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Secondaries fail to please

London's parents still unhappy with schools, despite an initiative to improve them. Jon Slater reports

Less than half of London parents are satisfied with the secondary schools in their borough despite a Government drive to improve education in the capital.

A telephone poll of more than 3,000 parents and carers of pupils aged 10 to 16 for the Department for Education and Skills reveals their confidence in London's secondaries has fallen during the past year.

It shows a drop not only in satisfaction with their child's own school but with secondaries across London.

Nearly two years ago, the Government launched its London Challenge, described by ministers as the most radical reform of the capital's schools since the Second World War.

The strategy will see 60 academies open in the capital by the start of the next decade, and the introduction of a new London chartered teachers status, worth pound;1,000 a year, to attract and retain high-quality staff.

It also promised an "unremitting focus" on raising standards in five London boroughs - Islington, Hackney, Lambeth, Southwark and Haringey. The survey, which was carried out in summer 2004 by BMG research, showed only 47 per cent of parents and carers were satisfied with secondaries in their borough, down from 55 per cent in 2003.

Just 43 per cent were happy with secondaries in the capital as a whole, compared to 47 per cent a year earlier.

But there is better news for the Government when it comes to parents' views of progress made by their children's schools.

The overwhelming majority (88 per cent) of parents are happy with their child's school, although this represents a drop of 3 percentage points.

Close to half (44 per cent) said their child's schooling had improved in the past 12 months, up from 39 per cent.

Parents in the five "key" boroughs were more likely to notice improvements than those living elsewhere in the capital. Last year, Lewisham and Islington topped the GCSE league table of fastest-improving local authorities.

The report said: "Most parents and carers were satisfied with their own child's schooling but a smaller proportion had a positive view of other secondary schools.

"A robust communications strategy may be required to assure parents and carers that the quality they recognise in their own child's school is more widely prevalent in London than is currently acknowledged."

Parents were more likely to be satisfied if they felt they were involved in their child's school life.

John Bangs, head of education for the National Union of Teachers, said Labour had become a victim of its own rhetoric that schools in London need to be replaced by academies. "The story, from 10 Downing Street downwards, that you cannot trust your local school has percolated down to parents.

Their views reflect spin rather than reality," he said.



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