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Return to the state unlikely

Terms offered by Manchester Grammar School, one of Britain's most successful independents, for its return to the state sector are unlikely to appeal to either the Government or Labour, writes Geraldine Hackett.

It is among schools attracted by the campaign of former education minister and Conservative MP for Buckingham, George Walden, to encourage former direct grant schools back into the state system.

The scheme would allow Manchester Grammar School to admit children regardless of parental income, but would mean the Government having to pay the full fees of more children than under the existing assisted places scheme.

Dr Mark Stephen, High Master, said the school favoured increased state funding to bridge the divide with the maintained sector. "What we have to offer is specialist academic education. We would expect the rate for the job, which is the amount of our fees," he said.

Fees for Manchester's 1,436 boys aged between 11 and 18 are Pounds 4,000 a year, while the annual cost of state secondary schools is closer to Pounds 2,500 per pupil.

Independent schools can currently opt in to the state sector by applying to become grant-maintained, but are then funded at the rate of neighbouring state schools. Two public schools in the Wirral are expected to go grant-maintained in September.

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