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MAJOR OPT-OUT LINE ANGERS ASSOCIATIONS

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Local authority associations have attacked John Major's attempt to revive the policy of encouraging schools to opt ...
Local authority associations have attacked John Major's attempt to revive the policy of encouraging schools to opt out of council control.

Since the government launched its opting-out policy in 1988 only about 3.5% of British schools have become grant- maintained. These include only one of Scotland's 6,349 schools.

In an interview with The Times last week Mr Major made it clear education was at the top of his policy agenda: 'I look forward to the day when all publicly funded schools will be run as free, self-governing schools. I believe in trusting headmasters, teachers and governing bodies to run their schools and in trusting parents to make the right choice for their children.'

Officials said Mr Major was not proposing coercing schools to become grant-maintained at this stage, but compulsion was not ruled out.

The Association of County Councils described Mr Major's remarks as incredible, and said the argument about grant- maintained schools was over.

'Whatever the government thinks, it is plain that schools and parents do not wish to see individual schools distance themselves from the local education community,' a spokesman said.

'The government would do better by increasing the accountability of the existing grant-maintained schools and encouraging them to work with others.

'Instead of picking a fight over a failed policy he should ask us to join with him to improve the education of all our children. He will find that local government is more than ready to respond.'

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities warned recently appointed Scottish education minister Raymond Robertson not to try to revive opting out.

'Mr Robertson is going to be deeply disappointed if he expects parents and pupils to welcome this relaunch. They simply do not want it,' said education convenor Elizabeth Maginnis.

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