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Paper tiger

The Prime Minister's attempts to bring everyone on board seems to have had more success with John McIntosh, the head of the London Oratory, the Catholic boys' schools in Hammersmith attended by Mr Blair's sons.

In the past, Mr McIntosh could always be relied on to predict dire consequences when politicians dare to consider the abolition of grant-maintained status for schools. In some circles, he is even credited with inventing the idea at a Number Ten seminar during the Thatcher era, and his own school was one of the first to opt out of local authority control.

These days, he says, any ear-bashing of the Prime Minister that he manages at parents' evening is about the amount of paperwork that lands on his desk as a result of Mr Blair's Government initiatives on education. The avalanche of documents makes his heart sink more than the thought of the imminent arrival of two governors appointed by Labour-controlled Hammersmith and Fulham.

The problem, he says, is that it takes valuable time away from the real task of educating children.

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