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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 July, 2004, 14:54 GMT 15:54 UK
Mixed reaction to Clarke's plan
classroom
Schools must work together, say heads
Opposition politicians have attacked the government's plans for schools - but heads and teachers are more positive.

Shadow education secretary Tim Collins accused the government of stealing Tory ideas of giving schools more freedom and parents more choice.

Teachers and head teachers welcomed the growth in specialist schools.

But they are less happy with plans for more city academies, where the private sector is involved with schools.

Teachers and heads were pleased to see confirmation that schools will be given three-year budgets from 2006, allowing them greater certainty about funding.

They support the idea of extending the specialist schools scheme to all schools, because it puts all schools on an equal footing. Extra money comes with specialist status.

More autonomy

David Hart, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the five-year plan made a lot of sense.

"We back greater independence for schools. Guaranteed three-year funding is precisely what heads need if they are going to deliver higher standards," he said.

"More autonomy, less red tape and a crackdown on both bad pupil and bad parent behaviour is exactly what heads need."

This is a mixture of tried and tested schemes and a leap in the dark which could be at the children's expense.
Steve Sinnott, NUT
But he warned that there should be safeguards to prevent further decline in schools which perform badly.

NUT general secretary Steve Sinnott said: "This five-year plan is a mixture of tried and tested schemes and a leap in the dark which could be at the children's expense.

"Parents will be faced with a confused and confusing array of schools rather than choice and diversity."

Tim Collins said there was much his party could welcome since making it easier for good schools to expand and putting choice at the heart of the drive to raise standards were all existing Conservative policies.

"Much of today's announcement is a tribute to the power of the photocopier - the product not so much of Blair or Clarke, but of Xerox," he said.

"They will seek a mandate for a third term seeking to do the complete opposite of what they did in their first term.

"It's not much of an election slogan: vote Labour to reverse everything that the dreadful Labour government has been doing."

Working together

The Liberal Democrats' education spokesman Phill Willis told MPs the measures announced were indeed Conservative.

"This is Tory policy being delivered by a Labour government," he told MPs.

Secondary head teachers said academies should be encouraged to collaborate with neighbouring schools.

The general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, John Dunford said: "The success of the academies programme must be judged not only on their own results, but by their effect on the performance of all the local schools.

"The government must ensure that the academies' independence does not work against the interests of other local schools."


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