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Fast track to foundation secondaries

Hundreds of secondary schools are expected to use a fast track to foundation status to take over control of their admissions, assets and staff from local councils.

Around 300 attended seminars last term run by the Foundation and Aided Schools National Association which is promoting the scheme on behalf on the Government.

George Phipson, general secretary of FASNA, expects applications from more than half, with similar numbers following in future years. But Martin Rogers, from the local authority funded Children's Services Network, is sceptical. "I think it unlikely that hundreds will take it up," he said.

"On the ground the feeling is that the benefits are not there."

Only 14 secondaries have used the fast track process since it was introduced in August. But last term's seminars, run with the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, led to a rush of interest. Linda Doyle, the trust's head of joint initiatives, said: "There was more than we expected.

We had to make our events much bigger."

Mr Phipson said there was also considerable interest in using the controversial new trust status promoted by the education Bill to cement collaboration between schools.

He said heads and governors were attracted to foundation status; which more than 500 mainly former grant-maintained schools already possess; because it had been de-politicised by the fast track process.

Schools used to have their applications decided by school organisation committees, which he said tended to attract posturing from people on either side of the old grant-maintained argument. He said. "It has now become a professional decision.

"If the extra responsibilities offered as a foundation school fit with a school's ambitions then they are very pleased to take them on."

The Charter school in Southwark, London, gained foundation status this term principally to control its admissions and ensure the local pupils it was originally set up to serve in 1999 had priority. Chris Bowler, the head who also plans to use the status to improve sport and sixth form facilities, said the fast-track process was an added incentive.

"It was remarkably straightforward," he said. "Having to go to the school organisation committee would have made us think twice." Ministers have consulted on extending the process to primaries but are still considering how to introduce it.

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