Kings prepares for battle to gain territorial control

26th January 2001 at 00:00
A SECONDARY school which has had a long-running dispute with its education authority over admissions is now seeking foundation status.

Kings' School, in Winchester, is one of the first schools to start the process of breaking free from local authority control.

Since September all schools have had the freedom to propose a change in their category. If approved, ownership of the school site transfers from the local authority to the governing body which would then control admissions and employ staff.

Ripon college, a North Yorkshire comprehensive, is also considering the change. It has arranged a meeting with the Foundation andVoluntary Aided Schools Association, which is giving advice on the advantages of foundation status, to schools in the area, including Ripon Grammar.

The organisation is speaking to schools in Calderdale next month and is holding a seminar in London in March.

Ray Bradbury, headteacher of Kings, said: "We want to give the school greater freedom to develop. We have done extremely well over the past few years. This seems a natural progression."

Kings clashed with Hampshire County Council last year after it tried to stop Mr Bradbury offering places to 500 pupils. The county said the school was on th verge of becoming dangerously overcrowded. More than 50 families appealed to an independent tribunal, which ruled that Mr Bradbury had been wrong, but nearly every child offered a place took it up.

The school, after consultations with parents and other nearby schools, is due to publish statutory proposals in mid-February. Following a two-month period for objections to be lodged, the bid will have to be decided by June by the local school organisation committee or, if deadlocked, the schools adjudicator.

Mr Bradbury pledged the status change would not herald an attempt to become selective or increase the size of the school. A spokesman for the Department for Education and Employment said there has been interest in the policy from a "number of schools" but no firm proposals had been published.

Paul Lowery, principal of Ripon college, said: "We are interested. Even as a community school, we have taken control over many things formerly handled by the local authority, for example grounds maintenance. Foundation status is a progression from there. Some of the governors are saying it would be a fairly natural progression."

There are 359 primary and 500 secondary foundation schools. All were formerly grant-maintained.

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