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TRUST SCHOOLS - DELIVERING REFORM

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The government's vision for a diverse education system in which schools make use of greater freedoms to raise stand...
The government's vision for a diverse education system in which schools make use of greater freedoms to raise standards moved a step closer today as education secretary Alan Johnson named the first schools working towards acquiring a trust and announced the appointment of the schools commissioner.

The schools white paper set out plans for a new type of school that will deliver higher standards by harnessing the energy, experience and talents of external partners through a charitable trust.

Mr Johnson said:

'Today marks the latest stage in the government's drive to towards even higher standards in our schools.

'Significant progress has already been made to secure high standards in our schools - we now have the best ever GCSE and A level results - but we must go further to secure higher achievement in every school and for every young person.

'Providing a lasting link between schools and external expertise helps to raise standards - specialist schools and academies have proved this. 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.

'There is a real momentum gathering behind our reforms. From today around 50 schools will be exploring trust status as a way of raising standards.'

The department invited expressions of interest from schools keen to explore the opportunities that trust status offers. Over 60 were received and from these twenty eight pathfinder projects have been identified. From today they will begin establishing the long term relationships that will support them in strengthening their leadership, providing new opportunities for their pupils and creating a distinct ethos for their school. These 28 projects will embrace nearly 50 schools, all of which are working towards trust status.

Each of the projects will work with the DfES to develop the trust model. Over the coming year the twenty eight pathfinder projects will refine the process of acquiring a Trust and demonstrate how the trust concept can support schools in different ways according to their different circumstances.

For example, South Craven School in North Yorkshire see trust status as an ideal way of helping them to cement the partnerships needed to deliver the full range of 14-19 provision in a semi-rural area. Three secondary schools in Essex will be working together as part of a shared trust. They see this as a means of promoting leadership across schools and tackling wider issues such as reducing crime, teenage pregnancy and increasing employability. Thorpe Bay School in Southend is a school that has previously struggled, but has recently come out of special measures. The school now want to take the next step forward to further improvement. They are working with Prospects College - a vocational training provider - to create a new school that will offer a unique blend of academic and vocational education.

Heads, parents, teachers, government and employers want every school to be a good school. The Trust model is a means by which all these parties can come to the table and work together to deliver on that aim. Reform is underway and the pathfinder projects will demonstrate how trust status will work in practice and test the process of acquiring a trust.

Key to the success of trust schools is getting the right people involved, working together and building partnerships for the long term. An important aspect of the new schools commissioner's role will be to support this process. The commissioner will oversee the delivery of trust schools, help to match the right schools with the right partners and offer advice and support throughout the process.

Mr Johnson said:

'I am delighted to announce that Bruce Liddington has been appointed as the schools commissioner. This role is crucial to delivering the transformation I want to see happening throughout the system. He will ensure that the right people are working together to secure the best possible education for our young people and will work with local authorities in taking forward their new commissioning duties.'

The schools commissioner will be responsible for:

- promoting and supporting the development of trust schools

(including pathfinder schools) and academies;

- identifying suitable partners and sponsors and matching these

with schools;

- working with local authorities to develop their capacity in

their new role as strategic commissioners of school places;

- ensuring local authorities are meeting their duties to promote

parental choice, greater diversity and fair access;

- working strategically with a small number of high priority

local authorities in discussions about reorganisation, and more widely advise on solutions to improve standards in failing and the lowest attaining schools.

Bruce Liddington will take up his role as schools commissioner with immediate effect.

Notes

1. Trust schools are maintained (state funded) schools supported by a charitable trust. They are similar to Voluntary Aided (VA) and foundation schools that are supported by a charitable foundation - the trust holds the school's assets on trust for the school, the governing body employs staff and sets admissions arrangements (in accordance with the Schools Admissions Code). Trust schools must adhere to National Curriculum/School Teachers' Pay and Conditions document. Once the Education and Inspections Bill is passed schools will be able to choose to allow their Trust to appoint the majority of the governing body (like VA schools). In all cases a third of governors must be parents. Trust schools will be required to establish parent councils if the trust appoints the majority of the governing body.

2. Legislation to establish trust schools is currently passing through Parliament. Royal Assent is expected in November 2006, with regulations made in early summer 2007.

3. Pathfinders will receive dedicated support from the DfES including small scale financial assistance of£15,000 to cover set up costs.

4. Sir Bruce Liddington has enjoyed a successful teaching career, during which as head of Northampton School for Boys he transformed the performance of the schools before leaving to join the Department for Education and Skills in 1999. Since then he has held several posts within the Academies Directorate.

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