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First GM school comes in from the coldbold hexzczxcad

Clare Dean and Jon Slater report on a TES survey of grant-maintained schools' decisions on new status

THE only grant-maintained high school in the North-east has become the first of the 2,000-strong opted-out sector to announce it is returning to the local authority fold.

Astley Community High School in Seaton Delaval in Northumberland is to return to council control next September, citing isolation and loneliness as the reasons for the decision.

The 650-pupil school, which opted out five years ago because of budget cuts in the county, will lose control of its assets and the council will become its employer and admissions authority.

Its governors decided unanimously to go for community rather than foundation status - the preferred route for most GM schools - once the opted-out sector is abolished.

Astley high found itself frozen out after it went GM. The council would not sell it any services and although relationships with local schools were cordial, they would not work with it.

The Northumberland Association of Secondary Heads (NASH) was not open to Mike Lyons, Astley's headteacher and he said: "We were getting quite lonely. We missed the networking considerably."

The school began seriously thinking about going back to council control in the spring and the final decision will be made in 12 days. Parents are unlikely to contest it.

Governors have been convinced by the new system of funding which is more akin to that of the GM sector and the shift in council focus towards raising standards rather than day-to-day running of schools.

Mr Lyons said the school did not regret going GM: "I think it was possible to be passively dependent. What we have learned is to be a little bit more assertive. I don't expect any trouble with other schools."

Chris Tipple, education director, said there would be no revenge and added:

"We are very pleased that the school has opted for community status."

Clare Dean News 3 TESJnovember 27 1998 Returned to the fold: but the head of grant-maintained Hugh Farringdon School in Berkshire did not feel welcomed back by the Roman Catholic Church geoff franklin

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