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What the unions say

Despite doubts about its presentation, Britain's biggest teaching union, the National Union of Teachers gave its support to the initiative, saying it will reinforce the comprehensive principle. "It is a pity the launch was skewed by the spin put on it in Downing Street," said Doug McAvoy, NUT general secretary.

Nigel de Gruchy of the National Association of School Masters Union of Women Teachers said that he did not believe middle-class parents would risk returning to inner-city schools in return for a few extra classes. "The dominant problem in the inner-city schools is the serious under-achievement of the less able children," he said.

The National Association of Head Teachers said the Government's announcement fell short of the coherent strategy needed if all inner-city secondary schools were to be supported equally.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers noted the Prime Minister's failure to recognise the efforts teachers made to hold "subject surgeries" for pupils outside school hours. But it said any scheme which promised substantial practical support for inner-city pupils in greatest need - not just the most able - should not be dismissed.

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