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GM sector to enjoy light touch

Inspection, inspection, inspection - just one topic at the annual education authorities' conference. Karen Thornton reports

LOCAL authorities should make the most of the management expertise of grant-maintained schools when they return to local control, they were told this week.

Under legislation currently before Parliament, GM schools will come back under the "light touch" of education authorities as foundation schools, while all maintained schools are likely to control more of their funding.

Sir Anthony Tippett, chairman of the Funding Agency for Schools, said he was painfully aware of the hostility some GM schools felt for their LEAs, and promised he would deal with this.

Speaking to the Council of Local Education Authorities' annual conference, he said: "The vast majority of (GM) schools will come to you in very good order educationally, physically and managerially.

"The heads come with proven experience and the conviction that self-management is the best option. I urge you to avail yourselves of that knowledge and experience and build on it.

"We must abandon past agendas on all sides. They won't build the different relationships required by the new structure."

Conservative education spokes-man David Willetts took a similar line with the CLEA conference, assuring delegates he wanted to develop a working relationship with local government and wanted to listen. "I'm interested in the future, I'm not interested in arguments about the past," said Mr Willetts.

"I realise the relationship between the Conservative government and local government has been somewhat fraught in the past. I want to make it a better relationship in the future, not least because the Conservative revival will have to begin at local level. It is not in my interest to leave our candidates at local level without positive things to say."

He conceded that perhaps the previous government had over-emphasised the gains for the thousand or so schools that opted out - at the expense of how the GM option changed the way authorities related to the many more schools that stayed with them.

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