From the archive 21.12.1989

Privatisation of state schools urged.

State schools should be handed over to independent trusts and funded directly through general government grants, according to a right-wing educational group.

The Hillgate Group is a loose amalgam of conservative educationalists. Its leading figures are associated with the National Council for Educational Standards, an influential group of right-wing lobbyists.

In a pamphlet, Whose Schools? A Radical Manifesto, the group advocates stripping local education authorities of their control over schools.

The attack on the LEAs is in line with the recent campaign by senior government ministers, including education secretary Kenneth Baker (pictured), to concentrate public attention on the records of Labour-controlled councils. But the group's proposal for what would amount to the privatisation of state schools goes far beyond anything advocated by Mr Baker.

The group says LEAs must be deprived not only of the power to provide schooling but also of the power to enforce it. The role of school inspectors must also be reviewed, it urges.

Self-governing schools, with boards elected by parents and benefactors, would provide a "sound curriculum". This would include reading, writing and maths and, at a higher level, history, sciences, maths, languages and some technical skills. The curriculum should be influenced through consensus and demand, although legal guarantees may later be needed to safeguard what is taught in schools, the group says.

The document is the work of Baroness Cox, Dr John Marks, Professor Roger Scruton, Mr Laurie Norcross, head of Highbury Grove School, and Mrs Jessica Douglas-Home, the artist.

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