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From the Archive - 12.10.1990

MacGregor allows all schools to opt out

The education secretary this week bowed to right-wing pressure and paved the way for the wholesale privatisation of schools through opting out.

John MacGregor's decision to allow all schools to apply for grant-maintained status sets the Conservative Party on a radical course for education in the run-up to the general election.

But it does not go far enough for the Tory Right, which is pressing for local authorities to be abolished and for all schools to become grant-maintained.

Although Mr MacGregor's announcement was warmly received by the party faithful in Bournemouth this week, the Prime Minister was not on the conference platform.

It appears a compromise has been reached between Mr MacGregor, who has always insisted that opting out is not an escape route for unviable schools, and Margaret Thatcher, who has said most schools should opt out.

The MacGregor package involves a massive increase in the amount of money schools will receive if they decide to opt out. This includes doubling the maximum transitional grant to about #163;60,000 for a 1,000-pupil school and a 50 per cent increase in the annual amount schools receive in specific grant.

But the biggest concession to the Right is the decision that all primary schools can apply to become grant-maintained. At present only 16 per cent of all schools, primary and secondary, are eligible.

"Freedom and choice are flourishing in the accelerating numbers of grant-maintained schools - the jewel in the crown of parent power," said Mr MacGregor.

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