City academies: Barriers to learning

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"The management freedom given to academies should be rolled out across the whole state sector," said Richard Tice, chair of Northampton Academy school.

Tice is a member of the United Learning Trust board, the largest academy sponsor, and was commissioned by free market think-tank Reform to make recommendations on how to improve the education system. He suggests that a more "business-like" approach to running schools, with bonuses for managers, would improve the city academy programme.

But Tice also warned of the barriers to achieving this New Labour dream in full. "At present the teaching unions are acting as a block to reform," he said, calling for union power to be curbed, and for individual schools to be able to set teachers' pay and remove "bad teachers".

The government should also do away with the appeal process for disciplining pupils and "give schools ultimate authority over discipline and enable schools to exclude disruptive pupils".

While the Tories and Lib Dems seem to agree with the report, teaching unions are not so happy.

Northampton Academy excluded 32 pupils last year, costing the local taxpayer £150,000 to put them back into state education. Regular state schools would need to foot the bill themselves.