Born free to make an impact;Briefing;Goodbye to GM

23rd April 1999 at 01:00
Clare Dean and Frances Rafferty examine the legacy that education has inherited from the grant-maintained sector

The 10-year experiment of grant-maintained schools comes to an end today with both sides claiming victory.

Local authorities may have cause to celebrate the demise of the Tory flagship policy, but it has left its mark on councils which now have to operate in a different world.

The mere threat of schools opting out of council control was enough to change the climate, forcing authorities to delegate more money and to give headteachers more independence.

And while there is no proof that GM made a difference academically - the Conservative government did not commission any research - the movement has had a big impact on the way schools are funded and their relationship with local authorities.

Labour began dismantling the sector last November, telling the 1,199 schools they had to make a preliminary decision on their new status and giving them until today to notify the Department for Education and Employment.

The new education landscape features three types of school: foundation (largely ex-GMs); community (formerly county schools) and aided ( church schools).

Foundation schools are at one remove from their authority - acting as employers, owners of their property and admissions authorities. But their funding will be channelled through the authority, which will also monitor performance and target-setting while providing support for improvement.

The "foundation fudge" was viewed as an act of betrayal by those who wanted GM scrapped outright. But Stephen Byers, when he was schools standards minister, said that ministers had learned from the GM experience and would seek to extend the benefits of self-management and greater budgetary control.

One consequence is that foundation schools which come into effect in September, will act as a check on councils. They may well be very useful to John Prescott, the deputy Prime Minister, as he seeks to restructure local government.

Senior figures from the GM world already occupy more than their fair share of places on the national employers' organisation and the government committee which worked on the new funding regime. A quarter of the new admissions adjudicators, who will rule on school places, are either board members or officials from the Funding Agency for Schools, the GM quango.

Andrew Turner, former chief executive of the Grant-Maintained Schools Foundation, said: "GM was seminal in the development of school autonomy. It clearly impressed local authorities because they were forced to devolve more money to schools through local management."

But Graham Lane, education chair of the Local Government Association, said:

"The GM experiment was a glorious failure and now schools will be serving their communities instead of competing with each other."

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, described the new framework as halfway house. He said: "I am sure we haven't seen the end of the GM concept. I forecast that if Labour is re-elected it will be education authorities who will be fighting for survival."

GM FACTS AND FIGURES

Number of GM schools in England:

1,199 (6 per cent of all schools)

668 secondary (23 per cent)

511 primary (3 per cent)

20 special (2 per cent)

They include 101 grammar schools and 121 specialist colleges - 95 specialising in technology, 2 in the arts, 4 in sports and 20 in languages.

* Number of pupils in GM schools: 767,982 (10 per cent of all pupils)

625,918 secondary (20 per cent)

140,129 primary (3 per cent)

1,935 in special (2 per cent)

* Number of teachers in GM schools: 44,295 (12 per cent)

38,030 secondary (21 per cent) 5,946 primary (3 per cent)

317 in special (2 per cent)

* Number of LEAS containing at least one GM school: 109? Types of GM schools:

Aided 247; Controlled 113;

County 791; County special 20;

Established by Funding Agency for Schools 3; Independent: 13; Special Agreement 13.

* Denominations: CofE primary 121; CofE secondary 33; RC primary 57; RC secondary 96; Jewish primary 5; Jewish secondary 2; Muslim 1.

* Grants paid, 19981999

Capital grants: pound;125 million

Special purposes grants including primary support and restructuring pound;79m;

Annual maintenance grant pound;1.8bn; * Average grant per school 19981999: pound;1.68m

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