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Structures dominate debate

Anxiety over school structures, rather than school standards is dominating local education authorities' consultation meetings on the Government's White Paper.

At a meeting of the Labour-dominated Local Government Association's education committee last week, called to define the agenda for regional meetings, members came close to rejecting the Government's commitment to introduce three new types of school - community, aided and foundation, with the last category replacing the current opted-out schools. The Government plans to introduce the new structure in legislation this autumn.

Several members felt that it was still worth trying to persuade ministers that the three categories should be reduced to two, but the chairman, Graham Lane, argued that this battle has already been lost and to prolong the debate would damage local authorities' credibility and their ability to shape the forthcoming legislation.

He said: "The media would have a field day if we say we only want two types of school - we lost that battle two conferences ago. But the rest (of the White Paper) is up for grabs. We can either lose gloriously, or concentrate on improving the detail and win by other means."

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