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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 October 2005, 09:45 GMT 10:45 UK
State schools 'to be independent'
Tony Blair and Ruth Kelly meeting pupils at St Bartholomew's School in Brighton
Ms Kelly says she wants to make every school a good school
Education Secretary Ruth Kelly is to give MPs details of plans to give all state schools in England "independence" from local education authority control.

Ahead of the publication of the White Paper she told the BBC the aim was to help children from poorer homes get fairer access to good schools.

Ms Kelly says she wants parents more involved in driving up standards.

But opponents, reportedly including John Prescott, fear the changes will disadvantage the poorest pupils.

Strategic role

Under the plans, to be revealed in the Commons at 1530 BST, local education authorities would have a more strategic role, monitoring standards and commissioning services rather than running schools.

Councils will act as mediators between schools and families, rather than as providers.

We've got to make sure that every single school is a good school, serving its pupils well and meeting the demands of the parents
Ruth Kelly

The White Paper is expected to encourage schools to be set up by parents' groups, charities, universities, community organisations, faith groups and businesses.

"The argument behind this White Paper is that we have to make every school a good school," Ms Kelly told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"What we are trying to do is give schools the freedom and flexibility they need to tailor their curriculum ... to define an individual ethos that will enable the teaching to be good."

'Irreversible' reforms

Tony Blair insists more independence and parental choice are necessary to improve overall standards.

On Monday he called the planned reforms "irreversible" and a "pivotal moment" for his last term as prime minister.

The Conservatives have accused Mr Blair of reviving their grant-maintained schools, scrapped by Mr Blair in 1998.

Shadow education secretary David Cameron said he would support the White Paper's proposals, but added that he was "angry" the prime minister had previously abolished "the very freedoms he is now talking about".

Mike Tomlinson, former chief inspector of schools, said he was concerned about what would happen to children with specialist needs if every school becomes independent.

Transport subsidies

He said there were "some untested assumptions" within the plans. But he added: "The idea of giving schools more autonomy and seeking to raise standards can only be something that is good."

Meanwhile, reports say Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott fears the plans will disadvantage the poorest pupils.

He is said to be worried about plans to bring some of the ethos of public schools to the state sector.

The White Paper is also expected to see transport subsidies for poorer pupils and school choice advisers to help parents select schools.

Ed Davey, the Lib Dem education spokesman, said schools needed freedom from Whitehall, more teachers, reform of the curriculum and for the pupil-teacher ratio to be reduced.


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SEE ALSO:
In full: Blair's education speech
24 Oct 05 |  UK Politics
What will be in the White Paper?
24 Oct 05 |  Education
Kelly plays down rift on schools
23 Oct 05 |  UK Politics
Blair says quality key to choice
12 Oct 05 |  Education


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