REVIEW OF THE YEAR: Educators Go Back to the Classroom; from Crumbling Schools to State of the Art Academies, It Was a Busy Year in Education, Writes Shahid Naqvi

Article excerpt

Byline: Shahid Naqvi

Nationally, 2005 was framed by two major Government reports on the future of education.

The first was a response to Sir Mike Tomlinson's review into reforming the 14 to 19 curriculum calling for, among other things, a greater emphasis on vocational subjects.

That may well have helped Walsall's Rushall Community College, where only nine per cent of pupils gained the benchmark five or more A* to Cs at the start of the year.

The second Government report was published in October, days after the Prime Minister visited Birmingham's Bournville School and Sixth Form Centre.

It paved the way for state schools to have greater autonomy from local education authorities and set their admission policy and emphasis.

A template for this are the city academies, where private organisations including faith groups (three of these are planned for the West Midlands) sponsor and help run schools. However, it all sounded awfully similar to shadow Education Secretary Tim Collins' comments weeks before the general election.

Speaking to The Birmingham Post, he said: "We want to free things up so faith groups, parents, businesses and all organisations find it much easier if they want to set up schools."

On the subject of the election, May 2004 saw a new Tory/Lib Dem partnership take over Birmingham with Cabinet Member for Education Les Lawrence promising smaller reception classes and greater transparency on the city's GCSE achievements.

True to his word on one front, the authority published GCSE results separately from vocational GNVQs this November - with some interesting results.

It showed heavy reliance on GNVQs at some schools. In some cases, more than two-thirds of exams taken by 16-year-olds were in soon-to-be abolished GNVQs.

The Post also revealed how Birmingham's two biggest turnaround schools had taken 62 poor-performing pupils off roll between them months before their GCSEs.

Coun Lawrence featured in another big theme of the year, bullying, after revealing his 13-year-old son had been a victim of playground bullies.

During National Anti-Bullying Week in November, one Birmingham couple told how they planned to make legal history by pursuing an anti-social behaviour order within a school on their son's tormentors.

Race-related bullying was also exposed when The Post revealed one incident of racist abuse against a pupil occurred, on average, every hour in Birmingham schools.

The year saw Ministers promise a tougher approach on pupil ill-discipline - something West Midlands Police would no doubt welcome. …