The Telegraph reports a study by researchers at Lancaster University that claims to show that the £3 billion spent on education reforms such as specialist schools has been wasted.
"By comparing results between schools, the researchers found the Excellence in Cities and specialist schools programmes boosted grades over the period by just two percentage points each."
It seems quite likely that the timid reforms of recent years, which haven't really got politicians out of the management of public services, are failing to deliver. However, examining this indirectly by comparing schools that have, and have not, been part of the Specialist Schools and Excellence in Cities programmes could be misleading.
One of the most interesting results of a study on Swedish school choice commissioned by Reform in 2005 is that not only the new, independent schools showed improved performance. Faced with tougher competition and true parental choice the existing schools did better as well. The same thing could be happening here.
Minor, tinkering reforms to services like education can often be expensive stunts. That certainly appears to be the case with the government's literacy strategy. However, that is not necessarily proven in the case of the Specialist Schools and the Excellence in Cities programmes by this Lancaster University study.