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Multi-site choice: split or merge;Briefing;Governors

Separate schools on one site and under one governing body will have to make a stark choice when the School Standards and Framework Bill is made law: split or amalgamate.

Despite the Government's statement in last year's White Paper that "standards matter more than structures", the Bill will require all "grouped" schools presided over by one governing body to set up separate governing bodies for each site.

The Bill leaves no room for dissenters - the choice that the Government proposes is simple: if schools do not wish to split their governance, they can amalgamate under one head and a larger governing body.

But where does this leave schools that feel they would be better off without the change? Dick Cooper, at Honeywell juniors in Battersea, London, is the last head in Wandsworth to submit. Honeywell is also the country's only grant-maintained group of schools.

"If we are forced to separate, we'll still defy the Department for Education and Employment by having our governing bodies sit in the same room for their meetings. We won't be split," said Mr Cooper.

Replying to a letter from Honeywell, the DFEE told the school that the "arguments for de-grouping are more persuasive" than retention.

Sue Nicholson, assistant secretary for the NAHT, says the union is all for more separation: "When an LEA amalgamates a school it can save up to pound;40,000 and a lot of surplus places almost instantly."

But she acknowledges inherent problems in the legislation: "One of the biggest problems for many schools will be finding enough parents for governors in the first place. Some schools find that very hard."

* Rupert Collins-White

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