Secondary schools should split, urge teachers

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The Independent Online

Britain's largest secondary schools should be broken into smaller "schools within schools", according to a report by a high-powered group of teachers to be published this week.

A study by 1,000 teachers on the TeachFirst programme, which places high-flying graduates in inner-city schools, says secondary schools with 1,500 or 2,000 pupils should create a series of smaller "learning institutions" on the same site. Each should have about 150 pupils to improve behaviour and results, they argue. The report, to be published on Wednesday, is to be studied by ministers.

Figures show school sizes have risen in the past few years. In 2000, there were only seven schools with more than 2,000 pupils – there were 21 last year. Similarly, only 156 schools have fewer than 500 pupils, compared with 221 at the turn of the century.

The report argues: "Large schools are too often anonymous – stultifying rather than stimulating – and the strength of passionate specialists can be diluted." It adds that encouraging pupils to learn in smaller "learning communities" avoids "leaving them at sea to negotiate an ... identity for themselves in an institution of more than 1,000 people".

The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrat leadership front-runner Nick Clegg have backed the "schools within schools" approach – pioneered successfully in the United States – in recent weeks.