Education and Employment Secretary Gillian Shephard was said to be considering how to fulfill the promise (made in a speech by John Major last year and again in this summer's White Paper) to allow consortia of schools to provide an alternative pupil referral unit service. One report even suggested that provision of secure boarding units - complete with barbed wire - was under serious consideration.
But a DFEE spokesperson said that, although officials were discussing various options on discipline, all this was "overheated speculation".
Sir Robert Balchin, chairman of the Grant-Maintained Schools Foundation, said that self-governing schools could run pupil referral units more efficiently than local authorities. He knew of two groups of schools, one in Kent, which would be interested in running PRUs as part of a consortium.