Eight who will return to the fold;Goodbye to GM

Few grant-maintained schools are expecting recriminations from councils and most are bullish about retaining autonomy

JUST eight of the grant-maintained schools in The TES survey are to return to local authority control.

Four primaries, three secondaries and one special school said hat they are to become community schools once the GM sector is abolished on September 1.

This means that the governors will no longer be the employers, they will lose ownership of the school and will surrender the right to control their admissions.

The schools are scattered throughout the country - from Tyne and Wear and Northumberland to Kent, Hampshire and Worcestershire.

Only one of the eight heads - from a primary school - said he feared recriminations after the governing body decided to become a community school. He expected both himself and his school to suffer as a result of returning to council control. The school is already facing budget cuts of up to 10 per cent and expects to lose two non-teaching staff.

The head of a primary in Worcestershire predicted "stagnation, inflexibility and dancing to the local authority's tune" once the sector is abolished.

But he added: "As I am leaving to become self-employed after 26 years as a head, this will be for my successor!" Simon Webb, head of Brookfield junior in Maidstone in Kent, is one of the few prepared to be frank, but he has his own reasons for going back - the rain.

When the heavens open staff rush into the school hall with a bucket. a flat-roofed 1960s construction, Brookfield is too expensive to maintain. The school has unanimously opted for community status after being GM for the past five years.

As a community school Brookfield will share responsibility for health and safety with the local authority whose job it will be to maintain buildings and land (a major consideration when you have a large, flat-roofed block).

Mr Webb said the school's governing body had based its choice purely on funding.

If Brookfield had opted to become a foundation school, the closest to being grant maintained in terms of independence from the local authority, Mr Webb believes it would have been worse off because precious funds would have had to be hived-off for building maintenance.

As a GM school Brookfield has received 13.5 per cent more in funding per year - pound;70,000 in the first year. As a community school it will be worse off, but Mr Webb believes Kent is prepared to move ahead in the interest of all its schools. "There is a very positive culture in Kent to do the best for all schools, irrespective of their status."

News 11 TESJapril 23 1999 Opting in: a lesson at Brookfield junior in Larkfield, Kent, which is returning to council control in the hope that the local authority will sort out problems with a leaking flat roof above the entrance hall The TES survey was confidential and conducted by post. Questionnaires were sent to the 1,199 grant-maintained schools last month. There were 621 replies, a 52 per cent response rate. The breakdown of responses was 332 secondary, 255 primary, 11 special, 6 middle, one ex-independent, one school which was closing and 15 which did not give their status.

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