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Are academies worth expense?

Not so long ago the received political wisdom was that governments should "never throw money at a problem". Nowadays, the mood is for greater investment, especially in education.

One welcome consequence is the current Prime Minister's commitment to rebuild crumbling state schools, backed by private finance and millionaire sponsors. Yet as Mr Blair's commissioner for London schools cautions (page 11), much of this new money may be being wasted on poorly-designed buildings shaped more by architectural "vision" than the practical needs of pupils. There is nothing more "visionary" than Mr Blair's plan to tackle inner-city failure by building 200 brand-new academies, at a cost of pound;5 billion. But better planning is needed if Mr Blair is to be remembered as the master builder of better schools and if he is to convince the doubters that academies are worth the money.

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