, or OFSTED will be shown to have mis-identified the beacon schools in the first place.

Richard Wilkins

General Secretary

Association of Christian Teachers, St Albans, Herts