SNP minister under pressure to back trust schools plan- Daily Telegraph

Auslan Cramb, Daily Telegraph, 10 November 2009

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Ministers were warned yesterday that they could no longer stand in the way of radical education reform after an SNP-led council announced that it was considering setting up the country’s first trust schools. The proposal echoes reforms in England and could result in schools devoting more time to specialist subjects and accepting funding from the private sector.

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The idea has been put forward by David Barry, the Nationalist leader of East Lothian Council, despite the fact that the policy is not back by the SNP administration at Holyrood.

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He said he hoped the plan would lead to a debate on new ways of giving schools and head teachers greater freedom over their finances.

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Liz Smith, the Tory schools spokesman, said the move increased pressure on Fiona Hyslop, the Education Minister, to back Conservative plans for reform and break away from the SNP “obsession with local authority control”.

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“Parents, teachers and now SNP councillors want schools to have more of a say in running themselves, The only person standing in the way is the hapless Hyslop,” she said. She added that while education spending had doubled since 1999, standards had “flatlined”, and quoted a recent survey suggesting that two thirds of head teachers wanted more say in running their schools.

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The proposal by the council, which is run by an SNP/Liberal Democrat coalition, is part of a wider budget review.

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Labour condemned the idea, but there was further support from Reform Scotland, the independent think tank, which said exam performance has remained static since devolution.

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Trust schools, which were introduced south of the Border three years ago, have proved popular in England.

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They are funded by councils but run by governing bodies which can employ their own staff, make separate admission arrangements and manage their own assets. Governors can include representatives from private business. Mr Berry said: “The idea is to look at school clusters, high schools and their associated primaries, to form trusts, and give them more freedom to spend money as they see fit to serve their communities.”