Schools stand by their local authorities

1st September 2000 at 01:00
SCHOOLS are sticking with their local education authority even when it has been given a damning inspectors' report.

A TES survey of dozens of secondary schools in councils with critical Office for Standards in Education reports, has found most say that they are happy to stay as community (formerly county or LEA) schools, rather than seek greater independence as foundation schools, the category chosen by most of the former grant-maintained sector last September.

There were claims that some community schools wanted to escape the LEA yoke by becoming foundation schools, which are responsible for admissions and directly employ their staff, when they have the option of changing status this month.

But the TES survey found that most did not intend to do so, although some were waiting to see if their authorities improved. Others said more responsibility for their own budgets meant they already had the freedom to buy in services from elsewhere.

Some had applied for or taken up specialist status as technology or art schools, and were not contemplating further changes.

Joan Binder, chairwoman of the Foundation and Voluntary Aided Schools' Association, said anecdotl evidence from committee members, was that successful schools - not necessarily those in "failing" authorities - were interested in changing status.

She said: "Enquiries have come in the main from schools that are successful and feel they want to take that further step to be a little bit more removed from the local authority.

"Our feeling is it's where schools have, over time, acquired the confidence to determine their own future, rather than that they are trying to escape."

Chris Gale, chairwoman of the National Governors' Council, and a governor at a foundation school in Swindon, said she had received at least a couple of dozen enquiries in the past six months from colleagues around the country considering the change of status.

But the TES survey, of more than a third of non-denominational community schools in 11 education authorities criticised by OFSTED, found most (86 per cent) were not considering a change.

Only three schools - two in London and one in Sheffield - were seriously considering foundation status. A handful (9 per cent) were undecided, or wouldn't comment, or were waiting to see what progress their education authority made.

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