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Standards take second place to structures

The supporters of academies remind me of the people who claimed grant-maintained schools were more successful than local authority ones.

In fact, some were but others were doing very badly. In 1997, there were a disproportionate number of GM schools in the worst-performing 100 schools, according to a survey by The Sun newspaper.

Academy status does not in itself do anything to raise standards. All schools now appoint their own staff, have control over their finances, senior staff and running of the school. Academies, however, also have autonomy over admissions (except they cannot select on academic grounds), do not have to teach the national curriculum, and the sponsor appoints most governors.

New buildings are an advantage but a rebuild of all secondary schools will transform facilities over the next few years.

Raising educational standards has to occur in all schools, not some. Key to that is attracting and retaining effective staff, adequate funding, good facilities, working in partnership with other local schools in the area, and having fair admissions policies. Local government's role is to give support, especially when the school has problems and help to co-ordinate an effective community of schools in its area. Local government does not run or manage schools.

Some academies are working with local government on these issues, but not all. This experiment confuses freedoms for schools with school autonomy.

The first is essential; the second is dangerous if we want to raise standards in all schools.

As Education Secretary, Estelle Morris saw the importance of concentrating on standards and relying less on structures. Since her resignation, the Government has reversed these priorities and risks neglecting the drive to raise standards in all schools.

It is also ironic that a government that gave so much support to the idea of parent-governors has reduced their numbers so dramatically in academies and handed over the appointment of most governors to the sponsor.

Graham Lane

Newham Town Hall

High Street, London E6

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