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New-style governors for failing schools

MINISTERS will today propose a new system of 'education associations' to take over failing schools and turn them around.

The Prime Minister has already signalled his intention of removing control over the most persistently unsuccessful schools from their local education authority, on the ground that no child should be left to langish in a weak institution.

There has been strong speculation that the plan would lead to schools being administered directly from Whitehall. But the Independent learnt yesterday that the mechanism for taking over schools will, in effect, mean the creation of a new type of governing body for each school where pupils are identified as being at risk.

School inspectors will be required to state when they believe any school is delivering unacceptably low standards. In most cases the head teacher and governing body will then be given a period of time to improve its performance.

If, however, they fail, the Secretary of State for Education will be empowered to appoint an 'education association' to take control of the school. Each school that is taken over will have a separate 'association', rather than having a national body to run them. Members of associations will probably include former head teachers and experienced senior staff, as well as advisers who are experienced in school improvement methods.

John Patten, the Secretary of State for Education, wants today's White Paper, in which these proposals will be outlined, to set the framework for the new system.

The White Paper also aims to pull together the various strands of reform undertaken during the last Parliament, including the proposals for a new system for administering opted-out schools.

The minister is privately playing down suggestions that the plan to intervene in failing schools is a political attack on left-wing education authorities.

He anticipates that some schools that are failing may be identified in Tory-controlled rural areas, as well as deprived inner-city areas and outer urban estates.