NUT to drop opposition to opt-out schools

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The Independent Online


The National Union of Teachers, Britain's biggest teaching union, is preparing to drop its opposition to grant maintained schools, paving the way for a policy U-turn by the Labour Party.

It will also mean a reverse of its own policy, reaffirmed at its conference in April, that opted-out schools should be returned to the control of their local authority. The move comes after a survey of members employed in grant-maintained schools showed that an overwhelming majority believe pupils receive a better education than in local authority schools.

The survey of 1,000 self-governing schools, to be published shortly, shows that most of their additional money has been spent on extra teaching, cutting primary class sizes and on buying laboratory and technical equipment in secondary schools.

The move was disclosed yesterday by Doug McAvoy, NUT general secretary, who acknowledged that the survey results would "shock" members in state schools. But he said that teachers did not care what schools were called as long as they got sufficient resources and the pupils benefited.

"If there was a different funding mechanism based on providing the money for identified need and its principle criterion was that of equitable funding for all schools, and if there was a guarantee preventing schools from having admissions policies including selection, then the main issues causing us to be opposed to grant maintained schools would be addressed," Mr McAvoy said yesterday.

"And if there was some means of making them democratically accountable then the NUT's opposition would be wiped out."

The move will help Labour, which is expected to support the retention of grant maintained schools in a policy document later this month.

The party's commitment to ending the separate status of grant maintained schools has been undermined by fears that doing so would be seen to be penalising good schools, and by Labour leader Tony Blair's decision to send his son to a grant maintained school in London.