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Key points for schools to consider with their professional advisers

The legal aspect

Any such centre, whether owned collect-ively or by just one school, should always be set up as an educat-ional trust. It is essential to ensure that any trust deed meets the stated aims of the centre and maintains the educational nature of a centre. For example, a school should only be able to sell its share-holding to another school, rather than any "educational" organ-isation. Different plan-ning regulations and legal and tax systems may complicate initial and subsequent deal-ings over an overseas centre.

The commitment

For such a major invest-ment of money, human resources and educat-ional time, it is essential to consult with all inter-ested groups -- govern-ors, staff, parents and pupils. For example, does what is on offer meet the educational needs of a sufficient number of the pupils? Does the school prefer to buy "off the shelf" visits to various centres, run its own centre or be in a scheme with respon-sibility shared with other schools and manage-ment arrangements in place? If the latter, is someone in the school prepared to take on the role of checking out the centre, handling negot-iations, organising the fundraising and monit-oring events thereafter? Will such a commitment reduce the range of other overseas visits or field study trips a school can offer?

Raising the money

For local authority schools, Section 36 of the Education Reform Act 1988 enables a governing body to spend any sum from the school budget "as they think fit for the purposes of the school". Most schools, however, have preferred to use money from special fundraising events or from parents' covenants. A local authority loan may be refused on the grounds that it is not for a UK-based project or has too many strings attached, "giving the LEA a stake in the school's share".

Where to find out more The Avelon Study Centre, contact Graeme Duncan, Avelon, Kervideo, 29340 Riec-sur-Belon, France; tel 00 33 98 06 44 43.

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