Blocks lifted from road to opt-out status

28th June 1996 at 01:00
GM Schools. Limited to expanding and developing the grant-maintained sector.

* Nurseries: the present controls mean that in practice it can be harder for a GM school to add nursery classes for three and four-year-olds than for a local education authority school.

Schools must still publish statutory proposals where, by adding nursery classes, they would extend the school's age range by 12 months or more. The Government proposes to remove this requirement.

Voucher income will therefore be available to fund four-year-olds in GM nursery classes, both existing and new. For three-year-olds, schools would be able to apply to the Funding Agency for Schools (FAS) for additional grant.

There would be a limit on the funds available, but the Government will aim to ensure that they allow GM nursery provision to continue to grow.

* Sixth forms: the Government proposes to remove the requirement for GM schools to publish statutory proposals before opening new sixth forms.

* Increasing pupil numbers: the Government proposes to relax the controls so that GM schools could expand their capacity by up to 50 per cent rather than the current 25 per cent without publishing statutory proposals.

* Boarding: a GM school which wishes to introduce boarding must publish statutory proposals. The Government proposes to remove that requirement.

* Nolan committee: . . . the Government accepts that weaknesses in governance, failures of financial control and poor educational performance can all be interlinked, and that any problems must be tackled vigorously.

It therefore agrees that it would be helpful to extend the Funding Agency for School's remit so that it will take the operational lead in supporting schools with serious problems.

* Failing GM schools: where GM schools are found to be failing, the Secretary of State can appoint additional governors, or replace some or all of the first governors of a former county GM school.

The churches and other bodies which appoint the foundation governors at former voluntary schools can similarly replace those governors.

This will usually be enough to secure the school's recovery.

But, in a few cases, such remedies may work too slowly.

The Government therefore intends to introduce a last-resort power enabling the Secretary of State, whether on the recommendation of the FAS or otherwise, to appoint a body on the lines of an education association to take over the management of the school and resolve its problems.

* Easing the process of becoming GM: . . . the Government is concerned that the debate in too many ballots is distorted by misinformation and intimidation. In such cases, the balloting process can impose a heavy load on the school. The Government proposes to give governing bodies the opportunity of seeking help from an independent ballot observer. These observers would be available on request to schools embarking on ballots. The observer's role would be to ensure fair play during the campaign.

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