Parents are the final arbiters

20th October 1995 at 01:00
(Photograph) - John Dunford misses the point of the Prime Minister's speech to the Grant-Maintained Schools Foundation, which is to extend the choice and diversity available to pupils and parents ("A recipe for chaos", TES, September 22).

That the market does work in maintained education is shown by the consistent over-subscription of the most effective schools, both GM and local authority-controlled. The "non-market" system spread pupils around, regardless of their parents' wishes. Of course, until there are as many places in popular schools as parents want, they will need - whatever their status - to "choose their pupils". But the choices of parents show which schools need to expand and which to improve.

Many of the most popular schools have taken advantage of the freedoms of GM status to improve their effectiveness still further, and that is why parents are choosing them for their children. It is, of course, an opportunity open to all schools.

Also in your edition of September 22, you report that in the 1970s, Sheffield was the first local education authority to create governing bodies. On page 27, Graham Lane writes that LEAs have never controlled schools. Who did then?

Mr Lane says LEA schools are accountable to the governing body and the LEA, but "opting out removes that accountability". GM schools are more accountable to their governing bodies, because the governing bodies cannot pass the buck or blame the LEA. And governing bodies are accountable to their parents - for without the parents choosing a school, it will fail.

ANDREW TURNER Director, the Grant-Maintained Schools Foundation 36 Great Smith Street London SW1P

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