Selected to succeed at city comprehensive

"The results speak for themselves. People want to send their children here because it's so successful," says Bary Malik, whose two children attend Dixons City Technology College.

The recent performance tables showed 67 per cent of pupils at the Bradford CTC got five or more top grade GCSEs, far more than other state-funded schools in the city. Its truancy rate was .3 per cent.

Mr Malik, a local businessman and religious leader, believes he speaks for many of Bradford's upwardly-mobile Asian community who feel let down by the traditional local authority-run schools. He wants the best for his children, and he believes the city technology college has delivered.

"People were more interested in their children's education than local politics," he says, recalling the bitter opposition of the Labour-run council to the CTC when it opened in 1990. "If there was something like the CTC on offer they would take it."

Janet Knowles, who works at the CTC and has a daughter there, says: "People thought the CTC was taking money away from other schools. But the feeling's not as strong now. We've had three years of results and it has proved its worth. Truancy rates are negligible because children enjoy coming here."

Dixons CTC, started with donations from the High Street electrical chain and a Hong Kong businessman, now has more than 1,000 pupils aged 11-18, selected by tests to ensure a range of abilities.

The CTC was accused by local councillors, education officials and teachers' unions of draining other schools of much-needed resources, being elitist and disrupting the authority's school system. But a recent visit to the CTC by Bradford council's Labour education committee chair John Ryan suggests attitudes may be changing.

Mr Ryan calls the visit a reconnaissance tour to see what resources the CTC has to offer should it come under local authority control if Labour wins the election.

But Mr Lewis believes it reflects Labour's change of heart. "There has been a significant softening of attitudes in the past six months," he says. "People are more prepared to come and talk to us now.

"People realised that we are not what they thought we were going to be. They thought we were going to cream off the best pupils, but we are probably the most comprehensive school in the city."

Resources at the college, especially for information technology, are clearly far superior to those at most schools. But pupils seem convinced that the quality of education on offer is also superior. "My cousin came here and he said it was the best school you could ever go to," says Neelam Sahota, 16. "They push you to your limit and there's every kind of activity on offer. "

Parents say the college's success is due to strong discipline, civilised relationships between staff and students and impressive examination results. "There's a strong work ethos," says Mrs Knowles. "They come here expecting to work hard. The staff treat them as adults and we don't seem to have any serious discipline problems."

Mr Lewis is confident the college can survive a change of government. "We're doing all the things the Labour party has said they want in an inner-city area," he says.

"We provide quality education for inner-city children and we're helping to raise educational standards and opportunities.

"I can't see any government wanting to come in and destroy something which works exceptionally well."

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