50 trust school hopefuls announced

The government has today named the 50 schools hoping to become self-governing trusts when the controversial education bill comes into force.

Seventeen schools have begun preparing to link up with local businesses, charities or universities to create a trust on their own, and a further 31 have applied to do so in partnership with another local school.

The education bill, which has yet to receive royal assent, proposes that state schools be freed to run their own affairs through a trust. This would be set up in partnership with outside organisations in a bid to pool expertise and raise standards.

It caused major controversy among Labour MPs and only got through the House of Commons with the help of the Conservatives. Today’s announcement is an attempt by ministers to show that there is support for the reforms.

“Providing a lasting link between schools and external expertise helps to raise standards – specialist schools and academies have proved this,” said education secretary Alan Johnson.

“The 28 trust pathfinder projects being named today are about using the ideas, energy, and talent that exists in voluntary groups, charities, universities and business foundations to help more young people fulfil their potential.

“The flexibilities and freedoms that trust status provides will allow school leaders to better respond to the needs of their communities, work in partnership to tackle challenges and to work with parents to shape the direction and ethos of their school.”

However, the general secretary of head teachers union Nasuwt, Chris Keates, warned his members would continue to oppose the creation of new trusts.

“It is highly regrettable that a government which has done so much to raise standards still persists with the view that changing the structure of governance and accountability of schools is the key to securing a world class education system,” he said.

He added: “Schools can respond to the needs of their community, work in collaboration with other schools and tackle challenges without trust status.”

But the head of the Association of School and College Lecturers, John Dunford, welcomed the high number of schools applying for trust status in partnership with others schools – in south Devon, six colleges have applied to become a trust together.

“Trusts represent a new way of cementing partnerships between schools and of creating new partnerships with businesses, universities and colleges,” Dr Dunford said.

He added: “The inherent danger of trust status is that it will encourage schools to compete with each other at a time when more and more schools are forming partnerships.

“Therefore I welcome the fact that the majority of the potential pathfinder schools are working in collaboration with other schools and with outside partners to increase opportunities in their areas.”