Tories consult on 'common sense';News;News and opinion

26th November 1999 at 00:00
IN A week overshadowed by the Jeffrey Archer scandal, the Conservatives launched their first major education policy document since the election.

The Common Sense Revolution in Education proposes greater autonomy for schools, so-called "free" schools unfettered by council control; a parents' guarantee; abolition of the rule saying surplus places must be filled, and league tables of key stage 1 results. Partner schools set up by private or voluntary bodies and paid for by taxpayers are also promised.

Theresa May, the shadow education secretary, said every school will receive a copy and be asked to respond by the end of January.

Under the "free" school proposals, heads and governors would have complete management responsibility. They would be in charge of employing staff, term times, admissions and have flexib-ility over the curriculum and pay.

Relaxing the surplus places rule would allow partner schools to be established. These would be set up by the private sector, charities or parents, funded by the state, to give "increased choice, innovation and the scope for parents to choose a school ethos that suits the education they want for their child".

The Conservatives also pledge to "slash the burden of bureaucracy on schools"; give heads and governors control of their budgets,bypass local education authorities; give parents the right to call for an inspection and set up "Headway centres" to identify and help children in danger of exclusion.

Ms May said free and partner schools would create a different ethos by opening up the education system to the voluntary and private sectors which would increase diversity and choice for parents.

Diane Spencer

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