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Ripon starts bid for foundation status

RIPON college, the secondary modern at the centre of an anti-selection campaign, is poised to leave local authority control.

Governors at the school, which controversially opposed moves to end the 11-plus at neighbouring Ripon Grammar school, have unanimously given their backing to a bid for foundation status. Formal consultations will now begin.

They believe they will be able to spend their budget more efficiently and have more say over employing staff. But they are also critical of North Yorkshire County Council's relationship with schools.

This is the first year that local authority maintained schools have had the opportunity to become foundation schools. Several are understood to be pursuing a move, but none has yet lodged a formal bid.

Ripon is thought to be among the most advanced. Governors expect to make a final decision in September after hearing the views of parents, neighbouring and feeder schools, and councillors. The changeover would take place in April next year.

The grammar school - which stands across the road from the secondary modern - is the only one in the country to have so far faced a vote on ending selection. The college, which recently won technology college status, combined with its neighbour to fight for the status quo. The pro-selection lobby won the ballot two-to-one on a 75 per cent turnout.

The school has a huge and growing community college which takes in some 4,000 adult learners, runs youth services and has 200 part-time, non-teaching staff. It is also leading on several projects in a pound;3.3 million regeneration grant won by the town.

Headteacher Paul Lowery says: "Foundation status would give us greater flexibility in the appointment and deployment of staff. We want to be able to manage our own premises as a business, rather than running it as a local authority school. We would be setting our own rates for renting out premises for various community functions.

"At the moment, if you want anything done, you sit on the local authority waiting list for a very long time and at the end of it, it still doesn't get done."

Mr Lowery was also critical of the council for not consulting schools - particularly over changes to admissions policy. As a foundation school, the college will have control over its own admissions policy and North Yorks will have to consult it over changes at its neighbours.

But he said there were no plans to change the college's admissions policy or to select the 10 per cent it is entitled to as a technology college.

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