20th November 1998 at 00:00
Q I was sorry that grant-maintained schools were not abolished when the Government changed. I read in an article, however, that in future other schools are to be more like GM schools. Could you tell me what this means?

AThe first thing to say is that there is no longer any process whereby schools can apply to receive their funding other than from the local authority. Other moves have been made towards "harmonising" the two existing systems, and these come from various directions, but in particular from the Education Standards and Framework Act 1998 and the recent consultation document, Fair Funding.

First, the Act will abolish the name "grant-maintained", and the replacement "foundation" schools will have to establish some kind of foundation to hold the property in trust for school purposes and appoint governors, making them more like voluntary-aided schools . Second, the governing bodies of these foundation schools will in future include representatives of the LEA, as other schools do. Third, the Funding Agency for Schools ceases to exist at the end of the current financial year.

From that date, former GM schools will receive their funding direct from the LEA, and there is no longer a prospect (as established in the 1993 Act) of the overall planning role passing from the LEA even if there were a funding agency to pass it to, as would have been the case previously when opting out reached a certain level in an area.

The Government clearly envisages a funding formula common to all LEA schools, which will remove any grant differentiation, while the proposals for even more delegation of LEA functions mean that all schools will have almost as much spending independence as former GMs. The movement towards common admissions criteria is also going to diminish differences and with them unofficial selection of entrants. Former GM schools will also have to establish appeals tribunals for parents refused admission.

Finally, and little noticed in press comment on the Act, Schedule 10 provides for all governing bodies to have power, for the purposes of the school, to buy and sell land or property, accept gifts and (subject to the approval of the Secretary of State, or the LEA if empowered by the Secretary of State) borrow money. They may also enter into contracts, but in the case of community (former county) schools not contracts with teachers (former GM, like voluntary-aided schools, are responsible for teachers' contracts and have the status of employers).

These changes clearly make other schools more like former GM schools as well as the other way about, so harmonisation proceeds from both directions.

Questions for Joan Sallis should be sent to Agenda, The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY

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