Ministers say who is fit to run schools

28th April 2006 at 01:00
Pornographers, bookmakers, tobacco and alcoholic drinks companies - and criminals - are to be banned from running trust schools. But junk-food firms could still gain a foothold.

In what will be seen as a concession to rebel Labour backbenchers the Government has for the first time given examples of organisations that should not become involved in running schools.

Draft statutory guidance says school governors must ensure: "Trust members and proposed trustees are not involved in activities that may be considered inappropriate for children and young people, for example tobacco, gambling, adult entertainment, alcohol."

It adds that they should not be involved in illegal activities, employment disputes or have broken health and safety rules. But the guidance, published this week, is unlikely to quell concerns about junk-food companies using trust schools to gain access to pupils. They are not on the blacklist.

Trust schools, at the centre of controversy over the Government's reforms, will control their own admissions, assets and staff and could be run by external organisations such as private companies or universities.

Many Labour MPs made regulation of trust partners a condition of voting for the education Bill last month. And now it appears ministers are attempting to fulfil their side of the bargain.

They have also tried to appease backbenchers by giving high-performing local authorities an automatic right to propose new community schools.

The guidance sets out a checklist for governors to work through when considering trust partners.

They must consider:

* whether a trust would help raise standards and deliver the Every Child Matters agenda.

* how it would develop the school's culture.

* the impact on local schools and take into account the views of parents, nearby local authorities, MPs and other interested parties.

Local councils will have no more than 20 per cent of voting rights on a trust, scotching any suggestion that town halls could use the scheme to regain control over schools via the back door.

The guidance suggests that trusts could help introduce the 14-19 agenda by linking schools with colleges and local firms.

Chris Waterman, Confederation of Education Service Managers executive director, said there needed to be a more extensive list of inappropriate partners.

David Chaytor, a Labour backbench member of the standing committee considering the Bill, welcomed the guidance but said it did not go far enough.

He wants all potential trusts vetted by the Government and a bar on any firm with a financial interest in marketing to children.

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