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High price of parental preference

Michael Gove, the shadow schools secretary, provides a striking example of how to waste money in your interview ("Mr Charm gets ready to become the Conservatives' Mr Frugal", May 1). The 220,000 or so new school places, costing some Pounds 4.5 billion, are intended to meet the wishes of parents whose children are not accepted by their first preference school.

Are these places to be conjured up in the few weeks after parents hear the bad news? Or have these places already been built by someone able to foresee the future pattern of parental preferences? And are they to be kept unfilled each year until the outcome of the admissions process is known?

Mr Gove's idea that academies, which are directly accountable to the Secretary of State who funds them, should have control over their budgets, curriculum and school hours has merit. It precisely reflects the position of voluntary aided schools under the 1944 Education Act, at least until the Conservative Party nationalised the curriculum in 1988.

Sir Peter Newsam, Former chief schools adjudicator, director of the Institute of Education, and chief education officer for ILEA, Pickering, North Yorkshire.

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