New status will not give us any more freedom, says head

25th November 2005 at 00:00
Paul Strong, head of Will Farr school, Welton, Lincolnshire, is the head of a former grant-maintained school and committee member for the organisation for foundation and aided schools.

He is just the kind of head one would expect to be in the vanguard of school reform and keen to embrace the freedoms offered by the new independent trust schools proposed in the white paper.

But Mr Strong is not impressed.

"It is smoke and mirrors," he said. "For a foundation school it won't make any difference. I have already got my own cheque book, I already set my own admissions."

He wanted the Government to give him much more autonomy and fund him directly from the centre in the same way as academies.

Roy Pike, head of Torquay boys' grammar, and also a member of the Foundation and Aided Schools National Association, agrees. But unlike Mr Strong he is planning to acquire the new trust status. His school already has its own charitable trust, made up of parents and local business people, which has raised pound;500,000 towards improved school facilities since it was set up six years ago.

"We think it is a natural evolution for the trust to become further involved in the school and own the land and buildings," Mr Pike said.

He also craves the greater freedoms enjoyed by academies and concedes that the trust status will not really increase his selective school's independence.

But he still believes it could help the school develop. "It is more to do with that intangible ethos of innovative development within the school that might flow from the liberating influence of a trust."

The main difference between the new trust status and foundation status is that the former allows several schools to come under one trust. Mr Pike is particularly attracted by this opportunity, as he thinks a federation with a neighbouring Torquay comprehensive or other grammar schools on the south coast could be of mutual benefit.

Sir Cyril Taylor, chairman of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, believes it is collaboration that will encourage many schools to become trusts.

He estimates that some 50 schools will opt for the new status immediately and expects many schools in existing partnerships to be among them.

Sharing a trust would allow them to pool services such as IT and share expertise in the curriculum.

"This is not about setting schools against each other, it is about bringing them together to collaborate," he said.

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