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A government push to persuade schools to opt out of council control is faltering, according to council backed lobby...
A government push to persuade schools to opt out of council control is faltering, according to council backed lobbyists Local Schools Information. Half the 26 schools balloted in December rejected grant maintained status.

The LSI believes a burst of activity after the 1992 election has now tailed off. In that year there were 241 ballots - 190 approved the change - while last year there were 87 and only 51 schools voted for the change.

Education Secretary John Patten will fall short of his 'simple projection of current trends' that 1,000 GM schools will be established by April this year. The LSI says the total will be between 965 and 975, although this does not include all those which have voted for the change.

James Pawsey, chairman of the Tory backbench education committee, said: 'So far 1,042 schools have voted for GM status. Something like half a million pupils will be educated in self governing schools. I wouldn't call that faltering'.

He accepted 'political bias' in local education authorities had stalled opting out in parts of the country (see map). Assuming an election in 1997, rather than 1996, Mr Pawsey believed the majority of secondary schools will then be grant maintained.

But Martin Rogers of the LSI says most recent gains for the government have been in LEAs with existing GM schools or in primary schools. He says cuts in capital and revenue inducements to opt out and greater delegation by councils of school budgets have reduced the attractions of GM status.

Some councils are also reported to be waiting to see how the common funding formula and the government appointed Funding Agency for Schools will encourage more opt outs when they start operating in April.

Parental demand for GM schools would ordinarily have to be great to counter LEA worries about mid year disruption to budgets (see box). It will have to be greater still if it is to overcome the reaction to the greatest challenge to council power since local government lost control of the health service.

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