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The right direction, says opted out head

The Labour party's new policy document seeks the middle ground on admissions, funding and opt-outs. The abundance of grant-maintained schools in the Lincoln area and Labour's traditional stance on the sector represents something of an irony to headteacher Bruce Douglas, writes Dorothy Lepkowska.

When his school, Branston Community College, opted out in 1993 it was to protect pupils' rights to a truly comprehensive education system. The then Conservative-controlled Lincolnshire County Council had plans to widen selection and open a City Technology College - a plan abandoned in the face of opposition from parents.

Mr Douglas, who is the legal secretary and an executive member of the Secondary Heads Association, has misgivings as well as support for the GM sector. He believes some of Labour's proposals for the future of opted-out schools are heading in the right direction. "Labour seems to have grasped the important fact that schools should run schools," he said. "Even if GM status was abolished and schools returned to an umbrella authority, that would be fine as long as we continued to have self-government," he said. He believes the proposed increase in delegation to 90 per cent would diminish the distance between opted-out and council-maintained schools, but he would prefer a system where the two were indistinguishable.

Mr Douglas believes one of the failings of local management is that money is not delegated for staff development and he wants to see restrictions lifted on local education authorities wishing to sell services to schools.

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