Blair destroys a Labour ideal

14th October 2005 at 01:00
Michael Ion makes a case for academics by ignoring the facts ("Should academies be given a chance?", TES, September 30).

No one objects to money being spent on schools in deprived areas but why on earth do they have to be independent schools, unaccountable to their community, cut off from other local schools? Why should these schools be handed over to entrepreneurs with little or no experience of running schools and sometimes quirky ideas for a mere pound;2 million or less? Why do they have to be freed from the requirements of the national curriculum and removed from national pay and conditions?

He maintains they are non-selective but they are allowed to select 10 per cent of intake by "aptitude", a term which no one has been able to distinguish from "ability". As they appear to be exempt from Freedom of Information laws, it is hard to find out how they manage their intake - but we know at least one that actively recruits only in affluent areas.

Sadly, academies are part of the battery our Labour Government is using to destroy the comprehensive system, still part of the proud heritage of the Labour parties of Wales and Scotland, who would not touch academies with a bargepole.

The programme is also being used to vastly increase the number of faith schools at a time when we should not be creating further divides over religion.

Mr Ion makes his case by quoting GCSE results. He must know that the Unity academy in Middlesbrough has recently been failed by Ofsted and last year only 17 per cent of its pupils achieved five A*-Cs. My old school, now the Capital academy, this year achieved the worst GCSE results in Brent.

With their brash new buildings academies may be popular with parents in the short term but Tony Blair is blindly rushing to erect 200 of them before he leaves the scene. Michael Ion should know better than to encourage him in his gadarene rush.

Malcolm Horne. 43 Orchard Grove Chalfont St Peter, Bucks

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