Business backers set to dive in deeper

28th October 2005 at 01:00
One of the first of the new trust schools is likely to be Monkseaton college in North Tyneside, which Microsoft and the Open University hope to back.

Monkseaton has received support for three years from Microsoft, which has helped it set up a website, and for nine years from the OU, which has encouraged pupils to sit university-level modules.

Stephen Uden, head of citizenship for Microsoft UK, said the company saw trusts as the logical next step after sponsoring 100 specialist schools.

"Trusts provide opportunities for a much deeper level of business involvement than there is in specialist schools," he said. "That doesn't mean we'll be telling the school how to run its affairs. Our experience in specialist schools is that they value the time and expertise our staff can give".

Although trust backers are not required to give any money, Mr Uden said that Microsoft hoped to provide "substantial" equipment for the school.

Other early adopters of trusts will be foundation schools, which already have many of the same freedoms over admissions, staffing and management.

George Phipson, general secretary of the Foundation and Aided Schools National Association, said several foundation heads had expressed an interest.

"It would make them one step further removed from their local authorities,"

he said. "The trust wouldn't be involved on a day-to-day basis but it would provide them with greater stability than a local authority because it would have a long-term sense of direction."

The Government envisages that livery companies will be among trust backers, as the Merchant Taylors', Skinners and Mercers, are already involved in running schools.

However, many City of London livery companies greeted the proposals with caution.

Commander James Oliver, Clerk to the Worshipful Company of Ironmongers, said: "We have in the past considered becoming involved in the running of a school but we would not want to do it on our own and, to be honest, we really don't have the expertise. We feel that professionals should be running schools and we're not professionals in that field."

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