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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 August 2005, 10:01 GMT 11:01 UK
Chief inspector backs academies
David Bell
David Bell says parents may be offered "a genuine choice"
England's chief schools inspector has given firm backing to the government's controversial city academies.

In an article for the BBC News website, David Bell says not all in the garden is rosy - but a "broadly positive" picture is emerging.

So he welcomes a scheme that might end "generations of inner-city failure".

His intervention coincides with the publication of an Ofsted report on the West London Academy in Northolt, which raises "serious concerns".

Teachers' unions have opposed academies, and a Commons committee called for a halt to their expansion until their educational value had been assessed.

The government is committed to having 200 of the independent state schools by 2010.

Criticisms

In his article, Mr Bell says no-one who has read all 13 monitoring reports on academies produced so far could pretend that everything in the garden is rosy, and much remains to be done.

Whatever its flaws, this is an initiative that is designed to transform the life chances of young people

But he says it is important to stick to the facts: five academies are making good progress and most are making at least satisfactory progress.

"In some cases, what has been achieved in a short time is nothing less than remarkable."

Crucially, there was now hope in areas where previously there was "none or little worth talking about".

He says: "I am well aware of the hostility towards city academies expressed by sections of the educational establishment."

But he concludes: "I welcome a programme that may help consign generations of inner-city failure finally, and properly, to our educational past."

Visits

An Ofsted spokeswoman said it had a duty to carry out a full inspection of any new school within three years of its opening.

This visit has raised serious concerns about the standard of education provided by the academy and I am recommending an early return visit
Boyd Gunnell
Ofsted inspector

In the interim it has been doing shorter "monitoring" visits on new academies such as West London.

But the National Union of Teachers is suspicious. A spokeswoman said the requirement used to be an inspection within two years - why had this been changed?

"It's interesting that in the case of academies Mr Bell regards 'satisfactory' as satisfactory - in all other schools it's not good enough," she said.

"They have had millions of taxpayers' money pumped into them but they are not providing the standard of education that's required.

"In theory they replace failing schools but few are doing better and in some cases not as well."

The Commons education select committee said earlier this year that the investment in academies was welcome but the government should ensure they were thoroughly evaluated before embarking on a major expansion of "an untested model".




SEE ALSO:
Public 'misled' on city academies
30 Jun 05 |  Education
Parents 'backing' city academies
15 Jun 05 |  Education
City academy failing says Ofsted
27 May 05 |  Education
MPs call for a halt to academies
17 Mar 05 |  Education


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