The next phase towards doubling the number of assisted places at a cost of Pounds 11 million in the first year was announced by Gillian Shephard, Secretary of State for Education and Employment last Wednesday. As expected, the age range will be lowered.
She said the pace of expansion would depend on the supply of eligible high-quality places and on parental demand. Her department was inviting bids from independent schools already in the scheme or new ones to take in pupils from next September.
Mrs Shephard said the DFEE was looking for new day places mainly for 11-year-olds, but also for 13-year-olds and sixth formers; some new day places for under-11s in integral junior departments of independent secondaries; and for new places at specialist schools of music or ballet for talented pupils.
She told Parliament she would be seeking a fair distribution of places both geographically and between boys and girls and would especially welcome bids from inner-city areas.
The announcement fulfils John Major's pledge to the Conservative party conference last October. At present the Pounds 104 million scheme serves some 30,000 children in 293 schools, but it is undersubscribed by around 4,000 places.