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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Tradewind Recruitment: KS2 Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is a two form entry primary schoo...

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee