KCC leader warns over schools policy
KENT County Council’s Tory leader has warned the government to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past when it develops its flagship policy of creating a generation of so-called “free” schools.
Cllr Paul Carter said he remained a firm supporter of the concept of free schools but reiterated his concerns that council-run schools must not lose out when it came to funding.
During the recent general election campaign, the KCC leader sparked a row over the Conservative’s cornerstone schools policy when he flagged up concerns that in allowing parents to set up schools, there could be less money for others.
Now he has again urged the government to make sure all schools were treated fairly.
He also warned it against repeating the mistakes of the past when a previous Conservative government had allowed schools to opt out of council control by becoming grant maintained.
Speaking at a full council meeting, he said it was important “that the dice is not skewed in favour of free schools or maintained schools, that we have open competition and… a level playing field.”
He went on to caution about promoting free schools.
Cllr Carter added: “We don’t reinvent some of the mistakes on funding of the past particularly where grant-maintained schools had a favourable funding regime, which in my view, disadvantaged maintained schools or community schools that were working alongside them.”
However, he emphasised that he fully supported his party’s policy, saying that schools set up parents and other groups would improve choice and drive up standards by increasing competition.
But in comments that could foreshadow tensions in the coalition government over the policy, opposition KCC Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Trudy Dean said free schools could damage social cohesion.
She said: “The issue of finance is not the only one.
“Who controls the curriculum and whether that contributes to social cohesion is a much more important one.”
Cllr Paul Carter