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Jerome Ungoed-Thomas

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Education, Education, Education: Reforming England's Schools
Education, Education, Education: Reforming England's Schools
Price: £7.47

5.0 out of 5 stars If you believe in change.., 12 May 2013
More than half of England's 3300 secondary state schools are now academies or in the pipeline to become academies. A third way in English secondary education has been created, which aims to blend the best standards of the private sector with the inclusive egalitarianism of the state sector. What is being described in `Education, education, education' is a change of historical significance. It is written by the chief revolutionary, Lord Andrew Adonis, in a taut, pacy, engaging style.

His book is the story of his work as arguably the most effective politician of his generation. Although and perhaps because he has never been an MP, his ability to infect politicians across the political spectrum with his optimistic vision is unparalleled. Having been first an academic, then education correspondent for the Financial Times, he joined the Labour party in 1995, only two years before the party came to power in 1997 when he was appointed an advisor to Blair in the No 10 Policy Unit.

It was a revolution in education that nearly didn't happen - when Labour came to power in 1997 one of its first moves was to abolish the option of grant-maintained status for state secondary schools, a Thatcherite precursor of the academy approach. After 2001, when the drive for academies really took off, Gordon Brown as Chancellor was prepared to fund a massive boost in educational spending and Tony Blair had a powerful desire to improve state secondary performance, but not through the conduit of ineffective local education authorities. Having analysed the problems facing English education Adonis believed academies were the single most important component of the solution to the problem of state secondary school underperformance.

Adonis describes successful politicians as having a satnav: an ultimate idea of the destination they want to get to and an ability to be able to work out a different route when circumstances change. Nobody is a better embodiment of that than Adonis himself. He developed a repertoire of pragmatic tactics and stratagems both for keeping Academy projects on track in spite in the numerous challenges they faced, and for developing initiatives to improve educational performance such as Teach First, a project to bring higher achieving graduates into teaching.

Undoubtedly Adonis benefited from near limitless public coffers - his prescription for continued increased educational spending sounds less compelling when the coffers are empty. But his ability to analyse the biggest of national problems and craft effective imaginative solutions, as well as his relative youth, means that he is likely to remain a powerful figure in British politics for years to come - and he is potentially poised to repeat that success in the arena of national transport. `Education, Education, Education' is a compellingly written picture of New Labour at its best: principled, flexible, committed, smart and with deep pockets to implement the vision - we'll have to wait a few years to see whether Adonis and Labour can replicate that success in more frugal times.

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