Published on The Guardian, by Polly Curtis, education editor, October 2, 2007.
- Independents are urged to aid Labour flagship policy;
- ‘Hands off’ warning from head of fee-paying sector.
The schools minister Lord Adonis will today attempt to persuade top independent schools to help run state-funded academies by dropping a requirement that they contribute Ł2m to starting costs. Ministers want to make it easier for private schools to sponsor academies against opposition from fee-paying parents who object to their money being spent outside the school their child attends.
Lord Adonis told the Guardian ahead of a speech today to the Headmasters’ and Headmistreses’ Conference (HMC): “Successful independent schools will be exempt from the Ł2m sponsorship requirement when they set up or support an academy. It is their educational DNA we are seeking not their fee income or their existing charitable endowments.”
The change in the sponsorship rule is similar to concessions made for universities and colleges who were told earlier this year they could start academies – state-funded schools run by private sponsors with more independence than regular schools – without making the one-off payment. That was seen as an attempt to move away from the original profile of academy sponsors, who were mostly from business and religious organisations with less experience of running schools.
Around 25 private schools – including Marlborough, Lancing, Dulwich College and Wellington College – sponsor or partner an academy. A spokesman for the Department of Children, Families and Schools added that only top quality independent schools would be allowed to take advantage of the deal. “We are not going to be interested in poor performing schools,” he said … (full text).