Conservative Conference: Tories will encourage 'pioneer schools'

By Cathy Wallace

| 02 October 2007

Charities, churches and voluntary groups could be allowed to provide schools under new Conservative proposals for education, announced on Monday (1 October) at the party conference in Blackpool.

Shadow education secretary Michael Gove has accepted former party leader Iain Duncan Smith's recommendations to encourage "pioneer schools".

"We will remove the administrative obstacles that prevent charities, churches, voluntary groups and others from providing the new schools parents want and children need," Gove said.

But Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said Gove's proposals to "let anyone" open a school were "off beam".

"His aim of ending division between rich and poor will be scuppered by those who know how to play the game of school choice at the expense of poorer parents who don't have the knowledge or inclination to spend days hunting down the schools they want," he said.

David Willetts, who has been leading the party's childhood inquiry, also announced plans to change the law to crack down on the compensation culture surrounding events for children.

He said: "We are proposing to give much greater legal protection to people organising sport and outdoor activities for children. Anyone trying to sue them would have to show there had been 'reckless disregard' of obvious risks." He added if the young person involved was under the influence of drink or drugs that would be taken into account as contributory negligence.

Peter Cornall, head of leisure safety at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, welcomed the move to make it easier for children to take part in outdoor activities, but warned they must be properly risk assessed.

Gove also announced a campaign called Comprehensively Excellent, aimed at spreading best practice in state schools by identifying the best schools in the country and the qualities that make them successful.

The party has also pledged to encourage every school to promote setting in classes among every age group, and wants to put a requirement on Ofsted to report on schools' use of setting and streaming.

- Additional reporting by Sarah Cooper and Alison Bennett.

blog comments powered by Disqus