Ruth Kelly: 'No one wants to create independent fortresses'

From a speech by the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, delivered to the New Heads Conference, meeting in London
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The Independent Online

In every school, we will give the senior management team and the governors the freedoms that will empower them to establish their own ethos, set their goals for the future and secure an excellent education for every pupil. At the heart of this new vision are self-governing Trust schools that will be able to employ their own staff and control their own assets. They will also be able to apply for additional flexibilities that they feel would enable them to offer the best service to local people.

And they will be able to set their own admissions arrangements. But let me be crystal clear here. These arrangements will be within the Admissions code that ensures fair admissions. There will be no free for all. And there will not be a return to "selection by ability" by the front door, back door, trap door, green door, or any other door.

We also all know that essential and effective teaching and learning and high expectations are norms of behaviour and respect. Schools must have clear policies on behaviour that are agreed and respected by all and consistently and fairly enforced.

From day one in this job, tackling any and every instance of poor behaviour in schools has been one of my main priorities. And I have always said that I will do everything I can to support headteachers, staff, parents and most importantly pupils in this vital matter. Everyone deserves and expects to work and learn in a positive school environment, with zero tolerance for anyone or anything that disturbs that.

Some misguided critics have tried to claim that through the Trust schools I mentioned earlier, we are just bringing back the model of Grant Maintained Schools. They are wrong. Trust schools are not GM schools. Nobody here wants to create fortresses that operate quite independently and cast a dark shadow over the rest of the landscape.

We want to see Trust schools that operate on fair funding and fair admissions, that work with other schools, and that are an integral part of their local community to secure the best education for their own and all other pupils.

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