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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 March, 2005, 14:51 GMT
Kelly defends academies programme
By Sean Coughlan
BBC News education reporter, at the ATL conference

Ruth Kelly
Ruth Kelly said inner-city children's needs were immediate
Education Secretary Ruth Kelly has rejected calls for a halt to the increase in city academies.

They were breaking a "cycle of decline" in deprived areas, she told the Association of Teachers and Lecturers' annual conference in Torquay.

Children in inner-city failing schools "cannot afford to wait", she said.

In a speech that was well received by delegates, she also warned heads to comply with giving teachers time to prepare for lessons.

Warm response

After a frosty reception at the recent Secondary Heads Association conference, attention had been paid to how Ms Kelly would be received by ATL delegates.

But a speech in which she praised the teaching profession generated a generally warm response from the delegates.

However, the education secretary gave no ground on plans to create 200 city academies.

These are non-fee paying, independent schools within the state sector, designed to raise standards in areas of educational underachievement.

The ATL called on the government to halt this expansion plan, accusing the project of being a Trojan horse for privatisation.

Ms Kelly said that since the first academies had opened, in 2002, the average proportion of pupils getting five good GCSEs had risen from 16% to 30%.

They were being introduced "in areas where there has been a cycle of decline, sometimes over generations, and where nothing else has worked".

She added: "We know that many of the schools in these deprived areas are seeing terrible results, and are also in completely dilapidated buildings.

"They need something entirely different to get parents to want to send their children there, to get children engaged with learning and to get teachers motivated.

"I don't think we can afford to wait. Children in these areas need something to happen. And they need it to happen as quickly as we can make it happen."

The education secretary also said head teachers could not refuse to implement the workload agreement, which will give teachers a guaranteed amount of lesson preparation time.

The National Association of Head Teachers has warned there is insufficient funding to introduce the deal in the autumn.

But the education secretary dismissed this as a "smokescreen".

After her speech, she said that if teachers were denied this contractual right by heads, "in the first instance this would be for local authorities".

But if there was no resolution, "the member of staff would go to an industrial tribunal, that would be the normal route. We take this very seriously, because there is a legal duty to comply".

Call to halt city academies plan
22 Mar 05 |  Education
Teachers may strike over workload
22 Mar 05 |  Education
Why the fuss over city academies?
17 Mar 05 |  Education

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