Private firm to run state school

Conservatives in Surrey are expected this week to begin the search for a private company to open and and run a school on the site of the failing comprehensive, Kings' Manor, in Guildford, writes Geraldine Hackett.

The decision to go with the contract would see the first privately-run state school in the country. The specification, prepared for the education committee due to meet yesterday, says the company would be paid a fee related to the number of pupils on roll.

The council has already been approached by three leading education companies: the UK-based Edison project, CfBT and Nord Anglia. European companies could now be added to the list.

The school has 400 pupils on a site designed for 900. It has problems competing with neighbouring schools which have better academic results.

The company would be required to set up a non-denominational voluntary-aided school. Its governors would employ staff, own the premises and set admissions policy.

Council officers are suggesting a short-list of companies be drawn up before the end of the year. School closure plans would be published next spring and the new school opened in September 2000.

The fees will be subject to negotiation, but the specification suggests performance-related bonuses could be paid on the basis of targets on test results; pupil attendance; exclusions; inspection findings and the numbers attracted to the school.

The decision on whether to close the school or draw up a contract for private companies to run another school on the same site was postponed last month. The committee was not expected to agree closure as there is a shortage of places in the area.

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