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Unruly pupils face bar

TROUBLESOME pupils may find no place in the Government's new city academies.

Ministers plan to bar the badly-behaved to avoid the problems that have plagued some Fresh Start schools, write Nicolas Barnard and Julie Henry.

The new academies, which build on the Fresh Start andcity technology colleges initiatives, will not be obliged to take every pupil from the failing schools they replace. Some may even start from scratch, opening with a single year of new pupils.

A handful of problem pupils have been blamed in part for the troubles of the Fresh Start Islington arts and media school, whose head resigned this month.

The academies will have to find good alternative places for children they do not take, and will be expected to be part of a "family of schools". "No child should feel squeezed out," schools minister Estelle Morris told MPs this week.

That will mean working with the local authority - albeit at "arm's length", she told the education select committee, which has been investigating the role of the private sector in state education.

The committee is expected to take a sceptical line on the private sector when it issues its report- already on its third draft, but put on hold to rush Ms Morris in to explain this latest unexpected initiative.

MPs will question why the private sector has become the apparent answer to every problem in education, despite the wealth of expertise to be found in schools and local government.

They will also suggest that the sector is still too small to answer every call on its services.

Ms Morris was stout in defence of the Government's appeal to the private sector. She called for a new set of relationships in education and said councils will not be able to frustrate the city academies initiative.

Bureaucratic barriers would be removed, she said, later telling The TES: "We want to work with local authorities, but we also want to get on with it."

The Government is likely to keep a tight rein on the scheme, in which private, church and voluntary-sector partners will be invited to come forward as partners of the Department for Education and Employment to re-open schools. Ministers will produce a list of suitable areas for the first pilots.

This week's Budget included up to pound;60 million for the city academy scheme's first year.

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