Blair: City academies are here to stay

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The Independent Online

But the Cabinet has yet to approve a White Paper on education due to be published next month. Some ministers are worried that the city academies will create a two-tier system and will not provide good value for money.

Speaking at the City of London Academy in Southwark, Mr Blair shrugged off criticism that the benefits of the new-style secondary schools were not proven. He said the number would rise from 27 to 40 over the next year and the Government would meet its target of having 200 open or in the pipeline within five years. In a surprise admission, Mr Blair said his health and education reforms were only "roughly halfway through" - a clear signal that he wants them to continue after he leaves office.

Mr Blair said the next stage of the process in education would have to be "driven from the centre", with schools being "set free". The White Paper would propose "more freedoms and flexibilities" for every school, so that they all enjoyed the powers open to the academies.

The Education Network, which advises local education authorities on raising standards, said it was "bizarre" to expand the network before the scheme was tried and tested. "This is a very large programme that is being pushed ahead with on the basis of completely inadequate evidence," its spokesman said.