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'Nightmare' process of changing status

The first schools seeking foundation status have described the application system as cumbersome and bureaucratic. Sue Learner reports

ONE of the first schools to opt out of local authority control and change to foundation status has described the process as a "bureaucratic nightmare".

Local authority-maintained schools are now able to become foundation schools, and many say they are attracted by the idea of having control over their own admissions policy.

Foundation schools also employ their own staff and manage their buildings and land.

Nick Butt, headteacher of St Edmund's primary school in King's Lynn, which has applied for foundation status, said: "It has been extremely arduous and very bureaucratic. We have been working on it for most of this year.

"The consultation had to be very rigorous and there were 60 pages of paperwork to fill in for the statutory requirements. I think that unless they are determined, a lot of people will be put off.

"A lot of schools don't even realise that they can change status if they want to. It is only those schools which have been very vigilant which have twigged. It is like a secret society."

St Edmund's school has just been given the go-ahead by the Schools Organisation Committee, and the changeover is expected to take place in January 2002.

Springwood high school in King's Lynn, which is also opting for the change, has found the procedure very cumbersome too.

Headteacher Peter Hopkins said: "I have a file which is two inches thick. We really needed to put in a lot of work. It should be a comparatively straightforward change as community schools already have a degree of independence, so it is not the major step that becoming a grant-maintained school used to be.

"If we get the backing for foundation status it will give us a greater degree of independence to meet our educational needs."

Springwood is still waiting to hear the outcome of its application.

The Association of Foundation and Voluntary Aided Schools has been holding seminars to advise those wishing to opt for foundation status. Chair Joan Binder says there has been a lot of interest.

She said: "As the Government has given more and more opportunities for self-management, schools feel ready to take on these additional responsibilities. Our advice to them is to ensure that they carry out a full consultation and to make sure parents, staff and governors fully understand what is going on."

The first school in the country to change to foundation status will be Churston Ferrers grammar school in Torbay this September. Kirkbie Kendal high school in Cumbria is currently going through the process.

The Department for Education and Skills has received more than 60 enquiries from schools interested in changing to foundation status.

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