KCC leader warns over schools pol­icy

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Front Page -

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

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