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Derek McMillan

Government 5 year plan

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Two comments on the government's five year plan:

The first is unofficial.

"Just what we just need: more tinkering, more upheaval more *initiatives*. TYhey should turn the whole education system upside down every two years. We have not had enough." (That doesn't sound too bad now I've deleted the expletives):)

The second is from the NUT and in rather more measured tones:

NUT comment on the government's five year plan

"Headteachers are neither buildings project managers nor financial whiz kids."

"The NUT welcomes the Prime Minister's assertion that there will be no selection, but he needs to make sure that he is going the right way to achieve it.

"We face a divisive and confusing array of academies, foundation schools, specialist schools, faith schools and community schools. What parents need and teachers want to provide is an education that fits the needs of their children for the future. Instead they are being offered confusion.

"Only some parents have the luxury of being able to transport their children across a city or a rural county. Only some parents can fight their way through an admissions system that allows individual schools to set their own criteria. That is not choice: that is a test of parents' ability to fight their way through a morass of admissions schemes and is a recipe for selection by schools.

"Choice will only work when every school is funded to meet the needs of its pupils. It is not possible against a background of differential funding and preferential treatment for some schools over others.

"The Prime Minister's 'freedom' will deprive schools of the support and advice available from local authorities and which they value. That same 'freedom' was a Conservative Government policy that backfired. Few schools wanted it and those who opted out of local authorities soon found they needed those services reproduced creating waste and duplication. The Government should not be looking back to failed policies.

"Its proposal that schools should have three-year budgets is welcome. It will allow them to plan ahead and develop provision against known financial stability.

"So-called good schools being given freedom to raise money will not build extra classrooms one minute faster. But it will place a huge responsibility on heads for finance and oversight of the project without support from their local authority. Headteachers are neither buildings project managers nor financial whiz kids.

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Education goes to the heart of all we stand for as a party, and everything we are doing - and need still to do - to make a Britain a fairer and more equal society.

So alongside the successful management of the economy and the renovation of the National Health Service, our proudest achievement in government is our success in improving education for the majority who would otherwise be denied opportunity and qualifications.

In 1997, barely half of 11 year-olds were up to basic standard in literacy and numeracy. Now it is three-quarters. 84,000 more 11 year-olds each year now up to standard in numeracy; 60,000 in literacy.

60,000 more 16 year-olds a year getting five or more good GCSEs than in 1997.

1,700 specialist schools - 50% of the whole secondary system - where there were barely 200 in 1997, moving us from the traditional comprehensive system towards a new system of learning based around the needs of the individual pupil.

Remember all those league tables with England at the bottom - the worst education system in Europe decade after decade - now our 10 year-olds are ranked third in the world in the recent assessment of reading standards, only Sweden significantly better. Among 15 year-olds, according to the OECD, England is fourth in the world in science, seventh in literacy, eighth in maths.

Yes, there have also been difficult reforms: progressive governments only succeed if they are up to the tough challenges. So a student finance reform which will put £1bn extra a year into higher education, giving our universities essential extra funds they need to succeed and expand access, while abolishing all up-front fees and providing for new student grants to encourage students from lower income families to go on to university.

So also resolute intervention in areas of failure: closing failing schools; replacing failing local education services; new schools and services equipped to succeed.

And action not just to tackle failure, but also strong incentives for the middling and top performers to drive up standards constantly too, by publishing results, setting clear and simple goals of achievement, expecting every school to progress, requiring headteachers and teachers to be properly appraised and trained in return for better salaries.

All of this is now generally accepted, indeed welcomed. It is our readiness to take on the difficult challenges - not duck them - which underscores our resolute determination to extend good education to every community, particularly those failed or badly served in the past....

Our task is to level up systematically. Not to accept what I call the entrenched three-tierism of the past: excellence for a minority, mediocrity for the majority, outright failure at the bottom. But to make success the norm: every school funded and empowered to succeed, so that every young person has the personalised learning to develop their talents to the fullest extent.

To overcome the three-tierism of the past we will continue to reform.

Our starting point is a fundamental shift of thinking in today's progressive centre and centre-left. Equality of opportunity, our educational mantra in the 20th century, remains essential, but it is no longer enough.

It is no longer enough simply to extend educational opportunity to the great majority; educational achievement must be extended too. Opportunity and achievement, together, must become near universal, and the task of social democrats in the 21st century is to make them so.

This isn't just a distant aspiration. The unambiguous evidence from our best all-ability schools today is that where the schools are good, the aspirations high, the parental support strong, then the great majority of young people can and do achieve in terms of good GCSEs at 16 and progression to further qualifications beyond, whether vocational or academic.

In a successful school, achievement isn't a matter of IQ or social class: it is a matter of teaching, aspiration and hard work, underpinned by a school culture which nurtures all three.

Under Labour, the deal with our young people is this: you achieve at school, and we will never ration success in terms of GCSEs, A-levels, and opportunities to go on to further and higher education. They will be yours as a fundamental right of citizenship, and the more who succeed the better.

Yes, there will always be schools that are good and those that are less good. But the policies we outline tomorrow are about giving all parents and children, not just a privileged few, the choice of a good school. More good schools, more help for schools that are failing, more types of school f or parents to choose from - that is our policy.

The whole purpose of our reforms is to raise standards in the failing or indifferent schools and enable our good schools to become even better.

That is why we are so tough on failure: why we are pioneering academies and other new schools to eradicate the chronic under-performance which we inherited in some inner-city areas in particular. We aren't apologetic or defensive about this: it is our absolute duty to undertake these reforms on behalf of parents - especially parents in deprived communities - who look to us, a Labour government, to provide them with decent schools for their children. We will not let them down...

The Specialist Schools Trust, together with many of the headteacher and teacher associations, have played a vital role in this process of change. I pay warm tribute to them today. Real choice comes not only from greater diversity but also from raising standards in all schools. Specialist schools promote both diversity and standards, school by school. Specialism and independence are the twin themes at the heart of our programme to enable secondary schools to succeed better for all their pupils.

http://politics.guardian.co.uk/publicservi...1256107,00.html

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Since 1997 substantial new investment and significant reform have brought education, skills and children's services to the centre of our national life. A powerful alliance now exists for higher standards - embracing parents, our schools, colleges and universities, the voluntary sector, local authorities and employers...

Five key principles of reform will underpin our drive for a step change in children's services, education and training:

*Greater personalisation and choice, with children, parents and learners centre-stage;

* Opening up services to new and different providers;

* Freedom and independence for frontline headteachers and managers with more secure streamlined funding arrangements;

* A major commitment to staff development with high quality support and training

* Partnerships with parents, employers, local authorities and voluntary organisations to maximise the life chances of children, young people and adults. Mr Speaker, our five year strategy is ambitious for children and learners at every stage of life.

In the early years:

* all parents will be able to get one-stop support through Children's Centres providing a combination of childcare, education, health and advice services

* a flexible system of 'educare', joining up education and childcare to provide twelve and a half hours free support a week for 3 and 4 year-olds (before they start school), with more choice for parents about when they use it

* Local Authorities playing a major new role through Children's Trusts in joining up all local services for families and children

In primary schools:

* we will continue to drive up standards in reading, writing, numeracy and science, but also

* enrich the school curriculum and give every child the chance to learn a foreign language and take part in music and competitive sport

* develop more dawn-to-dusk schools offering childcare and after school activities to help children and busy parents. These extended schools will combine with early years and family learning providers to provide a genuine educational centre to every local community

In secondary education, we will build on the achievements of the last seven years, to increase freedoms and independence; to accelerate the pace of reform in teaching and learning; and to extend choice and flexibility in the curriculum. Driving our reform will be a system of independent specialist schools - not a new category of school, but more independence for all schools.

Independence will be within a framework of fair admissions, full accountability and strong partnership. Mr Speaker, we will never return to a system based on selection of the few and rejection of the many - the strict national requirement for fair admissions will remain, and we will not allow any extension of selection by ability.

We will put in place eight key reforms:

1. Real freedom for schools will only come with secure and predictable funding in the hands of headteachers. Every penny meant for schools must get to them. So we will introduce guaranteed three-year budgets for every school from 2006, geared to pupil numbers, with a minimum per pupil increase for every school each year.

This dedicated Schools Budget will be guaranteed by national Government and delivered through Local Authorities. We will consult in the Autumn on the practical arrangements and on ensuring there are no adverse effects for other local government services.

2. We expect all secondary schools to become specialist schools with a centre of excellence. They will now be able to take on a second specialism. High-performing specialist schools will be able to become training schools or leaders of partnerships.

3. Every school will have a fast-tracked opportunity to move to Foundation status, giving them freedom to own their land and buildings, manage their assets, employ their staff, improve their governing bodies, and forge partnerships with outside sponsors.

4. More places in popular schools. There is no 'surplus places rule'. We already enable popular and successful schools to expand, and have a special capital budget for this. Now, we will speed up and simplify the means to do this. There will be more competitions for new schools, which will enable parents' groups and others to open up schools.

5. A 'new relationship with schools' to cut red tape without abandoning our ambitious targets for school improvement or intervention in failing schools. We will halve the existing inspection burden on schools, with sharper short-notice inspection. And schools will have a single annual review carried out by a 'school improvement partner' - typically a serving headteacher from a successful school.

6. In areas where the education service has, sometimes for generations, failed pupils and parents, we will provide for 200 independently managed academies to be open or in the pipeline by 2010. Around 60 of these new academies will be in London.

7. Through the 'Building Schools for the Future' programme, and a sevenfold increase in the capital budget for schools since 1997, we will refurbish or rebuild every secondary school to 21st century standards over the next ten to fifteen years.

8. 'Foundation partnerships' will enable schools to group together to raise standards and take on wider responsibilities - such as special educational needs or hard-to-place pupils.

Local Authorities will play a key part as champions of pupils and parents, setting a strategic vision for services in their area, encouraging and enabling strong partnerships of schools, holding schools to account, and intervening where standards are at risk.

Within each school, every pupil should have the personalised teaching they need to succeed, backed by excellent training for teachers; a broad and rich curriculum; and more sport, clubs, societies and trips. We will continue to crack down on truancy and poor behaviour wherever it occurs, giving new powers to schools and Local Authorities.

From 14 onwards:

* a much wider choice of subjects, with better vocational options delivered in close collaboration with employers, and the opportunity to start an Apprenticeship at 14

* more choice after 16, with high-performing specialist schools opening more sixth forms where there aren't enough

* a new framework for the curriculum and qualifications following the Tomlinson Review

* A Green Paper in the Autumn, on bringing together activities and services for young people

For adults developing their skills:

* free tuition for basic skills and for those going on to Level 2 qualifications (equivalent to 5 good GCSEs)

* a leading role for employers through Sector Skills Councils and a reformed further education sector, rewarding success and closing weak courses and colleges

For those going on to university:

* grants for students that need them, an end to up-front fees and a fair system for graduates to contribute to the cost of their course

* Foundation Degrees in vocational subjects, designed with and for employers

* world-class research to maintain our leading edge, particularly in science and technology.

This ambitious programme of reform is backed by the further investment announced by the Chancellor in April. Spending on education will rise by over £11bn, to £58bn by 2008 and - through the Efficiency Review and the 30% reduction in the Department's staff - be more than ever focused on front-line services.

Mr Speaker, the dividing lines for the future of children and schools are clear. Whether we select a few, or raise standards for all. Whether there is no role for Local Authorities, or a new role for Local Authorities. Whether we take funding out of public services, or put it in. Whether there is freedom for all, or a free-for-all.

Whether some children matter, or whether every child matters. On this side of the House, Mr Speaker, we have made our decision - for excellence, for opportunity, for choice - but importantly, for all.

http://politics.guardian.co.uk/publicservi...1256881,00.html

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Five key principles of reform will underpin our drive for a step change in children's services, education and training:

*Greater personalisation and choice, with children, parents and learners centre-stage;

* Opening up services to new and different providers;

* Freedom and independence for frontline headteachers and managers with more secure streamlined funding arrangements;

* A major commitment to staff development with high quality support and training

* Partnerships with parents, employers, local authorities and voluntary organisations to maximise the life chances of children, young people and adults. Mr Speaker, our five year strategy is ambitious for children and learners at every stage of life.

Although I find New Labour proposals more appealing than those of the Tories, I am very disturbed by certain features outlined by Charles Clarke. This includes the phrase: “opening up services to new and different providers”. This obviously means the further privatisation of the education service. It will provide further opportunities for large donors to New Labour such as Jarvis Engineering to win lucrative contracts to provide educational services.

I fully expect Lord Drayson and his PowderJect company to now enter the education market. A £100,000 donation to New Labour recently got him a £32 million government contract to provide UK’s smallpox vaccines. The vaccines are actually produced by Bavarian Nordic. They are charging £12 million and Drayson’s company makes £20 million profit on the deal. PowderJect and Jarvis Engineering of course know nothing about education. That of course does not matter. They just employ people made redundant by the local education authorities. They will also bring in their team of managers who are skilled at driving down costs and maximizing their profits. The impact will be similar to that achieved in other privatised services such as track maintenance (Jarvis Engineering – several court cases still awaiting judgement) and the school’s meals services.

The other aspect of this policy I dislike is the establishment of 200 city academies. Like specialist schools, they will obtain extra funding (both private and state). As a result demand to enter these schools will be greater than other schools. Over-subscribed schools will then be in a position to select its pupils. Although there are official restrictions to selection (only 10% of students can be selected by aptitude) there are several different ways of making sure you get the children who are likely to obtain academic success. Heads of specialist schools are experts on postcodes.

All specialist schools are supposed to obey a code of practice requiring that they take pupils on a “clear, fair and objective” criteria. They are also told they should give priority to “children in care”. A recent study showed that virtually all specialist schools ignore this edict. With no one to fight their case, these children usually end up in the nearest non-specialist school.

What is Blair up to with his commitment to specialist schools and city academies? Partly it is a scheme to bring private money into schools.

More importantly it is an attempt to win the support of middle class voters who cannot afford private school fees. It is a sly way of recreating the old grammar school in areas where the old system has been abolished (this government have of course done nothing about grammar schools in LEAs like Kent). Instead of the 11+ children in future will be selected by their postcode.

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What is Blair up to with his commitment to specialist schools and city academies? Partly it is a scheme to bring private money into schools.

More importantly it is an attempt to win the support of middle class voters who cannot afford private school fees. It is a sly way of recreating the old grammar school in areas where the old system has been abolished (this government have of course done nothing about grammar schools in LEAs like Kent). Instead of the 11+ children in future will be selected by their postcode.

OK

Private money coming in to schools? Private companies are required by law to seek to make a profit for their shareholders. That is what they exist to do. So it is not a question of private money going in to schools.....it is a question of public money going into private pockets.

Derek McMillan

http://socialistteachers.tripod.com

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Roy Hattersley is one of those who has grave doubts about the government's new Five Year Plan. His article in yesterday's Guardian is worth reading. Here is the start of the article (see link for the rest):

Do not despair. Comprehensive education is still alive, if not in the best of health. The notion that it was killed off last Thursday - a suggestion which was encouraged by a corrupt Downing Street briefing - is disproved by the Five-Year Strategy itself.

Item one of education secretary Charles Clarke's helpful table of "dividing lines between the parties" is explicit: "No extension of selection by ability." In his warm-up to the House of Commons statement, the prime minister went even further. There will be "no return to selection". There will - 10% of pupils chosen by something called "aptitude" in the additions to the ranks of specialist schools.

But a basic principle is preserved. Most schools will have an all-ability intake. The C-word is not, in itself, important. One day, when we have a Labour government, we will be able to recreate the most successful system of education this country has ever had.

In the meantime, we have to struggle along with a set of proposals that are an unhappy amalgamation of what Charles Clarke knows to be right and necessary and what Tony Blair thinks is best for the meritocratic middle classes. The conversion of every comprehensive school into a "specialist" illustrates how badly thought out the reforms are. Worse than that, the plans seem to have been developed by amateur educationalists with no experience of the world outside London.

The one advantage of every school becoming a "specialist" is the removal of at least one layer from the damaging hierarchy that New Labour has developed within the secondary sector. Many parents (often wrongly) take it for granted that specialist schools are "better" than ordinary comprehensives. But the removal of that detriment does not compensate for the fact that the policy makes no sense at all in rural areas. In the counties, comprehensive education flourishes to the point at which families from every social group are amazed that it is still a subject of controversy.

The idea of specialist schools - the opportunity for pupils and parents to choose a school that places special emphasis on an individual subject - only works in cities where several alternatives are within easy reach. County schools have natural catchment areas. It is one of the reasons for their success. Many of them, although in need of the extra resources that specialist schools receive, have avoided changing their status because of the fear that identification with a single discipline would destroy their relationship with some students. If they are forced to specialise, boys from the hill farms of Derbyshire may be expected to attend performing arts schools, or girls who take ballet lessons in the market towns may become students at physical education colleges. The situation will be eased - but it will not be remedied - by schools being allowed to specialise in two subjects. No doubt the world looks different from Islington.

The "big idea" of creating 200 academies is more difficult for egalitarians to evaluate. The complaint against them - apparently voiced by Charles Clarke when he was called to a rare Saturday meeting in Downing Street - was that they suck resources from other comprehensive schools. That is all true. But the "superior" institutions, with extra funds to finance better-than-average equipment and higher- than-normal salaries, are going to be set up in areas of particular deprivation.

When I represented part of a decaying inner city, I constantly demanded that extra investment be provided in the places where it was most needed. The involvement of private companies in their finance and governance is the result of the prime minister's conviction that the enterprise culture has to be imported into the public sector. But as long as the academies remain in the depressed hearts of the old towns and cities - and maintain their all-ability intake - egalitarians should not complain that they are elitist. When I was MP for Sparkbrook, I would have given half of my majority to have something elite built within the constituency's boundaries. It is just possible - the silly commitment to private funding aside - that the government has stumbled back to what, in the radical 60s, used to be called "compensating measures".

There is, ironically, also the possibility that the creation of the academies will bring to an end one of the remnants of old-fashioned selection. Although some city technology colleges have all-ability intakes, they do not have to observe the admissions code of practice, which prohibits selection by ability. If they choose to become academies they will be required, as part of their new financial settlement, to sacrifice the freedom to select. One technology college has already changed status. Two more are negotiating conversion and three others are contemplating the move. Together with the apparent refusal to allow selective schools to expand, the possible end of the technology colleges' special status is added evidence that the comprehensive ideal still flourishes - in some parts of government. Because its supporters have gone underground, parts of the new policy are better than the publicity with which they have been promoted.

http://education.guardian.co.uk/egweekly/s...1259276,00.html

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A few observations about the " eight key reforms" that Charles Clarke proposes:

1..... So we will introduce guaranteed three-year budgets for every school from 2006, geared to pupil numbers, with a minimum per pupil increase for every school each year.

Sounds good so far...

This ... will be guaranteed by national Government and delivered through Local Authorities. We will consult ....on ensuring there are no adverse effects for other local government services.

That should be interesting to watch! Guarantees....no adverse effects....?? Having a laugh I think! ;)

2. We expect all secondary schools to become specialist schools with a centre of excellence. ...

So just how this be pushed through? Currently any application to become a Specialist school requires the school to put together an appliction expressing a desire to become such a school, and then to raise

£50 000 to show their commitment. This is, however, only half of what was originally required of schools applying for specialist status. So, all schools....??? I don't think so... not unless the goal posts are changed!

3. Every school will have a fast-tracked opportunity to move to Foundation status, giving them freedom to own their land and buildings, manage their assets, employ their staff, improve their governing bodies, and forge partnerships with outside sponsors.

This is somewhat old hat stuff - foundation school status was abandoned by the government a few years ago when it was found to cost too much! This must be a new, cheap version. ;)

4. More places in popular schools. ...We already enable popular and successful schools to expand, and have a special capital budget for this.

Have you really? I wonder where it is kept then? Some of our local schools are hoping to have new buildings but there seems to be some business about sales of land..????

5. ... We will halve the existing inspection burden on schools, with sharper short-notice inspection.

Yep, about two - three days notice. Will this be a cheaper option perhaps? Will it be fairer? Will it be more accurate? It sounds a bit like the old times with the visits from the HMI's...again, nothing new then :o

6. In areas where the education service has, sometimes for generations, failed pupils and parents, we will provide for 200 independently managed academies to be open or in the pipeline by 2010.

Like the City Technology Colleges scheme perhaps? That was also abandoned wasn't it?

7. ... we will refurbish or rebuild every secondary school to 21st century standards over the next ten to fifteen years.

Assuming the government is still in power - if not then they can blame someone else for it not working out. Good thinking!

8. 'Foundation partnerships' will enable schools to group together to raise standards and take on wider responsibilities - such as special educational needs or hard-to-place pupils.

Assume this means that all 'special school' provision will disappear, along with the funding, and mainstream schools will be expected to deal with all of the 'hard to place' children - the severely physically and mentally disabled, the extreme behavioural problems, etc etc. Sensible idea!

Local Authorities ....will set a strategic vision for services in their area ....

I fear that some LEA's wouldn't recognise a strategic vision if it jumped up and bit them! Life must be quite cosy when you can avoid actually being in a school facing real children - visions come easy... perhaps these 'interventionists, should try putting them into practice!

and for the grand finale...

Within each school, every pupil should have... more sport, clubs, societies and trips.

Good idea - who will do these? So much red tape and threat of litigation if little Jonny gets his feet wet in the stream, or gets his hands dirty at the farm and teacher doesn't tell him to wash them!! :up

We will continue to crack down on truancy and poor behaviour wherever it occurs, giving new powers to schools and Local Authorities.

So with all this 'cracking down' and 'new powers' stuff... does that mean whips and magic wands will be issued??

B)

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Guest Andrew Moore
Life must be quite cosy when you can avoid actually being in a school facing real children - visions come easy... perhaps these 'interventionists, should try putting them into practice!

Hm - we have taken a big step of faith in East Yorkshire.

With a fraction of the funding that any school receives (however badly it does), and with no guarantee of a job beyond the present, our ICT team (part of the School Improvement Service) has set up a Digital School. There will be real learners and real courses, leading to real qualifications - using digital conferencing tools to reach the parts that other kinds of education do not reach.

We had a vision - I think I had it first, but managed to communicate it to my manager, who had the means and the fortitude to put it into practice.

Mind you, I will agree with Maggie in that this is not at all typical of any LEA, including many parts of my own.

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Great posting Maggie. It is a shame the government did not test out some of their ideas on a small group of teachers. They would have quickly picked up the flaws in the proposals. They did not even consult with the Labour Party or cabinet ministers. The whole thing comes from Tony Blair's own educational adviser, Andrew Adonis. He was not even a Labour Party member when he was appointed (and it shows). Apparently, even Charles Clarke is unhappy with these proposals.

Let us hope that last night's election results will persuade this government to reconsider how it develops policy. Lord Butler pointed out that even the cabinet is no longer consulted over important decisions.

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The whole thing comes from Tony Blair's own educational adviser, Andrew Adonis.

What is this man's background that qualifies him to be an education guru then? Precious little it would seem if this pile of recycled rubbish is his idea of education for the future!

Apparently, even Charles Clarke is unhappy with these proposals.

So why does he utter them? He is only, after all, the minister!...Isn't he? Or are we in the middle of a rather prolongued episode of Spitting Image? :)

Let us hope that last night's election results will persuade this government to reconsider how it develops policy. Lord Butler pointed out that even the cabinet is no longer consulted over important decisions.

I suspect that genuine 'consultation' ceased some while ago ...... I thought we were supposed to be a democracy but I am wondering whether I've lost the plot somewhere along the line!? ;)

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Interesting article in today's Guardian. It gives an insight into Blair's proposed 5-Year Plan.

One of Tony Blair's favoured new academy schools revealed its hard line yesterday when it admitted that its exclusion rate is 10 times the national average.

State-run schools exclude 0.23% of pupils on account of poor behaviour, but in its first year the King's Academy in Middlesbrough, which was partly funded by the millionaire car dealer Sir Peter Vardy, ejected 2.51% - a total of 26 out of their 1,034 pupils. Academies form the centrepiece of the government's five-year plan for education. They aim to have open, or in the pipeline, 200 new academies throughout the country within five years to replace struggling schools. In each case the government puts in £22m to set up the academy, with a private organisation donating £2m in each case and taking control of the schools' day to day running.

A spokeswoman for the Foundation said that the King's Academy, which opened last September, had brought together children from three schools in the area who all came from "very different systems".

"We have a very clear proce dure on behaviour to which all students and parents sign up. Everyone knows the rules. By breaking them children exclude themselves. They know what the consequences are."

Behaviour for which children might be excluded, she said, included taking drugs in schools or persistent misbehaviour and disruption.

She added that the hard line had helped to establish a good ethos among students. "There's certainly very little bad behaviour because people know bad behaviour isn't tolerated."

She said all 26 pupils who had been expelled were now being taught at neighbouring schools - but insisted that the academy took excluded pupils from other schools too.

http://education.guardian.co.uk/schools/st...1268254,00.html

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