Schools will have to consider ballot on opting out

SCHOOL GOVERNING bodies will be required to consider opting out under an amendment which ministers will soon be tabling to the Education Bill.

The move - being planned by John Patten, Secretary of State for Education - takes a step towards those Tories who believe schools will need to be nudged a little harder if they are to break out from local authority control.

Mr Patten suspects too many governing bodies are allowing the option of going grant-maintained to slip to the end of their agendas, so that in some areas the issue is barely being discussed.

His amendment to the Bill, which resumes its committee stage in the Commons tomorrow, will require governing bodies to debate within a given period whether to hold an opting-out ballot.

The Secretary of State has rejected the more drastic tactic of requiring all schools to hold a ballot. His advisers believe that many schools are fearful of floating free from their local authorities now, but may change their minds in time.

So far, parents have voted in favour of opting out at more than 600 schools: 337 are operating, 30 more have been approved by Mr Patten, 220 are in the pipeline, and 52 have had their applications rejected by the Secretary of State, usually because they were using the ballot to try to avoid closure.

Mr Patten is very confident that the projections he made last week - 1,000 ballots in favour by the end of this year, and 1,500 by April 1994 - will be achieved comfortably. But that will still represent, at best, around one in four of the 3,900 state secondary schools, and only a tiny proportion of the 19,000 primary schools in England and Wales.

Even within the Government, there is considerable uncertainty about whether the pace of opting out will accelerate; some advisers have warned Mr Patten that the absence of clear incentives may actually lead to a slow-down. Mr Patten published a consultation paper before Christmas on future funding arrangements for local authority and opted out schools, in which he was unable to promise that cash benefits will continue. The Education Bill will create a national Funding Agency for Schools, which will distribute funds to opted out schools. When large numbers of schools become grant-maintained in any given council area, a common funding formula will be introduced locally to decide how funds are to be distributed among the remaining local authority schools and their opted out neighbours.

Many schools doubt they will end up being better off under that system. They are also sceptical about the extra benefit of being free from local authority control when they already manage at least 85 per cent of their budgets.

Ministers hope there will come a point at which the number of schools opting out suddenly tips the balance, encouraging a surge. Some churchmen point to the funding advantages for voluntary- aided Roman Catholic and Anglican schools. There is clear evidence that, once a large number of schools in a local authority area opt out, many more follow. The domino effect, however, has only occurred in a small group of Tory councils.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'