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EDITIONS
Friday, 5 April, 2002, 11:06 GMT 12:06 UK
Fears over moves to free schools
Alan Homes
Alan Homes says freedom could bring anarchy

Parents are being warned that plans to give head teachers of successful schools greater freedom to decide teachers' salaries could create "anarchy" in the admissions process.

A senior teachers' union official said the government seemed bent on reinventing the grammar and secondary modern system in England.


It would mean a few schools would seek to corner the market in teacher supply, at a time when we already have a national shortage of staff

Alan Homes
NASUWT
Plans in the Education Bill currently going through Parliament would give greater, "earned autonomy" to what the government deems to be the more successful schools.

Alan Homes, an executive member of the NASUWT union, said the result would be that the stronger schools would get stronger and those that were struggling would get weaker.

He said he thought perhaps a third of secondary schools might seek to opt out of the teachers' national pay and conditions of service.

"In areas where that happened it would mean a few schools would seek to corner the market in teacher supply, at a time when we already have a national shortage of staff," he said.

Workload worries

For some time they would be able to pay slightly better salaries to staff where the money existed - but there was no guarantee that would continue.

And he anticipated that their hours and workload would increase.

At the same time the schools would be seeking to recruit only those pupils who would enhance their results.

It would all "create anarchy" because having schools doing their own thing did not lend itself to overall strategic management.

Parents would be "chasing their tails" trying to get their children into schools they felt would provide a better education.

'Heads wanted it'

In his area - he is an advisory officer in the Barnet education authority - all the schools were bidding for specialist status, he said. This brings with it extra funding.

"I fear for state education, certainly in the secondary sector, in terms of its equity for the pupils and parents who cannot get into the more favoured schools."

Mr Homes proposed a motion at his union's annual conference on Friday, demanding the removal of the autonomy provisions from the government's proposals.

As well as the "earned autonomy" category, the government also plans a wider category under which any school could apply to do something to raise standards.

A spokesperson for the Department for Education gave the example of a school which was basically sound but had a weakness in, say, mathematics.

It could ask the education secretary for permission to drop the usual requirement to cover the whole curriculum for perhaps two weeks of intensive maths work to address the weakness.

She said head teachers had asked for greater freedom and, where they were doing particularly well, they would get it.

See also:

03 Apr 02 | UK Education
18 Feb 02 | UK Education
23 Jan 02 | UK Education
01 Apr 02 | UK Education
05 Sep 01 | UK Education
05 Dec 01 | UK Politics
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