Ministers offer £100,000 for trust schools chief

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The Independent Online

Ministers are offering a £100,000-plus salary to a new "champion" who will help promote the Prime Minister Tony Blair's independently run trust schools and academies.

The new Schools Commissioner, who will be employed as a civil servant and based in the Department for Education and Skills, will have the task of matching up schools to "suitable" partners and linking sponsors to academies.

The first advertisement for the job will be published today and comes as MPs are expressing fears there will be a reluctance among business leaders to come forward as sponsors or partners in the wake of the "cash for peerages" row.

Des Smith, a headteacher and government adviser, has been arrested for allegedly suggesting that sponsors of academies could expect a peerage. He denies the charge.

A draft code on potential sponsors last week, which the commissioner will work to, suggested that they should exclude any company involved with alcohol, tobacco or gambling or providing adult entertainment services.

The successful applicant will also be responsible for ensuring schools operate "fair access" admissions policies and will produce a report every two years on admissions procedures.

For this, they will be offered "a highly attractive six-figure salary". The ad suggests that they should have a background in business, education or local government, or all three.

The decision to offer a six-figure salary for the post was criticised by teachers' leaders last night. Steve Sinnott, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "The money would be far better invested in children's education than in seeking partners for schools that nobody wants."

In a separate development, David Chaytor, a Labour backbencher, has called for the scrapping of the 11-plus. Mr Chaytor said the time had come to scrap a system "which arbitrarily tests what 11-year-olds can do on a wet Wednesday afternoon in December".

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