Poor comparison

27th July 2007 at 01:00
Philip O'Hear, principal of Capital City academy, says academies' independence was a key reason for the school's improvement in the proportion of five A*-C grades at GCSE compared with its predecessor, Willesden High (TES, July 20). The claim appears to be typical of the spin about the academies programme. How can independence be singled out when the two schools compared are so different?

Mr O'Hear knows his academy is well resourced in a new building and oversubscribed. In the decade prior to closure in 2003, Willesden High was considerably under-subscribed and under-resourced. In practice, this meant insufficient resources and building maintenance, leading to closures due to flood, asbestos, fire and broken boilers. On average, students were in the bottom 2 per cent of the population for attainment on arrival and many GCSE students arrived during Years 10 and 11 and often with no funding as they arrived after the pupil-led funding allocation.

Presumably, Mr O'Hear does not know that in 2002, prior to closure, Ofsted said: "The school operates well in particularly challenging circumstances. Due to the complex nature of the school's intake, it is inappropriate to compare standards of attainment with national figures."

A more valid test of the effect of "independence" could be made if an academy had the same buildings, funding, resources and pupil selection and exclusion procedures as its predecessor school. Students and taxpayers who are funding academies deserve a rigorous, independent investigation of these unfounded claims.

Dr Gill Reed

Former teacher-governor, Willesden High school,

Brent, London

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