Assisted places at risk after scheme frozen
Saturday 22 March 1997
The fate of more than 600 places for bright children from low-income families in 118 prep schools joining the scheme this year will be uncertain under a Labour government, even though the party has agreed to honour places already offered if it wins power, the schools said.
Some said they were now unlikely to wait for an end to the confusion and would offer the places to paying families instead.
The difficulty rests on the fact that prep schools new to the assisted places scheme have been forbidden to make any firm offers of places until they receive signed "participation agreements" from the Department for Education and Employment.
The deadline for providing the department with information for the agreements fell yesterday, by which time all processing of the scheme had been suspended for the duration of the election campaign.
Schools will now have to wait until after 1 May to make formal offers of places. They will also have to wait to see whether, if Labour wins, the new government will honour the offers.
Moves to extend the assisted places scheme were included in the Education Bill, which was rushed through Parliament last week to beat the election deadline.
In a series of deals between the parties over clauses in the Bill, Labour said children who had accepted offers by 1 May would be allowed to take up their assisted places if it took power, though it remains committed to phasing out the scheme and using the money saved to cut class sizes.
Private prep schools which have been allocated assisted places yesterday confirmed they had been told not to fill them without the formal agreement.
Andrew Corbett, headmaster of Kings College School, Cambridge, predicted a new Labour government might argue that the school could not offer its allocated five places.
He said: "Having publicly announced it was awarding these places, it now looks as if the DFEE are going to turn round and say they are not. Parents have had their hopes built up, and we have to turn round and say no, unfortunately we can't offer them."
George Marsh, headmaster of Dulwich College Preparatory School in south London, said May was likely to be too late to fill places for many schools, forcing them to give up their allocated assisted places.
Labour yesterday confirmed "any places allocated to a specific individual children" by election day would be honoured.
A party spokesman said the situation would be reviewed in the light of the freeze on agreements, but blamed government incompetence in pushing through the bill for creating the problem.
The spokesman added: "They did not have the necessary commitment behind what they apparently regard as flagship proposals."
A spokeswoman for the education department said that all processing of participation agreements had been stopped until after the election in line with guidelines on dealing with long-term commitments during an election period.
- 1 I've been called an abusive and dangerous parent, when all I did was listen to my transgender child
- 2 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 3 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 4 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 5 Ian Brady: Moors murderer announces his support for Ukip and the SNP
Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
Russian hack of President Obama's emails worse than previously admitted
Ian Brady: Moors murderer announces his support for Ukip and the SNP
UK weather: Britain braced for snow to replace sun as arctic air mass moves in
Nepal earthquake: US Pastor Tony Miano sparks outcry by suggesting Nepalis should convert and not rebuild their 'pagan shrines'
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...
£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...
£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...