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Bad managing

Your editorial ("Bad timing", TES, August 4) and Michael Barber's rush to judgment on Hackney Council's "petty politics" exemplifies exactly what is wrong with the intervention of central government and other alleged experts in the local and democratically accountable management of schools.

The Office for Standards in Education report on Hackney Downs School of May, 1994, showed a dismal history of a revolving door of headteachers and staff; over two-thirds of staff on acting or temporary contracts; and a school development plan of eight pages, containing neither adequate targets, resourcing proposals nor dates for achievement.

Since the appointment of the present acting head - one of our members - the school has rapidly improved, as you acknowledge. We wrote to Gillian Shephard, before her decision, to ask her to hold her hand and to monitor the situation, so as to allow the school to continue to improve, as the HMI, in March, 1995, had suggested it would.

The council members were persuaded by this evidence of improvement - and noted that the drop in roll, from 470 in September, 1993, to just over 200 in September, 1995, was the direct result of the decision of the former leadership in Hackney to prevent students from enrolling for the last two years - and not from parents removing their children from the school. Parents' enthusiastic support for the campaign to keep the school open - and that of the local community - shows their faith and their experience. Further, 30 per cent of Hackney children leave the borough, aged 11 - despite comparatively favourable GCSE results here - and our two mixed county schools have a gender imbalance of two boys to one girl.

The newly-elected council leadership listened to the parents and to the community; looked closely at the school's improving record; and changed their mind about closure, in the interests of all. As you say, "galvanising disaffected parents is a harder task". We suggest that this had already been achieved - now the task is to sustain this, once their elected voices have been removed by the imposition of an unelected educational association.

MARK LUSHINGTON

Hackney Teachers Association 219 Mare Street London E8

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