Popular schools in Wales to get pounds 20m

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The Independent Online

Education Editor

Popular schools in Wales will receive pounds 20m to expand in a far-reaching government initiative announced yesterday.

However, critics warned that dozens of unpopular schools would close because of the decision by William Hague, the Secretary of State for Wales.

The Downing Street think tank is known to be sympathetic towards the plan, but Gillian Shephard, Secretary of State for Education has so far failed to adopt the idea. Mr Hague said: "The initiative addresses the frustration parents face when they are denied their first choice school for their children as those schools are unable to accept all applications due to the physical pressure on them."

A further 1,500 places will be provided at 19 schools and a new school will be built in Mid Glamorgan, where the existing school cannot be expanded.

David Blunkett, Labour's education spokesman, said: "The logic of this is that there will be only 100 schools left in Wales. They will be very big and children will travel long distances to reach them."

David Winfield, secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers in Wales, said communities in the South Wales valleys were already being denuded because parents were moving away to be nearer the most popular schools. Mr Hague's initiative would exacerbate the problem.

Labour yesterday launched a campaign for a "fair deal" for all schools. It intends to distribute 200,000 "report cards" to parents at school gates so that they can give their views on the Government's record on education. There will also be a national petition calling for a fair funding settlement for schools in the autumn Budget.