Better Schools - A Summary (1985)

This DES booklet described the government's policies for schools in England and Wales as set out in the White Paper Better Schools.

The complete document is presented in this single web page. You can scroll through it or use the following links to go straight to the various sections:

Contents (page iii)
The government's new measures (1)
The present situation (2)
The need for action (3)
Curriculum (3)
Examinations (7)
Discipline (8)
Truancy (9)
Parents and schools (9)
Teaching quality (10)
Local education authority management (14)
Minimum size of school (14)
Education of ethnic minorities (15)
The legal framework (16)
Resources (17)
The independent sector (18)
Future progress (19)

The text of Better Schools - A Summary was prepared by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 4 September 2007.

Better Schools - A Summary (1985)

Department of Education and Science
Welsh Office

London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office 1985
Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.

[title page]



Department of Education and Science
and Welsh Office - March 1985

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Crown Copyright 1985
Department of Education and Science 1985

Extracts may be reproduced
provded the source is acknowledged

ISBN 0 85522 154 2

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The Government's new measures1
The present situation2
The need for action3
Parents and schools9
Teaching quality10
Local education authority management14
Minimum size of school14
Education of ethnic minorities15
The legal framework16
The independent sector18
Future progress19

[page 1]

This booklet briefly describes the
Government's policies for schools in
England and Wales set out in the White
Paper Better Schools (Cmnd 9469)
published in March 1985.

The Government's new measures

The Government aims:

1 to raise standards at all levels of ability;
2 to secure the best possible return from the resources which are invested in education.
The Government will:
  • take the lead in promoting national agreement about the purposes and the content of the curriculum;
  • encourage schools to do more to fulfil the vital function of preparing all young people for work;
  • complete the reform of the public examinations taken at age 16 in the interest of the curriculum and standards;
  • introduce a new examination, the AS level, to broaden the programme of students on A level courses;
  • work towards a national system of records of achievement;
  • make the in-service training of teachers more effective through new financial arrangements;
  • give school governing bodies a more balanced membership, and improve the distribution of functions of governors, local education authorities and heads in regard to their schools;
  • propose new guidelines on the minimum size of schools;
  • take steps to reduce under-achievement, including that found among many ethnic minority pupils;
  • tackle truancy through improvements in the work and training of education welfare officers.

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The present situation

There is much to admire in our schools. Over the last thirty years the school system has expanded and adapted. There have been marked improvements in both primary and secondary education. Many schools cope well, some very well, with their increasingly exacting task. But a number of weaknesses, some of them serious, are found in the others. The Government believes that the standards now generally attained by our pupils are neither as good as they can be nor as good as they need to be for the world of the twenty-first century. School education should do much more to promote enterprise and adaptability and to fit young people for working life in a technological age. If the high standards achieved by pupils of all abilities in some schools could be achieved in all schools in similar circumstances the quality of school education would rise dramatically.

In the best primary and middle schools pupils achieve very high standards of competence and consolidate their positive personal qualities through a broad curriculum. But in only a minority of schools is the best practice of individual teachers adopted throughout the school. In about three quarters of schools the curriculum is not well planned or effectively put into practice. In a majority of primary and middle schools there is over-concentration on practising basic skills in literacy and numeracy without relating them to real situations. Many children are still given too little opportunity for work in the scientific, practical and aesthetic areas. In about half of all classes much work is too closely directed by the teacher and there is little chance for oral discussion or setting and solving practical problems. Many teachers do not expect enough of their pupils: in most classes able pupils are insufficiently stretched and the weaknesses of the less able are not tackled appropriately.

By the end of the primary phase many pupils have achieved only a shaky foundation for some of their subsequent work, partly because teachers do not always insist that pupils should adequately understand the essentials and partly because they underestimate the pupils' potential.

The best secondary schools provide a broad curriculum in which pupils of all abilities reach high standards. They turn out young people with self-confidence, self-respect and respect for others, who are enterprising, adaptable, and eager and well equipped to face the adult world. But in most secondary schools agreed curricular policies appear to have little influence on the whole school.

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Many departments fail to put into practice their own and the school's declared alms and objectives.

In a large minority of cases, teachers' expectations of what pupils could achieve are clouded by inadequate knowledge and understanding of each pupil's aptitudes and difficulties; teaching is frequently directed at the middle level of ability so that the most able pupils are understretched and the least able cannot cope. In virtually all secondary schools and departments there is often excessive direction by the teacher and pupils have too few opportunities to learn for themselves. In about one fifth of secondary schools there is a serious problem of teachers having to teach a subject outside their competence.

The best special schools provide an education well suited to their pupils' capabilities and needs. But many special schools show many of the weaknesses found in primary and secondary schools.

The need for action

Not all the weaknesses in our schools are the fault of the schools, or of the education service. Many stem from the wider problems facing our society. The Government has a duty to act where it can. Together with its partners in education it will take action in four areas of policy:

1 the curriculum;
2 the examination system and assessment;
3 the professional effectiveness of teachers and the management of the teacher force;
4 school government and the contribution which can be made to good school education by parents, employers and others outside the education service.



There is widespread acceptance of the view that broad agreement about the objectives and content of the school curriculum is necessary for the improvement in standards which is needed. Initial agreement will take time and will then need to be reviewed

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as circumstances change. As the process develops, the Government after consultation will issue statements of policy, and Her Majesty's Inspectors (HMI) will continue to publish discussion papers. The objectives will be based on the best practice in local education authorities and schools.

The objectives are intended to have practical effect by becoming the basis of the curricular policies of:

  • the Secretaries of State, who need a curriculum policy for discharging their statutory duty to promote the education of the people of England and Wales and their more specific duties, for example in relation to the pattern of schools and the supply and training of teachers;
  • the local education authorities, for exercising their functions in such matters as the pattern of schools, the provision of resources, and the management of the teaching force;
  • the schools, for organising and carrying out the actual work of teaching.
The objectives will be applied with differences of emphasis and balance to reflect local circumstances and local judgement. The Secretaries of State's policies for the range and pattern of the 5 to 16 curriculum will not lead to national syllabuses. Diversity at local education authority and school level is healthy, accords well with the English and Welsh tradition of school education, and makes for liveliness and innovation.

Reports made by local education authorities to the Government show that nearly every authority will shortly have an explicit policy for the curriculum as the basis of its work, but that many authorities' policies do not yet extend to all the matters for which a local policy is needed.

There is wide agreement about the purposes of learning at school, in particular that pupils should develop lively, enquiring minds, acquire understanding, knowledge and skills relevant to adult life and employment and develop personal moral values. To serve these purposes the Government believes that the curriculum offered to every pupil, whether at an ordinary school or a special school, should be:

  • broad: it should introduce the pupil to a wide range of knowledge, understanding and skills;
  • balanced: each part should be allotted sufficient time to make its special contribution, but not so much that it squeezes out other essential parts;

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  • relevant: subjects should be taught so as to bring out their applications to the pupils' own experience and to adult life, and to give due emphasis to practical aspects;
  • differentiated: what is taught and how it is taught need to be matched to pupils' abilities and aptitudes.
A curriculum founded on these four principles will serve to develop the potential of every pupil and to equip all for the responsibilities of citizenship and for the challenge of working life in the world of tomorrow. It is now necessary to alter the balance Within the curriculum and the emphasis in teaching it.

The progression through the school system

About 80 per cent of children are at school before they are five, in a nursery school or class or in the youngest class of a primary school. Local education authorities face problems of priority in determining the type and distribution of school places for the under fives. They have rightly tried to give preference to those children who most need help. The Government will aim to secure that authorities' expenditure on the under fives should continue, in cost terms, within broadly the same totals as at present.

Primary education is as important as secondary education. From the beginning of primary education, and throughout the compulsory period, each stage should help pupils to make the most of the process of growing up, to develop positive personal qualities and attitudes, and to establish solid foundations for what follows. The Government welcomes the wide agreement that throughout primary education and for the first three years of secondary education the curriculum should continue to be largely common to all pupils, but varied in pace and depth for differences in ability and maturity.

There should be some choice in the curriculum for the fourth and fifth years of secondary education but no pupil should be allowed to drop subjects whose continued study may be essential for subsequent learning, training or work. The Government believes that all pupils need to continue in these years with English, mathematics, a broad science course, and normally physical education or games; should study elements drawn from the humanities and the arts; should consolidate their understanding of the values and foundations of British society and develop economic awareness; and should take part in practical and technological work in a number of subjects, not least science. Most pupils should also continue with a foreign language, given Britain's membership of

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the European Community and her place as a trading nation. The place of religious education is governed by law; the Government does not intend to change this.

A 5 to 16 curriculum on these lines will encourage the qualities, attitudes, knowledge, understanding and competences which are necessary to equip pupils for working life. With this aim in view the Government has established the Technical and Vocational Education Initiative (TVEl), which explores how best to fit work-related skills within initial full-time education. It is supporting in most local education authorities pilot projects for coherent courses at schools and colleges leading to recognised national qualifications over a four year period starting at age 14; the courses offer in the compulsory years a broad general education with a strong technical element followed, post-16, by increasing vocational specialisation. The Government is considering the wider application of the lessons of the TVEI.

Levels of attainment

It is the Government's longer-term aim to raise pupil performance at all levels of ability so as to bring 80 to 90 per cent of all 16 year old pupils at least to the level of attainment now expected and achieved by pupils of average ability in individual subjects, ie the level associated with grade 4 in the CSE examination; and to do so over a broad range of knowledge, understanding and skills in a number of subjects. The Government will work towards a more precise definition of what pupils of different abilities can be expected to achieve at age 11 and 16. This will be a difficult task. A start is being made in the new series of HMI discussion papers and, for age 16, in the development of grade criteria for the new GCSE examinations; the work will be supported by the findings of the Assessment of Performance Unit.

Developing the curriculum

In addition to the TVEI, the Government is supporting through education support grants the improvement of several aspects of the curriculum, notably the teaching of mathematics in schools; science teaching as part of primary education; and pilot projects to improve education in urban and rural primary schools. The Government will continue to consult with its partners about the balance of the essential elements within the curriculum, particularly for the fourth and fifth years of secondary education.

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The Government attaches great importance to public examinations at school. Examinations need to be designed and used to serve the curriculum. They are also an important preparation for employment. The Government, advised by the Secondary Examinations Council (SEC), has taken action to improve examinations and assessment.


The new General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) will replace O Levels, CSE and the joint 16+ examinations. The first examinations will be held in 1988. The GCSE will be a single system, with a seven point scale of grades, A to G, and will use suitably differentiated papers or questions. It will operate under nationally agreed criteria published in March 1985 which have been developed by the examinations boards and approved by the Secretaries of State. These criteria will place a new emphasis on understanding, the application of knowledge, and oral and practical skills. They will be extended to include grade criteria which will define the main aspects of each subject which the examinations will be designed to test and the levels of attainment expected of candidates for the award of particular grades. The GCSE will be designed for all candidates, whatever their abilities relative to others, who are able to reach the standards - attainable but stretching for each ability level - required for the award of specific grades. It will be administered by five groups of boards in England and Wales. A special programme of training is being mounted to help all the teachers concerned to prepare for the introduction of the GCSE.

In order to encourage the ablest pupils to pursue a broad and balanced curriculum, the Government has published for consultation proposals for Distinction and Merit Certificates to reward candidates obtaining good grades in a specified range of subjects.

Pre-vocational courses

The Government will establish a working party, under an independent chairman, with representatives of the examining and validating bodies concerned, and serviced by the SEC, to draft national criteria for pre-vocational examination courses taken by pupils of statutory school age.

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The Certificate of Pre-Vocational Education (CPVE) is a new post-16 qualification for those who are not pursuing A Levels or retaking, or adding to, subjects for the GCSE. CPVE courses will have general, practical and vocational elements. They are intended to replace a range of existing courses, including the pre-vocational courses of the City and Guilds of London Institute, the Business and Technician Education Council and the Royal Society of Arts, and the Certificate of Extended Education offered by most CSE and GCE Boards.

AS Levels

The Government is committed to keeping A Levels. It has decided to introduce a new examination in 1989, the Advanced Supplementary (AS) Level examination, so as to promote greater breadth for those engaged in A Level studies without reducing standards. This will widen the choice of subject combinations available to A Level students and so help to prepare them better for adult life and employment. The Government will invite the GCE Boards to prepare syllabuses, in cooperation with the SEC, higher education and others. Each syllabus will require about half the study time of an A Level course; the general quality of work demanded for the award of any grade will be comparable with that of A Level courses, so that full credit may be given to AS Level success in higher education admission processes.

Records of achievement

Many schools, including those taking part in the TVEI, are developing schemes to record and give credit for what pupils achieve beyond the results of public examinations. The Government, through education support grants, is supporting nine pilot schemes of records of achievement. The aim is to ensure by the end of the decade that all pupils leaving school will be provided with a record which recognises their achievements at school, including their examination successes.


All schools recognise that nothing so quickly undermines their efforts as a failure to keep in check discourtesy, disorder and disruption. Many schools consistently secure good order. They attempt to create positive attitudes towards good behaviour in all that they do. The effectiveness of schools in promoting good behaviour and self-discipline bears on wider social problems such as juvenile crime. The

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public rightly regard standards of pupil behaviour as a touchstone of the quality of the school system. The poor standards found in a small minority of schools give rise to widespread concern and anxiety. The local education authorities and schools concerned have an urgent duty to tackle this problem.

More schools should offer more opportunities for pupils to acquire the habit of self-discipline, encourage and reward high standards of conduct, and rely less on disciplinary sanctions. The Government has introduced legislation which will give parents the right to exempt their children from corporal punishment at school. Schools and parents should cooperate in the matter of pupils' behaviour.


In particular parents should support the school on attendance. Truancy involves only a small minority of pupils and parents, but reaches especially worrying levels in the fourth and fifth years of some secondary schools. In too many cases the pupil's absence is condoned by the parents. A better curriculum and more effective teaching should reduce truancy where it results from boredom.

The Government is issuing a circular about school attendance and the Education Welfare Services. These services should focus more sharply on attendance. Local education authorities will be asked to review the services and inform the Government about their policies. This information will be used in the national consultations on the training of education welfare officers, which the Government proposes to set in hand this year. In 1986 it will seek detailed information from local education authorities about their arrangements for reducing truancy through their Education Welfare Services.

Parents and schools

The Education Act 1980 enabled parents to:

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  • have a greater say in the running of schools through the election of parent governors.
Since parents too are educators, schools should explain their aims and policies to parents and work closely with them, as many schools now do. Schools cannot hand over to parents activities which can be properly conducted only by teachers. But many schools should take a wider view of how parents can support at home what the schools seek to do, and assist with the school's daily work. There are some parents who would like to cooperate with the school but who lack confidence to come forward or are held back by other difficulties. A number of schools have developed schemes to reach out to support these parents.

Teaching quality

The teacher's professional task

The tasks that schools are expected to undertake fall in the main to the teachers, and the progress of the pupils is the measure of their success.

Every teacher needs a repertoire of teaching skills to match the range of his work and the characteristics of the pupils. Organising classroom work, the provision of practical activities and the development of oral and written communication all make different demands on the teacher, who has to lead, encourage and motivate pupils in a way which excites their interest and engages intellectual curiosity. As guide and mentor to each individual pupil the teacher must monitor and record pupils' progress and understand individual capacities and difficulties. The professional work of the teacher also involves playing a part in the corporate development of the school.

To fulfil satisfactorily this variety of roles in primary and secondary schools, teachers need:

Like other professionals, teachers are expected to carry out their professional tasks in accordance with their judgement, and without bias. This requires not only appropriate training and experience but also the professional attitude which gives priority to the interests of

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those concerned and is constantly concerned to increase effectiveness.

Particular professional skills and training are necessary for teaching children with special needs. The Government considers that all initial training courses should include an introduction to the subject of special needs, that advice on special needs should be available to every school, and that teachers of classes of children with special needs should be prepared for that work by in-service training.

Teacher numbers

In 1984, local education authorities in England and Wales employed 439,000 school teachers, and the overall pupil to teacher ratio was 17.9:1. In 1974 the corresponding figure was 20.6:1. In the light of its policies for the curriculum the Government considers that although the number of teachers should fall during the next few years there should be some further limited improvement in the pupil to teacher ratio. How far and how fast this can be achieved must depend on future public expenditure plans; and it will be essential to find ways of improving the effectiveness with which the existing teacher force is deployed.

Quality of teaching

There is much excellent teaching in maintained schools but the Government's view, following HMI reports, is that a significant number of teachers are performing below the standard required to achieve the planned objectives of schools.

The Government plans a more rigorous approach to initial teacher training. The Government established during 1984 a new Council to advise the Secretaries of State on the approval of initial teacher training courses, and issued criteria in April 1984 which deal with:

  • the selection of students for training;
  • the academic and professional content of courses;
  • the practical element of training.
All courses should include a substantial element of school experience and teaching practice. Those training the students should have had recent successful experience of school teaching. In no case should qualified teacher status be awarded to a student whose practical classroom work is unsatisfactory.

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In addition to being prepared as a class teacher, each new primary school teacher should be equipped to take a particular responsibility within the school for one aspect of the curriculum - such as science, mathematics or music.

In secondary schools teachers teaching a subject at GCE A Level should desirably have that subject as the whole or part of their studies for an honours degree, or in certain cases as the single subject of an ordinary degree. For other secondary work the teacher's academic background should include his main teaching subject as one of two or three subjects taken at the same level in a BA or BSc degree, or as the main subject in a BEd degree.

A good match between teachers' qualifications and their teaching programmes is one of a number of factors which promote high standards. Work of excellence is rarely found where match is poor. The Government will shortly amend the Education (Teachers) Regulations 1982 to require local education authorities and governors of aided schools to take account of the formal qualifications of teachers when determining whether the staff of a school is suitable for the purpose of providing education appropriate to its pupils. The Government welcomes indications from its 1984 surveys of secondary school staffing of a reduction in mismatch since 1977, and looks to local education authorities and schools to secure further reductions in the years ahead.

Demand for, and supply of, recruits to teaching

Shortages of teachers in certain specialisms - in particular mathematics, physics, and craft, design and technology (CDT) - have persisted for many years. In some cases they have been masked by the use of teachers with inadequate qualifications and experience in these subjects. In other cases schools have offered such subjects to fewer pupils than they would have wished. The Government's view of the place of science and CDT in the 5 to 16 curriculum implies some increase in their share of teaching time in the schools.

The Government will take existing shortages into account in determining target intakes to initial teacher training, but recognises that the institutions concerned have to compete against other professions in seeking to recruit students up to those targets. After some years of good recruitment to postgraduate training in mathematics and physics there are signs that it is now again becoming harder to attract students in those subjects. Because recruitment to training

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for CDT has continued to be difficult, the Government has introduced a scheme of special awards for training in that subject. The Government will give further consideration to this difficult problem.

In-service training

In-service training has an important contribution to make to the career development of teachers. All teachers need from time to time to avail themselves of such training.

Resources devoted to in-service training are not always being used to the best advantage. More systematic planning is needed by schools and local education authorities to match training better to both the career needs of the teachers and the curricular needs of the schools. The Government agrees with the Advisory Committee on the Supply and Education of Teachers that a radical change is needed in the funding and organisation of in-service training.

Legislation is proposed for the introduction of a new specific grant to support local education authority expenditure on most aspects of in-service training.

Management of the teacher force

One crucial local education authority responsibility is to see that the teachers' professional commitment, skills and knowledge are used to best effect in the schools.

Individual teachers need support and encouragement for their professional development at all stages of their career:

  • newly trained teachers need structured support and guidance during probation and their early years in the profession;
  • other newly appointed and promoted teachers, not least those appointed to headships, need to be able to draw upon induction and training programmes directly relevant to their new tasks and responsibilities;
  • all teachers need help in assessing their own professional performance and in building on their strengths and working on the limitations identified;
  • all teachers need to be able to engage in in-service training relevant to their teaching programmes and professional needs.
Regular and formal appraisal of the performance of all teachers is necessary if local education authorities are to have the reliable,

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comprehensive and up to date information necessary to facilitate effective professional support and development and to deploy teaching staff to the best advantage. Legislation is proposed to enable the Secretary of State, in appropriate circumstances, to require local education authorities to appraise the performance of their teachers.

The Government has decided that the professional development and assessment of the suitability of newly appointed headteachers is best pursued as part of a general appraisal system embracing all teachers, rather than through the introduction of a specific probationary period.

Local education authority management

In order to manage the service it provides, each local education authority needs professional advice across the whole range of its responsibilities. The Chief Education Officer and his professional staff, including advisers, are the principal means through which the authority performs its functions. The Government is considering with the local authority associations how the role of local advisers in England might be clarified and their work made more effective. Local education authorities, too, will gain from the assessments in HMI reports. The Secretaries of State intend in 1986 to ask LEAs what action they have taken across their schools in the light of HMI reports since publication began in January 1983.

Minimum size of schools

In the interest of good education, each school should as far as possible be kept large enough to justify sufficient teachers to provide all pupils with a curriculum which is broad, balanced, relevant and differentiated. The Government will propose the following principles to the education service:

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    keep a village school with fewer than three full-time teachers and to augment its resources to give the pupils a good education;
  • 11-16 comprehensive schools a school with five or fewer classes entering each year is unlikely to be able to offer a good curriculum without disproportionately generous staffing;
  • comprehensive schools with sixth forms normally the school needs to be of a size which enables it to maintain a sixth form of at least 150 pupils, to provide an adequate range of A Level and other courses. With fewer pupils than this, effective coordination with other institutions is usually essential for the needs of sixth form pupils.

Education of ethnic minorities

The Government accepts and is concerned at the finding of the Swann Committee that many ethnic minority pupils are continuing to achieve below their potential. The Government's policies are designed to:

Schools should continue to give the highest priority to the teaching of English to ethnic minority pupils from homes where a language other than English is spoken. The Government supports this work financially. All pupils need to understand, and acquire a positive attitude towards, the variety of ethnic groups within British society. These objectives have been embodied in the national criteria for the GCSE examinations and in the new criteria for all initial teacher training courses. Their practical application is the purpose of some urban programme projects, and one of the activities to be supported by education support grants.

The Government will explore with its partners how more teachers can be drawn from the ethnic minorities without any reduction in the level of qualifications required. So as to provide accurate information for formulating and monitoring policy, the Government, despite the practical problems, will continue to try to identify an acceptable scheme to collect and use ethnically based statistics on pupils. It will also explore the possibility of similar statistics on teachers and those

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training to be teachers. The Government intends to commission research into the complex question of the causes of under-achievement wherever It occurs.

The legal framework

The Government believes that the action now needed to raise standards can, in the main, be taken under existing legislation. But changes in the law are needed to reform the composition of school governing bodies and to clarify their functions and those of the local education authority and the headteacher. Following consultations on the Green Paper Parental influence at school, the Government will introduce legislation as soon as the legislative programme permits.

Composition of governing bodies

As a result of the consultations the Government has decided not to proceed with the plan for parents to have a majority on governing bodies of county, controlled and maintained special schools. The composition of governing bodies of these schools will be based on the following main principles:

Functions and responsibilities

With minor modifications, the Government plans to implement its earlier proposals on the distribution of functions between the local education authority, the governing body and the headteacher of county, controlled and maintained special schools in accordance with the following principles:

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  • the local education authority must have the powers necessary to carry out its statutory duties to provide sufficient and efficient schools, notably as the employer of staff, responsible for their appointment, dismissal and management; as the provider of resources, responsible for their effective use; as the owner of most of the premises, responsible for their fitness for purpose; and in relation to the curricular policies which inform its functions;
  • the governing body should be able to determine, with the headteacher, the main policies and lines of development of the school. This generally means strengthening its role and ensuring that it cannot be overridden in the exercise of its assigned functions. It will have a voice in the appointment and dismissal of the school's staff, the aims and objectives of the curriculum, and the principles governing discipline; it will be informed of the cost of maintaining the school and given control over expenditure on certain items. Governors will receive training to help them do their job effectively;
  • the professional responsibilities of the headteacher and staff must be respected. The responsibility of the headteacher for the day to day running of the school, notably the organisation and delivery of the curriculum and the maintenance of discipline, will have a firm legal foundation.
Annual report and parents' meeting

The governing body will be required to issue, free of charge, to the parents of all pupils at the school a brief annual report on the discharge of its functions; and to call an annual meeting of parents to consider the annual report and other matters relating to the life of the school.

Voluntary schools

The Government intends to preserve the dual system of county and voluntary schools which continues to serve the nation well. The distinctive features of voluntary schools will continue, including those relating to the composition of their governing bodies. Governing bodies of aided and special agreement schools will keep their existing functions, subject to minor changes.


The number of pupils in primary and secondary schools is expected to fall from over 7.8 million in 1984 to some 7.1 million in 1991. If current

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levels of expenditure per pupil are broadly maintained, education's share of public expenditure can be expected to decline significantly.

As pupil numbers fall, there will be diseconomies of scale. Nevertheless within the available resources the Government believes that there is also considerable and continuing scope for redeployment through increased efficiency. Substantial progress towards the objectives of the White Paper can be made if the education service secures the best use of what it has now. That effort can only help its future claims on resources. Sustained and purposeful action will be needed:

  • to reduce the number of surplus school places. The Government will set new overall targets of surplus places to be removed for 1987 and later years, after discussion with the local authority associations;
  • to achieve available economies on school meals. The Government is consulting on a proposal that the school meals service should be subject to compulsory competitive tendering;
  • to reduce school caretaking and cleaning costs;
  • to follow up the valuable analysis and recommendations of the Audit Commission for securing better use of resources.
Education support grants, introduced in 1985-86, will help to promote the redeployment of expenditure into activities which particularly advance the Government's objectives.

The independent sector

Independent schools provide, at any one time, for about 6 per cent of the school age population in England and Wales. The Secretaries of State have a general responsibility towards independent schools because these are part of the national system. They also have specific duties to ensure that such schools meet minimum standards. To assist the Secretaries of State independent schools are periodically visited and inspected by HMI.

There has been a long tradition of high standards and innovation at the best independent schools. The independent sector contributes significantly to diversity and choice in our school system. The Government is committed to preserving and fostering the independent sector's enriching contribution. But independent schools vary greatly in quality. Diversity should not be pursued at the expense of standards. Accordingly, each independent school is expected by the Secretaries of State to seek to develop the personal qualities of each pupil and, in appropriate accommodation, to give

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him tuition in a broad and balanced range of subjects. The tuition must be appropriate to the pupil's age, ability and aptitudes and be offered with due regard to objectivity.

Future progress

Multiple objectives and changing expectations make it difficult to measure the performance of the school system. But it is possible to identify certain indicators and to attempt to compare present and future achievement in relation to them. Such monitoring, though incomplete, is essential for assessing policy. To facilitate comparisons over time:

The Government is confident that, within the lifetime of this Parliament:
  • broad agreement will be reached on those national objectives for the 5 to 16 curriculum which relate to the purposes of learning at school, the content of the curriculum as a whole, and the contribution of its main elements;
  • the first GCSE courses will be leading to examinations based on new grade criteria in many subjects;
  • the first AS Level courses will be starting;
  • schemes for records of achievement will be widespread;
  • initial teacher training will conform substantially to the new criteria laid down by the Secretaries of State;
  • a start will be made in improving the composition and entrenching the powers of school governing bodies;
  • the TVEI will be established in the great majority of local education authorities.

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The Government believes that, with good management of the teacher force and other resources by local education authorities and schools, the range of reforms and improvements now envisaged can be firmly established throughout the school system by the end of the decade.