Minister heckled over opt-outs

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The Independent Online
Local authority leaders yesterday heckled Gillian Shephard, the Secretary of State for Education, over the Government's generosity to grant-maintained schools, writes Judith Judd.

Angry delegates at the North of England Education Conference in York were described later by Mrs Shephard as the true face of Labour on opted-out schools. Party confusion was exposed recently when Tony Blair decided to send his son to a grant-maintained school.

There were cries of "shame" as Mrs Shephard explained why £130m was being allocated for capital spending to a 1,000 grant-maintained schools while 23,000 local authority schools were receiving only £522m. She said the former had no resources other than those given them by central government, whereas local authorities could raise money in various ways.

The audience of councillors, administrators and school heads shouted "rubbish" when Mrs Shephard tried to explain why a 19-pupil school near York which a council wanted to close had been allowed to opt out.