Eight consider return to local authority

With the Government intent on abolishing the grant-maintained sector, what does the future hold for schools which opted for independence under the Conservatives? Clare Dean and Dorothy Lepkowska report on the results of a TES survey

Just eight grant-maintained schools are prepared to return to local authority control and two of those only opted-out under threat of closure.

Most GM schools are expected to opt for foundation status - the nearest equivalent to GMS, though local authorities will have a role.

The eight comtemplating returning to the local authority range from a primary and nursery school to a technology college.

One head, whose grammar school opted out to raise money, told The TES: "I cannot see, as a former county school, big advantages in foundation (status). "

The head of a secondary said: "GM status is attractive because you have the necessary funding to manage effectively without local authority intervention. "

His governors have yet to decide what category to choose, but he believes they will go for community rather than foundation status. "Foundation status is unattractive because it offers autonomy without the appropriate fiscal support."

All eight schools said they have been able to improve their buildings as a result of opting out and three said that they had taken on more staff. One of the primary schools had set up a nursery.

Two secondaries said that opting out had enabled them to raise standards - at one school the percentage of pupils gaining five good grade GCSEs has risen from 22 per cent to 38 per cent.

Six schools expected to lose staff when their sector is abolished, though one head said: "We lost staff in spite of GM status."

Two schools expected reprisals from the local authority. Nevertheless the head of one said: "We may well choose to revert to community status because of the long-term question marks over foundation schools and their relationship with the LEA."

The other said: "I would like to feel that new Government plans will give greater parity of funding and improved autonomy for all schools, together with support from LEAs with their own brand of expertise and experience."

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