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Failing Stratford gets more help

The troubled Stratford grant-maintained school in east London has seven months in which to show substantial improvement in standards or face closure. The appointment by Education Secretary Gillian Shephard of four new governors to the school may signal that she is now prepared to use the sanctions available to deal with failing schools that do not improve.

The legislation does not allow ministers to send in an education association to grant-maintained schools, but Stratford's governing body will now contain three experienced heads or former heads and a former senior school inspector.

Daphne Gould, former head of Mulberry school in Tower Hamlets, was appointed to the governing body in September 1994 by Mrs Shephard. She is to be joined by Pat Collarbone, head of Haggerston school in Hackney; Dr Peter Osborne, former head of Shenfield school in Essex; Joan Greenfield, former chief inspector in Hillingdon and Paul Lewis, deputy chairman and finance director of Tate and Lyle. The move leaves the future of Anne Snelling, Stratford's head, in doubt. Mrs Snelling was made an OBE two years after she fought off attempts to oust her by Asian governors.

Stratford is the only grant-maintained secondary school to have been identified as failing, though there are two grant-maintained primaries that are failing.

It has been surrounded by controversy since 1991 when parents voted narrowly to opt out to escape Newham council's closure plans. The Office for Standards in Education found it to be a failing school in November 1993. Ministers have made it clear that schools have two years to show substantial improvement or face closure. In the case of grant-maintained schools, ministers can only appoint additional governors or close the school. Educational associations can be sent into local authority schools and the school taken out of the control of the local authority.

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