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Private-state school links win pound;600,000

Forty-eight projects to help break down barriers between education's state and independent sectors were expected to be announced today by Stephen Byers, school standards minister.

The schools, spread across England, will receive pound;600,000 towards their projects, pound;350,000 from the Government and pound;250,000 from the Sutton Trust. This is pound;100,000 more than the sum announced last November, reflecting the overwhelming response to the initiative. More than 300 applications were submitted.

Subjects covered by the projects include numeracy, literacy, science, sport, art, music, technology, modern foreign languages and special needs. Some involve two schools working together and some involve clusters of schools.

The Government was also due to publish today the interim report of the advisory group on independentstate school partnerships, set up by Mr Byers in November. The advisory group, chaired by Chris Parker, head of Nottingham High School, considered all the applications before passing recommendations to the minister.

But a warning that partnership between the sectors would only flourish if New Labour could overcome Old Labour prejudices was issued at the weekend by Alistair Cooke, general secretary of the Independent Schools Council.

Instinctive opponents of independent schools abounded in local education authorities in Labour's heartlands, he told independent school heads in Brighton.

Labour was no friend of the independent sector or it would have reformed rather than abolished the Assisted Places Scheme, added Dr Cooke. But the partnership could flourish where shared interests existed to bind the partners.

Independent schools would respond readily to a call for a close relationship. But they never forgot that parents paid fees for the education of their children, not to subsidise the state sector.

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