In support of the academies programme

8th February 2008 at 00:00
Your account of my conversation with your reporter in the article "'Blown away' by class prejudice" (TES, February 1) demonstrates that it's never too late for an American to learn lessons about life in the UK - in this case not to make any comment, however brief, on the impact of class, unless you expect to see it as the headline.

That aside, I should like to clarify a couple of misunderstandings. To help close the achievement gap, I suggested not that the Department for Children, Schools and Families should "be open to as many ideas as possible", but that it should consider a wide range of governance structures.

More seriously, the article suggests that I believe the Government is compromising its academy programme. I do not, and hope I did not imply it. I do question whether it is useful to require new academies to follow the national curriculum as I don't think it's a necessary or sufficient tool to assist in closing the achievement gap. To question the usefulness of the requirement, however, is not to question the programme, nor the Government's commitment to it.

I remain impressed by its commitment and that of the many educators I have worked with. It is working to overcome the effects of long-term, low expectations, particularly affecting those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and I share the Government's hope that the academies programme will continue to expand.

Finally, to avoid accusations of hubris, I should make clear that I will not personally be opening "an unprecedented number of charter schools" in the United States. Would that I could. While the charter school movement will open an unprecedented number of schools, my ambition is to contribute four to six schools over the next five years.

Jay Altman, ARK Schools, London.

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