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Pupils 'held back by state schools'

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A leading education expert who is part of a government review into the national curriculum has claimed that poorer pupils are being prevented from going to university, not because of admissions policies but due to a shortage of good state schools.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, who has produced outstanding results at an east London comprehensive, told a conference of head teachers in Brighton that students wanted the chance to compete “on a level playing field” with those from the independent sector.

Sir Michael, head of Mossbourne Community Academy in Hackney, right, said: “The big issue is we haven’t got enough good state schools.

“This government bangs on about encouraging universities to take youngsters from poor backgrounds. If you talk to the 10 youngsters who won places at Oxbridge from Mossbourne, they do not want to be patronised.

“They want to get their A* and A grades. They want to enter Oxbridge on a level playing field with youngsters from the independent sector.

“What they want is good teachers in their schools, good leadership and a culture which promotes success.”

Sir Michael, who was knighted in 2000 for services to education, had earlier told school bosses they needed to be “maverick” and take control.

He said: “I think it’s important for head teachers, certainly in the state sector, to say ‘I don’t care whether this is government initiative and innovation and legislation. It ain’t going to work because it doesn’t impact on what goes on in the classroom’.”

He went on to criticise education policies such as Every Child Matters and Personalised Learning for being ineffective.

“Not many of them impacted upon teaching and learning.

“One of them, Every Child Matters, we were subject to inspection on.

“That meant we had to pore through every document in the school to see how economic awareness and social understanding impacted in a cross-curricular way across the school.

“It took hours which meant that myself and my senior team couldn’t get into the classroom to do things more important.”

He added: “What the hell is Personalised Learning if it’s not about what we’ve been doing for the past thousand years.”

Sir Michael is part of education secretary Michael Gove’s review into how the curriculum can be slimmed down, to contain only the “essential knowledge” children should acquire, and leave teachers to decide how to teach it.

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