Letter: Questionable arguments in support of opted-out schools

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The Independent Online
Sir: Much though I enjoy the balanced coverage that you give to education issues, there are times when your arguments do not entirely add up. Such a time was yesterday when you wrote a leading article in praise of opted-out schools ('A little light from school beacons', 31 March).

I write in support of the very apposite comments in today's letter from A. M. Hulme. You state that grant-maintained schools have received more generous funding than their local education authority counterparts, a factor which, as you rightly say, 'tends to make for better schools'. You comment on the two reports just published which show that standards in these schools nevertheless do not appear to have improved. You draw the surprising conclusion that the Government should press ahead even faster with this reform.

Some people might think, on the other hand, that if ever a school could be expected to show concrete improvements, it ought to be at a time when more cash had been injected and staff and governors were enjoying the first flush of enthusiasm at being pioneers in sole charge of their own destiny. That this is not coming about, as Dr Hulme suggests, perhaps indicates the need for some caution, together with a sober weighing of evidence in a situation where the playing field is actually level.

I fancy that some such arguments may feature prominently in debates at the Committee stage of the Education Bill as it goes through the House of Lords later this month.

Yours faithfully,

BALDWIN OF BEWDLEY

House of Lords

London, SW1

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