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Blunkett stalls on opt-outs

David Blunkett, Labour's education spokesman, this week sought to reassure heads of grant-maintained schools without giving any detail of the policy that will guide a future Labour government.

In a speech designed not to alarm either GM schools or those in the party keen to see them returned to local authority control, Mr Blunkett insisted that Labour intends to enhance parental preference and ensure that there is a fair admissions policy across all schools.

Local authorities, he told a meeting in London, will have a key role to play but Labour was not going back to the pre-1989 era when local authorities could have been said to "control" schools.

"There has been much exaggeration about the extent of town and county-hall bureaucracy in the past, but I know from talking to many of you that there also has been some truth in it," he said. Mr Blunkett stressed the changes that have taken place, particularly local management, which have increased schools' independence.

Labour, he insisted, wanted a flexible partnership with schools that allowed them to choose those services they can provide themselves and those which would be better offered by a LEA.

The guiding principles of the policy being drafted are, he said, equitable funding of schools, greater accountability, and support for those schools with agreed programmes for improvement.

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