The Education Bill, published yesterday, was expected to reveal that ministers have retreated from their original plan to allow all schools to choose from community, voluntary (church) or foundation status.
In response to criticism that plans for school ballots would distract from the Government's strategy for raising standards, the Bill proposes that only grant-maintained schools be given the opportunity to choose their new category once the legislation comes into force in late summer. The Bill brings an end to grant-maintained status and around two-thirds of the existing grant-maintained schools are expected to opt for foundation status, which allows schools to own their buildings and directly employ their staff.
However, other schools will at a later date be able to switch categories using existing procedures for changing between local authority and church control. (Schools are required to publish proposals, which are referred to the Education Secretary).
This latest concession comes in the wake of major changes made by ministers in response to criticism from the Church of England and the Catholic Church. School standards minister Stephen Byers has agreed that to retain existing provisions for church schools.