Tories barmy plans condemned

6 Jul 00
The Local Government Association has condemned Conservative Party plans to bypass local education authorities as 'barmy'.

07 July 2000

Commenting on a speech by William Hague on July 4, LGA education chairman Graham Lane said the plans were 'unworkable'.

In his speech to think-tank Politeia, Hague pledged to end the monopoly on the provision of education and abolish local education authorities in their present form.

He said he would allow parents to apply for schools of their choice and give schools the freedom to manage their own budgets, which they would receive directly from central government on a per-pupil basis.

However, the plans were heavily criticised by the LGA and several teaching unions. Lane said the 'barmy' proposals were a 19th-century solution to a 21st-century problem and would lead to more failing schools if admissions became a free-for-all.

He said: 'Many schools will be financially worse off as they won't receive enough money for special needs, second language needs and school transport, particularly in rural areas.

'It is no more than a voucher system – money for schools based on the number of students attending – and it is a return to compulsorily opted-out schools.

'Hague clearly has no idea how schools relate to either national or local government,' Lane added.

The teaching unions were equally unimpressed. David Hart, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said that allowing schools to determine their own admissions policy would result in a 'market driven free-for-all'.

Fleshing out his 'free schools' proposals, Hague said he would allow new schools to be created, including grammar and specialist schools. 'There will be state-run and state-owned schools but there will also be privately run, state-owned schools and privately run, privately owned schools.'

By giving the entire education budget direct to schools, Hague estimated that every school in the country would get an average of £540 more per pupil per year.

But Hague did not envisage taking local councils out of the equation altogether. Responsibility for seeing that every child is educated would stay with them and they could play a role in educational welfare and special needs.


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