Leading independent schools are gearing up for a joint bid to form private companies to run state schools and possibly take over whole education departments.
The Independent Schools Council will brief head teachers in its 1,300 schools on a range of government inspired public/private initiatives. The organisation hopes its schools will form partnership firms to rival other education contractors.
The move comes in anticipation of the government's white paper on education due out next week. The paper is expected to provide greater provision for private companies to run education services.
School standards minister Stephen Timms has indicated schools would be able to contract out individual departments and their staff.
General secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers Nigel de Gruchy said the proposals 'must be lifted straight out of the 'Railtrack book of management chaos''.
'Teachers will be bewildered by the minister's comments. There is simply no credible evidence that handing schools over to the private sector, on the same resource basis, leads to better results,' he said.
The National Union of Teachers' assistant secretary John Bangs said: 'The idea that private schools gain financially from public education is one that I think many will find hard to stomach.'
Chris Waterman, general secretary of the Society of Chief Education Officers, said the proposals could lead to a further fragmentation of the education service, eroding the co-ordinated pattern of schools needed to service catchment areas.