Education Secretary David Blunkett has revealed more detail in the plans to reform secondary education should Labour secure a second term. Key features of the plans are the development of specialist schools and the expansion of vocational education. In both areas it will be crucial to develop effective delivery mechanisms whilst maintaining a sensible balance both between accountability and workload for teachers and between central prescription and local freedoms. He acknowledged that all the plans depend on recruiting good teachers.The number of specialist schools has trebled since 1997 and will increase during the next parliament. No limit will be placed on the number of specialist schools and it is expected that by 2006 nearly half of all secondary schools will be able to specialize. Traditional specialist subjects such as Arts and Sport will be supplemented by new specialisms which will include engineering, science, and business and enterprise. Advanced Specialist Schools will also be introduced.
In response to demands from employers and in recognition that all children are not academically inclined, there will be a radical expansion of vocational education. It is expected that about three or four times the current number of 50,000 will be able to take up vocational courses. GCSEs in a broad range of subjects will be introduced in September 2002 for 14 – 16 year olds and increased time made available for vocational study within the statutory curriculum. There will be additional funding for up to 40,000 vocational placements per year in further education for the 16 plus age group. Schools, colleges and employers will work together to find ways to improve partnership working and develop the new Foundation Apprenticeships.