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13 October 2014updated 21 Jul 2021 12:38pm

What is David Cameron’s “rescue package” for schools?

The Prime Minister is proposing an intervention to save failing schools. 

By Anoosh Chakelian

In a policy proposal for a future Conservative government, David Cameron has announced a “rescue package” for failing schools.

He has written about these measures in today’s Daily Mail, outlining a rapid intervention the next Conservative government would put into place for saving failing schools.

Referring to his own experience of having his daughter, Florence, educated in a state primary school, the Prime Minister’s argument is for “no child in Britain” to endure a “second-rate education”.

In what is perhaps an acknowledgement of the odd timing of wanting to rescue failing schools with only seven months until a general election, having had over four years in government, he says we need to “go further” than the current reforms:

We know the ingredients of a great state school: great teachers, great leadership and an intolerance of failure – and freedom for those great teachers. Now we want to go further.

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This is what the PM proposes:

  • “More brilliant teachers into the schools that need them most.”

The idea is to continue recruiting top graduates through programmes like Teach First. This would be built upon by having a National Teaching Fellowship paying “the best of the best” to work in poor schools. His aim is to see 1,500 of these top teachers in work by 2020 – “two in every school”.

  • Give “experts” unprecedented powers to overhaul failing schools.

The PM identifies 500 failing schools in our country, and says the eight regional schools commissioners – who oversee free schools and academies – should have the power to get to grips with these schools as well. He wants these experts – including former teachers – have a wider remit, which would include “unprecedented powers” to overhaul failing schools.

This would include removing the leadership if it’s not working – “the whole governing body if they have to” – and changing the curriculum if necessary. They would also be able to introduce new disciplinary measures, and pair up these failing schools with good, local counterparts.

With the former Education Secretary, Michael Gove, who introduced a raft of controversial reforms, reshuffled, why is Cameron announcing new proposals now?

I hear that Gove’s replacement, Nicky Morgan, is approaching her task in the build-up to the general election as a steady, measured route to implementing her predecessor’s reforms, while being a fresh Tory face for education after he became such a divisive figure. If teachers begin associating the DfE with these new proposed measures, in which headteachers could be sacked immediately, it may make her job a fair bit harder.

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