Ten-year plan to transform inner-city schools

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The Independent Online

The transformation of inner-city secondary schools with fast-tracking for the brightest pupils and extra out-of-school activities for the poorest will be at the heart of the Government's 10-year plan for education to be announced today.

The transformation of inner-city secondary schools with fast-tracking for the brightest pupils and extra out-of-school activities for the poorest will be at the heart of the Government's 10-year plan for education to be announced today.

Schools with a high proportion of disadvantaged pupils will receive up to £360 per pupil to spend on sport, dancing classes, piano lessons and cultural visits so that they will not miss out on opportunities that their better-off peers take for granted.

More setting by ability in individual subjects will be encouraged after the report by the chief inspector of schools revealed last week that only about half of secondary school lessons in maths, science and languages are taught in sets. Bright pupils will be encouraged to take GCSE exams at least a year early, at 14 or 15 rather than 16.

Ministers are anxious to woo the middle classes back to inner-city schools after both the Prime Minister and his former cabinet colleague, Harriet Harman, rejected their local schools in favour of state schools several miles away.

They also want to repeat their success in raising primary school standards in secondary schools. Remedial teaching in literacy and numeracy will be on offer for pupils aged between 11 and 14 and new targets are likely to be set for this age group.

David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, told BBC 1's The Frost Programme that he wanted to transform secondary schools' standards "instead of having high standards in a handful of schools and putting up with mediocrity elsewhere".

John Dunford, the general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said: "This isn't a transformation. It's a very limited vision which will not touch the education of most pupils."

The Chief Inspector's report said there was no statistical link between setting and standards, he said.

The Green Paper will also address the biggest threat to the Government's programme for raising school standards - teacher shortages.

New teachers in shortage subjects such as maths and science will have their student loans paid off at the rate of 10 per cent a year for 10 years, if they stay in teaching, Mr Blunkett said.

"We face two big challenges: first, to attract people, especially into shortage subjects such as maths, English, languages and science, and, secondly, to retain them in the classroom when we have trained them."

Applications for teacher training were up by 12,000 for this year, but in maths the increase was only 1 per cent and in English only 2 per cent, he said.

Another recruitment experiment will offer undergraduates a chance to sample teaching during their degree courses. They might take modules during their courses or be paid up to £2,000 to start training as teachers during their holidays while they are still at university.

"Pupil learning credits", to pay for out-of-school activities for disadvantaged pupils, will be tried for about 60,000 children in schools in the Government's Excellence in Cities programme.

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