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Vision of the future in college takeover

Unions fear growth of "sink schools" as college prepares to absorb an ailing high school, reports Warwick Mansell

A GLIMPSE of Labour's plans for secondary education is emerging in Nottingham, where a city technology college is poised to take over an undersubscribed comprehensive.

In the first move of its kind in the country, Djanogly CTC is set to absorb its near-neighbour, Forest school, next year.

Under the plans put forward by Nottingham council and Djanogly, the selective CTC will next year be given the lease of Forest school, while the comprehensive will close.

Djanogly will then operate on two sites, with key stage 3 pupils educated at the old Forest campus, and older students housed at the current college.

New government funding is likely if the school's organisation committee approves the scheme The CTC is negotiating with the Department for Education and Skills over a pound;5 million investment in refurbishing Forest school.

And the college, opened by Margaret Thatcher in 1990, and set up with the help of a pound;2.2 million gift from local textiles magnate Sir Harry Djanogly, is also hoping to tie up a sponsorship deal with electronics firm Toshiba.

The council and CTC claim the scheme makes sense as Forest, which has a capacity of 720 pupils, is undersubscibed by 300, while Djanogly could take twice the 170 Year 7 pupils it admits every year.

The plans are part of a reorganisation in the city which aims to cut 3,000 surplus secondary places. They are to be accompanied by major changes at several other schools.

One comprehensive, Wilford Meadows school, is to close, and reopen as a Church of England secondary. Another three schools are seeking specialist status.

By the end of the reorganisation, the city's 20 secondaries will include six specialists, three religious secondaries, a beacon comprehensive and a city technology college.

It appears to be a perfect example of the Goverment's drive - to be underlined in next week's White Paper - to bring diversity into the system, against the background of a city whose schools are at the bottom of national league tables.

Unsurprisingly, it is also highly controversial. John Illingworth, president of the National Union of Teachers, said: "The situation in the city just exemplifies what Labour is talking about with its plans for secondary education. "You are talking about two tiers here, with a number of well-funded schools which are popular with parents, while the remainder effectively become sink schools."

But Heather Tomlinson, Nottingham's director of education, said that parents had backed the expansion of successful schools in a recent survey.

She added: "We have to find solutions to the very complex legacy we have here. We are at the bottom of national league tables, though we have some very successful schools.

"Parents want us to expand our successful schools, and we need to offer more diversity. Maybe in the past we could have accepted things as they were. But the world has changed. Pupils' achievements are now much higher up the agenda, and we cannot afford to forget that."

A workload review by consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers is not enough to satisfy teachers' demands for Scottish-style reforms, unions have told the Government.

A joint paper submitted by England and Wales' five classroom unions says the PWC review must be followed by an "independent inquiry" similar to McCrone in Scotland.

The PWC review was set up following threats of industrial action and demands for a 35-hour week. The renewed call suggests unions have upped the ante.

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