Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Johnson Changes His Tune: No Limit on City Academies

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Johnson Changes His Tune: No Limit on City Academies

Article excerpt

ALAN JOHNSON today changed tack on Tony Blair's flagship city academies programme by announcing it may be expanded in future.

In aninterview with the Evening Standard, the Education Secretary said he would not cap numbers at the current target of 400 academies and would consider building more.

His pledge contrasted with comments made last month when the minister said 400 was "about right", which MPs and senior Blairites took as slamming the brakes on a key New Labour reform.

But Mr Johnson said his statement was "not a cap" and went on: "But, you know, as we come closer to 400, let's look at whether we need any more. I think we would have to get closer to the 400 level [before deciding]." The minister is frontrunner in the Labour's deputy leader- ship contest and his remarks will be studied for clues to the direction of party policy under Gordon Brown.

Mr Johnson declared firmly that his top priority would be to drive up school standards rather than "talk about structures".

The product of an impoverished childhood, he has been accused of milking his humble origins, but remains defiant.

On his ministerial desk is a T-shirt that bears the slogan: "I went to a London state school and all I got was a place in the Cabinet." The garment is a prop for a future government launch on social mobility. Mr Johnson revealed that he would like the scheme to be endorsed by Croydon-born model Kate Moss.

"We're hoping she will support it," he said.

Having left school at 15, Mr Johnson is now devoted to improving education for the most deprived children. "In areas where kids have had the worst of everything, we are sending a real message - you're going to have the best of everything," he said. "I'm probably the first Education Secretary who was on free school meals." He also highlighted plans to close the "attainment gap". …

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