SCHOOLS should be allowed to mortgage or sell their land and buildings to raise money in an effective privatisation of the education system, a former adviser to John Major argues in a pamphlet published this week.
Expanding on the "free schools" concept which forms the central plank of Tory party education policy, Sean Williams argues that heads and governors should be released from the "clammy grip of state control".
The booklet, Freedom for Schools, published by the right-wing Centre for Policy Studies, says schools should be given independent status, with ownership of their land and buildings transferred from the local education authority.
Mr Williams, a member of the Number 10 policy unit when Mr Major was prime minister, described his proposals as "large-scale privatisation".
A simple national funding formula would be introdued and the private sector would have the right to take over or open new state schools.
A Failing Schools Agency would be established to intervene in cases referred to it by the Office for Standards in Education, issuing contracts to turn the schools around. It would favour the cheapest, most credible bidder.
Heads would have total freedom over pay and conditions, and the right to de-
recognise teaching unions.
"The school system today has as much chance of succeeding as the old nationalised industries of the 1970s," Mr Williams writes.
But Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said:
"Land and buildings are not the property of a school - they belong to a maintained education service. The actions of a few individuals could jeopardise a co-ordinated education system for all children."