When the bubble burst;Briefing;Goodbye to GM

23rd April 1999 at 01:00
Stratford school, in London's East End, became one of the most notorious GM schools with its sorry saga dubbed Carry on Opting Out at its most farcical.

It was granted GM status in 1991, but its troubles very soon began. Anne Snelling, the head, found herself embroiled in a power struggle with a group of mainly Muslim governors and facing accusations of racism and of assaulting the chair of governors, Ghulam Shaida.

Parent meetings became a battleground. On one occasion, with police guarding the school and tempers fraying, it was a pair of flying false teeth (belonging to an anti-Snelling governor) that broke the tension. The case reached the High Court with Mrs Snelling being represented by her union the National Association of Head Teachers. As relations continued to deteriorate, the Government was forced to appoint its own governors.

Mrs Snelling was given an OBE in 1993. But the controversy did not end. The school was named as failing after an Office for Standards in Education inspection - the first GM school to suffer such a fate. It was found to have poor exam results and a pound;140,000 deficit. It was taken off the failing list in December 1995 and Mrs Snelling left a year later, with a pound;110,000 early-retirement package.

Stratford tarnished the dreams of some of the GM originators. They had envisaged a succession of schools coming on stream as heads and governors were ready. The sector, they hoped, would become an elite. Some had already adopted Latin mottos and were imitating grammar schools. The ugly scenes at Stratford had brought disrepute to their sector.

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