Gifted primary school children could be taught in masterclasses as part of an expanded programme of specialist schools announced yesterday. Judith Judd, Education Editor, reports on a controversial scheme designed to modernise comprehensives.
Comprehensive school campaigners accused ministers of introducing selection by the back door with their proposals to increase the number of specialist schools from 258 to 300.
About 10 per cent of children for the schools specialising in technology, sport, music or arts will be selected on aptitude. Specialist schools were set up by the last government to offer parents more choice. Ministers say that their scheme is different because specialist schools will have to share their facilities with neighbouring schools. They argue that these schools, coupled with plans to send very bright primary children for lessons in secondary schools, are a way of modernising comprehensives and of keeping middle-class pupils in state schools, especially in the inner-cities. Masterclasses for primary pupils in specialist schools will begin next September. David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, told the Technology Colleges Trust last night: "Specialist schools are at the heart of my vision - and that of the new government - of an education system where education caters for the individual strengths of children rather than assuming a bland sameness for all. Some people were surprised that the Government wanted to continue the specialist schools programme. …