Bid to curb trust school revolt

27th January 2006 at 00:00
"McSchools" would be banned under changes to the white paper being proposed by MPs today.

Labour and Liberal Democrat Commons education select committee members want to block companies such as those selling fast food or toys from managing new trust schools.

They are also expected to call for parent representatives to have half the places on trust school governing bodies and for an anonymous admissions system to cut down on covert school selection.

The MPs hope their report will provide the basis of compromise between the Government and backbench Labour rebels who oppose the proposed trust schools - independent of local authorities and run by trusts headed by private businesses, private sponsors or charities - and the white paper's changed role for local authorities.

It was written when hours of meetings failed to produce a select committee consensus. The three Conservative members have written their own report, expected to back the more controversial aspects of the white paper.

The white paper says external bodies, including private businesses and religious groups, would be able to appoint the majority of trust school governors.

The select committee report was expected to address privatisation fears by calling for heavy restrictions on the assets that can be handed over to trust schools and for local authorities to be allowed to set up community schools, something the white paper rules out.

It is expected to recommend that parents should be able to elect half of the trust school governors and that ministers introduce a register of organisations and people deemed suitable to manage a school or to set up a trust.

"It would list the organisations that could have a positive role in managing a school, like universities and charities," one MP said.

In 2004 Charles Clarke, then education secretary, ruled out vetting companies seeking to back specialist schools and academies even though Enron, the discredited energy firm, appeared on the official list of specialist school donors.

The report recommends that admissions applications sent to schools would not include pupils' names or personal details that could lead to bias in their selection. It also wants a stronger duty placed on schools and local authorities to ensure that schools have socially mixed intakes.

MPs want the schools commissioner to be independent from Government and to help ensure schools have mixed intakes by collecting information on the social inclusiveness of schools.

The report is expected to warn: "There is a danger that a poorly- managed choice agenda could accelerate the flight from schools in deprived areas."

War over White Paper 23

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