Diversity and excellence (1995)

The Labour Party's previous policy statement on education was Opening doors to a learning society, published in 1994. It was largely the work of Anne Taylor, then shadow education secretary.

Tony Blair, who had just become Labour leader, refused to endorse the document, and replaced Taylor with David Blunkett in October 1994.

A year later, the party published this paper, Diversity and excellence.

The complete document is shown in this single web page. You can scroll through it or use the following links to go straight to the various sections:

Summary (page 1)
Introduction (3)
1 Labour's principles (5)
2 The current position (7)
3 A new partnership (13)
Conclusions (17)

1 The existing system (18)
2 The role of the governors (19)
3 School structure (20)

Diversity and excellence was prepared for the web by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 22 September 2017.

Diversity and excellence:
A new partnership for schools (1995)

London: Labour Party 1995

[title page]

Diversity and excellence
A new partnership for schools

[page ii]


1 Summary

3 Introduction

5 Part one: Labour's principles

Schools must be responsible for managing themselves
Accountability must be local as well as national
Funding and admissions must be fair and open
7 Part two: The current position: problems and reforms
School management
Local and national accountability
Fair funding
Fair admissions
13 Part three: A new partnership
The new LEA
15 The status of schools
17 Conclusion

18 Appendices

[page 1]


1 This paper concerns the organisation of schooling in England and Wales. It is designed to lay the foundations of a system in which every child is offered the chance to flourish and succeed. Our education system cannot afford complacency, which is why we will shortly be publishing new ideas on how to raise standards in schools and give opportunity to all our children. But neither can schools afford another round of upheaval. That is why underlying this paper is the search for change through consensus. That approach stands in marked contrast to a government which has created turmoil, division and cutback, particularly over the last seven years.

2 Four principles govern Labour's approach to the organisation of schooling:

  • schools are responsible for managing themselves
  • accountability must exist locally to parents and the community as well as nationally to central government
  • funding must be fair and open
  • admission procedures must be fair, with no return to selection through the 11-plus, and with sensible planning for efficient use of resources
To achieve these goals, we propose a new relationship built on partnership and trust between schools, local and central government.

3 In terms of the delegation of funding, we will give schools greater control over their own affairs. We will set a new national target of 90 per cent of the school's budget to be delegated from LEAs to the schools themselves - up from the current 85 per cent. We will continue our dialogue with schools over the provision of common services like those for special educational needs.

4 Accountability at local level will be strengthened through increased representation of parents and LEAs on all governing bodies, new elected parent representatives on local education committees, better information on school performance, and new initiatives on inspection and school improvement.

5 Funding for schools will be based on a formula which is equitable for all pupils and all schools within a local community.

6 All schools should agree their admissions policies with the LEA, within a framework determined by the Department for Education. Where agreement cannot be reached the final decision will be referred to independent arbitration which will advise the secretary of state.

7 Parents will have a right of appeal to a local body wholly independent of the LEA and school where they are unhappy with the final offer based on their preference.

8 There must also be a sensible and sensitive local partnership in the planning of school places.

9 The whole notion of LEA control of schools - on which the drive for GM status started - is a tiling of the past. LEAs do not control schools. Schools do. LEAs provide the local democratic framework and need to become agencies and advocates for improving standards in all schools. Success in school improvement should be their judge and jury. And just as LEAs and

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Ofsted inspect and advise schools on performance, so the Audit Commission and Ofsted should inspect and advise on LEA practice, as well as having access to all schools.

10 Different schools will want to make that link in different ways and the decision will rest with the school, within the parameters set out here. Our proposals for the establishment of community, foundation and aided schools, and where necessary the provision of parental ballots to choose between these options, will allow them the chance to decide which option is best suited to their situation. Foundation schools will offer a new bridge between the powers available to secular and church schools. They will offer flexibility and devolution within the local management system.

[page 3]


Education is now at the top of the political agenda. That is good. The education of our children is probably the most important investment we will ever make. It is vital to the strength of our economy, the culture of our society and the health of our democracy. Our children are our most precious asset, and we waste their life chances at our peril.

This paper concerns the organisation of schooling in England and Wales. It is based on the belief that every child deserves the opportunity to flourish and succeed, whatever their background, family circumstances or particular talents.

It sets out a framework for strengthening the ability of all schools to provide their pupils with the opportunity to realise their true potential. In the coming months, we will publish new ideas for focusing on effectiveness and support inside the classroom. The Welsh team are developing similar proposals for Wales. The tasks of teaching and learning which are at the heart of a well-functioning education system are central to our policy. That will be the focus of a paper to be published later this year, building on the framework set out in this paper.

Our fIrst job is to get this framework right. In our policy document Opening Doors to a Learning Society, published in July 1994, the party committed itself to developing an effective education system. Schools do not exist in isolation: they feed into or accept children from other schools, they share sports and music facilities amongst themselves and with the community, they exchange good practice and collaborate with each other. They exist as part of the local community. Above all, they hold in trust the development of future generations, and for this they must be held accountable at local and national level. At the same time, every school has its own distinctive identity. We seek a system which allows every school the freedom to manage its own affairs and establish its own ethos, while at the same time providing clear accountability to parents and the wider community. Schools are not just the concern of parents who send their children to a particular school at a given time. They are the interest of all would-be parents seeking access to a school within the community. That is why we have always believed they should have a relationship with the wider local community, not merely with central government in the form of the secretary of state.

However, one main motivation for schools choosing GM status was the desire for a greater independence in decision-making. In many ways this has been overtaken by the introduction of LMS, which now gives all schools control of 85 per cent of the budget. We propose to extend that delegation still further. LMS has been one of the main reasons why just 68 schools decided to opt out last year and why only one in every 23 schools has opted for GM status, while just 16 schools have done so in Wales.

We have no intention of trying to pit schools against each other nor do we intend to wage a vendetta against any school. The purpose of our policy is to balance the school's wish for independence with the need to take account of the interests of the local community. It is based on the additional principles that funding will be fair and that there should be no return to the old days of selection through the 11-plus.

We set out in this paper the new categories of schools we propose and the fundamental change in the role of the LEA that we envisage, away from being a chain of command to being a raiser of standards.

We wish to preserve the chance for all schools to exercise greater control over their own affairs whilst maintaining a system that is fair and takes

[page 4]

account of the needs of the whole community. We are proposing three types of school status:

  • community schools, similar to those whose assets are currently owned by the LEA;
  • aided schools, which are the present church schools;
  • foundation schools, which could include GM schools.
All schools would be able to choose the greater independence on offer within our three options. They would all, however, be a part of the same system. We think this is far healthier for all concerned.

Foundation schools would hold their own assets, employ their own staff and retain charitable status: to this extent they would be independent of the LEA. But they would have two LEA representatives on the governing body, while parents would have at least five. All votes will be of equal weight. Their admissions procedure would remain for the school to propose and it would be agreed with the LEA, while an independent arbitration process will be established for cases of disagreement.

We will continue to discuss with schools arrangements for the delegation of funding. There is no disagreement that the vast bulk should continue to be delegated to them. The problem arises in respect of those functions or areas of activity where all schools should have a role in sharing responsibility and being able to receive services. For example, special educational needs: all schools should contribute to teaching those pupils that need special help and draw on that service. There has to be some way of sharing the costs fairly. The same applies to programmes for school improvement. At present this is done through the LEA, but obviously the system breaks down if some schools contribute and others do not. Or again, some LEAs run support services for the teaching of music towards which all schools pay. If some don't, because they want to make their own arrangements, all schools suffer, because the service can men cease to be viable. On the other hand, some schools prefer to make their own arrangements. So we need to find a way of ensuring all schools are treated fairly within a cost-effective system; and we will continue the dialogue as to how best to do so, as we set out later in tillS paper. Under our proposals, the work of the Funding Agency for Schools would be devolved to LEAs under whatever funding criteria are eventually agreed.

We believe this offers a sensible way forward. It ends the notion of a two-tier education system, while allowing us to refocus attention on the real task for our schools: raising standards, promoting excellence and discipline within the classroom, particularly in that substantial minority of schools that simply are not delivering the education our children need.

In developing a way forward for that relationship between all schools and their local communities we have consulted widely with parents, heads and teachers in both LEA and GM schools, as well as members of local authorities. Separately, the Labour Party Wales undertook its own consultation on the recent policy statement which has informed this paper. Those discussions have helped shape the proposals in this paper. They are designed to achieve change through consensus, preserving what is good in the present system, improving what is not. From those discussions, we believe the ideas set out in this paper will gain widespread acceptance among parents, governors and teachers alike. There may be a few on the extremes who believe that any change is unwelcome. But our proposals seek to build consensus. We will build sensibly on what is in place, keep what is good and working - and change what isn't.

For the sake of all our children, it is important that we re-unite education to build for the future. Ours is a policy for the 21st century, looking forward to a new era which builds on the best in our education service and offers everyone the opportunity they deserve.

[page 5]

Part one

Labour's principles

Our approach to the organisation and management of schools reflects a set of principles which we believe are essential for achieving the objective of providing every child with the opportunity to succeed. They are:

1. Schools are responsible for delivering the highest possible quality of education and for the good management of the school itself. They should have the opportunity to make for themselves as many decisions as practicable.

Their task is to attain the highest standards of achievement, to foster a love of learning and promote educational development, to assist children to develop a moral framework, to help character-building and to promote an understanding of the world around memo Schools should both encourage initiative and foster citizenship whilst providing motivation in the teaching profession, as well as encouraging a team approach. LEAs, parents and communities can and should support a school, but in the end the staff of a school and above all, the head and governors are responsible for its success.

2. Delegation of decision-making should be matched by clear and effective accountability at a local level, first and foremost, right through to a national perspective. Decisions are best taken by schools, but where this is inappropriate, they should be taken at the lowest practicable level. This is an essential feature of the partnership between the school and the wider education service and community it serves.

With delegation of funding and decision-making, schools are increasingly responsible for their own day-to-day affairs. Local management of schools has strengthened that responsibility. The principle of subsidiarity and decentralisation should apply on questions of funding and management; the Department for Education and national agencies should only take on those tasks which cannot be undertaken by schools or LEAs. Some decisions affect the wider community. This interdependence should be reflected in the way decisions are made.

3. Pupils within a local community are entitled to equity in the funding of their education.

The efficient use of limited resources is key in education. So is an equitable distribution of those resources. It is important that all schools get a fair deal in revenue and capital allocations. The distribution of those funds can be achieved most efficiently at a local level.

4. Decisions on admissions to schools should be based on fair criteria, which remove artificial blocks on parental preference and which offer the right of independent appeal. We oppose any return to selection through the 11-plus.

Maximising parental preference means having an admissions system which is fair, clear and objective. It is equally important that there is a right of appeal for parents to an independent body and that where fair criteria for admissions policies cannot be agreed - unlike the current concentration of power in the hands of the secretary of state alone - independent arbitration would be available. In addition, there must also be a sensible local partnership to plan school places. All schools will be subject to the same arrangements in this regard.

[page 6]

In part two of this paper, we use these principles as the benchmark for an assessment of the current position in our schools. We also suggest a number of reforms to overcome the problems that currently dog the organisation of schooling. To be effective, however, they ultimately depend on an end to the damaging conflict between central and local government that has marked the last 16 years. But they also require an end to the competition for power between schools and LEAs. Schools run themselves; LEAs are there to support them. In other words, to meet the goals of excellence and equity to which all parents and teachers aspire, all schools need to enter a new partnership with each other and with local and national government to raise standards for all. That is the subject of part three of this paper.

[page 7]

Part two

The current position

Since the 1944 Education Act, there has been a diversity of secondary schools within the local state system. Until the 1988 Education Act, there were three main types of school in existence. County schools were owned and run by the local authority. Voluntary-aided schools were largely owned by churches and run in partnership with the local authority, There were also a smaller number of voluntary-controlled schools, run by churches and philanthropic foundations, in partnership with local authorities. Details can be found in the appendix to this paper. The difference in status allowed schools to have a particular denominational character and involved different arrangements in matters such as the power to employ staff, the ownership of school buildings, and the appointment and numbers of governors. In addition different arrangements existed in relation to the allocation of capital funding.

The vast majority of schools continue to be county, voluntary aided or voluntary controlled. But the 1988 Education Act created new categories of schools. Fifteen city technology colleges - funded jointly by central government and private money - have been set up. Some 1,071 grant-maintained schools have also been established. Over 30 per cent of schools opting for GM status were previously voluntary aided or voluntary controlled. In terms of day-to-day management GM schools are increasingly in a similar position to other state schools as a result of the introduction of local management (LMS).

But the GM schools are not part of the local system. They receive their funding centrally in England from an agency appointed by government, the Funding Agency for Schools, on the basis of a formula that offers them additional support for capital and revenue. Further, the Department for Education, the Welsh Office and the secretaries of state have considerable powers over both the agency in England and individual grant-maintained schools, for example over funding and school places, leaving local people with no say in the matter. Grant-maintained schools are free to set their own admissions policies, within DfE guidelines, whatever the arrangements in other schools in the area. All of this has an impact on other schools and the well being of children in them. Inequity of funding is at the expense of other children and does not meet priorities established by reference to need.

Just 5.6 per cent of schools have opted for grant-maintained status, with approximately seven per cent of pupils in such schools. However the creation of this new status has raised legitimate concerns about the centralisation of education decision-making, preferential funding, the fragmentation of the schooling system into competing units, and the introduction of new procedures for the selection of children. There have, of course, been positive ideas developed in all schools which have encouraged new practices by local authorities and all categories of school.

In this section of the paper, we analyse how the schooling system as it stands matches our four core principles, and suggest changes to improve the situation. Labour's proposed Welsh Assembly will take on responsibility for developing the policy in Wales.

School management

The past few years have seen important changes in the way all schools are managed. All schools receive most of their funding on a per capita basis for the children in their care. At least 85 per cent of the schools' aggregated budget is delegated directly to the individual school to decide how best to spend it in the interests of pupils.

[page 8]

Schools, including GM schools, have been buying many LEA services with their delegated budget. For example, all the GM primary schools in Hillingdon have service-level agreements with the LEA, while the GM secondary schools buy some of their services from the local authority. In Kent, virtually all GM schools buy services such as curriculum support, payroll assistance, personnel advice and pre- and post-Ofsted advice from the LEA.

Local authority schools have thrived on the new challenge of LMS which has devolved an increasing proportion of education budgets and managerial responsibility to schools. By bringing decision-making closer to the classroom it has improved the quality of those decisions by giving responsibility to those who have to answer for them.

The day-to-day management of the curriculum and the running of the school, as well as the development of its ethos, are the responsibility of the head and his or her governing body. We want to extend the delegation of budgets to the schools themselves. Many Labour local authorities have already done this, although one or two authorities like Wandsworth had still not reached the 85 per cent target according to the latest CIPFA survey published in early 1995:

  • in Dudley, 93 per cent of the budget has been delegated
  • in Leeds, 90 per cent of the budget has been delegated.
Many LEAs have developed innovative packages of support for schools. These include Staffordshire's Quality Learning Services portfolio, offering a range of services that schools can buy; Hammersmith and Fulham's Schools Make A Difference project; Newcastle's Truancy and Disaffected Pupils project which is helping schools to tackle truancy. This is welcome. But while there are a core set of functions which every LEA should provide there is scope for further flexibility in the delegation of funding.

Whilst the secretary of state has ruled out a statutory delegation of 90 per cent of funds, Labour will offer a minimum 90 per cent delegation to all schools.

In examining the extension of delegation, we are keen to discuss ways in which it can be further developed in the future. We will examine the composition of the Aggregated Schools Budget as part of our discussions. We recognise, however, that there are some vital joint areas of provision to which every school in an area must contribute for the service to remain available to all schools and on which they should be expected to draw. These include special needs provision, raising standards, and the provision of supply arrangements for long-term teacher absence. As part of our transitional arrangements, we will discuss with those schools which currently have grant-maintained status ways to ensure that they will contribute to and be able to draw on these joint areas of provision, while avoiding any disruption to the education of children in their school. They will be expected to play their part in the family of schools and the wider education service.

The system should also be sufficiently flexible to allow groups of schools to request some directly provided services through service agreements specifying quality and entitlement to service as an alternative to greater delegation. In this way smaller schools can draw on the economies of scale which co-ordinated provision can provide and avoid fragmentation and duplication, whilst allowing real choice to schools in the new system.

Local and national accountability

The greater freedom schools now have in their own management needs to

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be matched by clear and effective accountability to ensure they are providing their pupils with the opportunity to succeed. But the government has fragmented responsibility for levering up standards in schools, and has centralised the relationship between schools and government.

We believe local authorities have an important role to play in the process of ensuring all schools achieve high standards. They should provide quality advice and support, together with performance information which shows how much schools are doing to improve the education of their pupils. LEAs should undertake these tasks to back up the work of a revised and improved Office for Standards in Education.

They should ensure that parents have better information about the performance of their child and their school than currently provided by the government, so that they can see how their school has improved and how their child is developing. Such information is also extremely valuable to schools in planning their own teaching and meeting the needs of individual pupils. Birmingham has, for instance, undertaken a baseline assessment scheme with the co-operation of all professional and teacher organisations at the point where the child enters the school.

To be effective, the publication of greater information and regular inspection need to take place within a framework which ensures that when failings are identified appropriate action is taken to remedy them. The pressure and support necessary to improve standards should be the central task of local education authorities, including providing local leadership, innovation, information and help to struggling schools.

The ultimate accountability of schools and LEAs is to children and parents. That is why we are determined to introduce a strengthened role for parents at a local level.

First, we will increase the number of parent representatives on school governing bodies.

Second, we will require local education authorities to introduce, for the first time, statutory parent representation, to be elected by the parent governors of all schools within the authority, So in addition to religious nominees we will introduce at least one statutory parent governors' representative on all education committees, elected by all parent governors in an authority.

We will also expect LEAs to establish parent forums to reflect the views of parents throughout the authority. We welcome the introduction of parent liaison officers by some Labour authorities to facilitate this task.

Fair funding

The basis for funding grant-maintained schools has given them a financial advantage. Through the annual maintenance grant - the main revenue mechanism - most Gl\!l schools receive more in grant for the loss of LEA central services man the actual cost of those services, in addition to the startup grant. As this money is recovered from the LEA, it represents a loss in England to LEA schools or to some other aspect of the education service at local level of as much as 25 million. The government has already said that this anomaly will be removed by 1998-9. We would follow the Public Accounts Committee recommendations in this regard.

Capital funding for schools is provided through credit approvals for local authority borrowing, grants to GM schools paid by the FAS, capital grants to voluntary-aided and special agreement schools and capital grants to non-maintained special schools. Grants to individual schools are paid for

[page 10]

particular projects.

In addition, special purpose grants for GM schools to cover matters like staff training and curriculum development have been more generously funded than equivalent grants to LEAs, whilst capital grants have provided GM schools with a higher level of expenditure than most could have expected through government-approved LEA allocations. Whilst we can do no tiling about this retrospectively, we will immediately remove inequity in this area.

In 1994/5, for example, GM schools in England received capital funding of 117 million, while gross LEA capital expenditure was 707 million. GM schools account for 5.6 per cent of all schools, yet they account for 14.1 per cent of total capital spending on schools, or 2.7 times more than LEA schools.

There is also the issue of how funds are distributed. The current division in which nearly 95 per cent of schools receive their funds from LEAs and just over five per cent receive theirs from the central Funding Agency for Schools is bureaucratic and wasteful. The FAS was set up on the assumption that as more and more schools opted out of the local system, so it would replace LEAs as the mechanism for funding schools. This has not happened: far fewer schools have opted out man the government anticipated. The FAS costs 11 million a year, employing 261 staff, and the Grant Maintained Schools Foundation receives 800,000 a year in government grant, while the Department for Education employs 77 full-time staff (not counting those with a shared responsibility for GM schools) to deal solely with grant-maintained schools. This money could be better used in supporting projects to raise standards for schools. We believe that it is more efficient for funds to be routed to schools through LEAs.

However, we recognise that changes in funding must be made smoothly. Therefore, we will introduce arrangements in two areas to ease the transition from nationalised to decentralised funding. We will develop transitional arrangements on delegation of funds which we will discuss with the grant-maintained schools. As the FAS is phased out, we will expect it to work cooperatively with LEAs in areas where there are currently a larger number of GM schools, to ensure a smooth transition. We also recognise that there have been concerns about the existing funding formula for all schools (both in terms of national and local distribution) and would wish to review the situation in office to provide greater fairness and flexibility. We would also wish to build on the school effectiveness element of centrally distributed Grants for Education Support and Training (GEST) to encourage higher standards in schools. We will also examine how there can be greater transparency in funding for school maintenance. This will form part of our review of the distribution of funding from national to local level as well as within the current LMS formula distribution. We are also studying how public-private partnerships could help finance capital projects for all schools.

Fair admissions

It is inevitable that all parents wish their children to go to the school most appropriate for their needs. This is both right and understandable. It is the job of government first to encourage all parents to take an active interest in where their child is educated and second to ensure that as many parents as possible obtain their first preference.

If a school is undersubscribed, there is no problem. They welcome all comers. But if a school has too many applicants, it must make choices about

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which children to admit, and which to reject. For schools that are part of the local system an agreed policy is followed by all schools. For GM schools the position is different: they are able to set their own criteria for selection subject to the agreement of the secretary of state. By contrast, voluntary aided schools work in partnership with the local community and the LEA in developing their criteria.

In the course of preparing this report, we have been encouraged by the fact that the vast majority of GM heads have insisted to us that they do not wish to re-introduce selection by 11-plus examination based on academic attainment. We are implacably opposed to a return to selection by 11-plus. Labour's commitment to lifelong learning and comprehensive education means ensuring that every child in every school has available to them the highest possible quality of education, thus avoiding the division which segregation inevitably brings for education and for society as a whole. Parental preference is denied where selection by examination is employed. Excellence for the many rather man rationing for the few has to be the way forward for a modern Britain in the 21st century.

Our opposition to academic selection at 11 has always been clear. But while we have never supported grammar schools in their exclusion of children by examination, change can only come through local agreement. Such change in the character of the school would only follow a clear demonstration of support from the parents affected by such decisions.

There are a number of ways in which over-subscribed schools can make selection decisions without returning to academic selection. They can give priority to children with siblings at the school, or priority to children who live locally, or to children who come from particular feeder schools. The important point is that the procedure should be open, fair to all parents and children, inclusive of special needs and above all agreed locally.

Because admissions policies affect all parents in the community, we want to see a consultative partnership developed and agreed between all schools and the LEA. Where the admissions policies of a school affect children from more man one authority (as in many urban areas) we will expect the lead authority to consult with the neighbouring authorities as part of this process. In the majority of cases, we do not foresee any problem at all. Most GM schools say they do not want to become grammar schools; most LEAs want to help schools develop a distinctive identity. Where there is no agreement, however, it is right that the school should have recourse to an appeals mechanism. Currently, that would involve the secretary of state alone, but we are prepared to provide an independent voice within the criteria laid down by the department and allow independent arbitration to advise the secretary of state on how to proceed in the resolution of disputes between LEAs and schools. We will also give parents the right to appeal to a local appeals body which is wholly independent of the LEA and school where they are unhappy that their child has not been offered a place in their preferred school.

Labour has always encouraged schools to play to their strengths. We proposed that the opportunity for 'technology schools', which put a particular emphasis on specific subjects (building on the Technical and Vocational Educational Initiative), should be open to all schools, rather than a few as the government first insisted. Expressed preference by parents will always take into account the specialism and expertise that exists in a school where a child has a particular aptitude. So long as this does not exclude or deny equal opportunities, we would see this as an acceptable part of an agreed admissions policy.

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Efficiency is essential in education as elsewhere. There must be a sensible and sensitive local partnership in the planning of school places. Heads, governors and parents must be fully consulted on such changes. We will place a duty on local education authorities to address both the question of eliminating surplus places and the need for new places on a regular basis. \'V'here there are objections to an LEA's proposals, there should be a local public inquiry chaired by an independent person of knowledge and standing. The secretary of state will retain the right to approve new school places or the elimination of surpluses - and will do so more fairly and efficiently man the present government.

These are the foundations of success: autonomy, accountability and equity. But they need to be backed up by genuine partnership and collaboration between schools, and between schools and local communities and national government.

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Part three

A new partnership

In the past, LEAs have been criticised for being bureaucratic and lacking in leadership. The worst stereotype was of a headteacher having to spend two hours on the phone to get a window pane replaced. The stereotype was and is unfair. But often the county or town hall was seen as being distant, and its procedures unwieldy. This is the reason many GM schools gave for opting out of the local system. They believed they would be given greater freedom of manoeuvre.

In the meantime, however, there have been important changes in the operation of LEAs. LMS has transformed the situation, as we have outlined earlier. But so has the development of a new ethos of pubLic sector flexibility and responsiveness and the development of leadership by LEAs around the country. Many Labour authorities have taken the lead in this development. Alongside the greater delegation of management to schools, there has been a transformation in the role of local education authorities. Delegation has given LEAs the opportunity to focus on strategic educational issues - improving assessment, developing new provision and supporting the performance of schools. Had funding not been withdrawn on the scale seen this year, advisory and support services, the provision of special needs and other essential back-up services could have been maintained and developed still further in a positive and pro-active manner.

Good LEAs provide local leadership and innovation. Birmingham has developed a Primary Guarantee and baseline assessment, while Shropshire's education partnership sets clear targets for standards, attendance and improved life skills. Staffordshire's Two Towns Project has helped focus on changing community aspirations and lifting expectations.

Good LEAs help struggling schools. With inspection, advice and support, LEAs can help schools which are weak to recover - and can intervene to raise standards. Labour will offer LEAs new powers to request an Ofsted inspection when a school is clearly failing, and in clearly defined circumstances. They should be able to ask the secretary of state to take decisive action where a governing body has failed to tackle identified failure. LEAs should have good local advisory services to follow up inspections and we will develop our ideas in this area in our paper on standards.

Good LEAs provide excellent information to parents and schools. Labour LEAs are already developing value-added analysis of examination and test results and comparing a school's own performance with that in previous years. In addition, attitudinal data should examine parent and pupil attitudes to school, while financial data should enable schools to compare their financial profile with other schools in their area. Additionally, schools value the personnel advice and support services which LEAs offer, which avoid duplication of limited expertise and provide back-up for good industrial relations and decisive action where needed.

The creation of learning networks is an important task of LEAs, particularly with the use of new technology, which becomes ever more important as we approach the 21st century. Co-operation between schools, both within clusters and with feeder schools within the consortium, can aid mutual development and should be recognised and encouraged. School improvement requires partnership - between schools, parents, employers) universities, FE colleges and the voluntary sector working together. Local education networks will be encouraged to draw together governors, teachers, academic institutions, the LEA and local business throughout authorities. The LEA is best placed to co-ordinate such team effort. LEAs are also establishing forums to involve parents more and are offering training

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and support to governors. We would facilitate such moves.

LEAs should help improve special needs education. Children with special needs have too often been excluded from schools, with a detrimental effect on their education and on the wider understanding and social development of the school community. Facilitating the integration where appropriate of children with disabilities is an essential task of LEAs. Parents of children with special needs should be fully involved in decision-making.

LEAs have been leading the way on nursery education, with many achieving places for over half their under-fives. Labour authorities have excelled in providing nursery education and will have a vital role to play in ensuring all three and four year olds whose parents wish to have a nursery place have one, as part of developing a wider comprehensive early years' policy in their areas. Our proposals will be set out in a further statement shortly.

LEAs also play an important role in co-ordinating adult education, a youth service and offering discretionary awards, school transport, tackling truancy and providing education to children who are ill. They can also play an important role in training school governors, which we wish to see developed with the National Association of Governors and Managers and the National Governors Council.

We believe that the quality of education available to pupils will benefit from a partnership between all schools and the new LEAs - accountable to local electors, aware of local circumstances and providing a bridge of accountability to the wider community.

But the whole notion of LEA control of schools - on which the drive for GM status started - is history. LEAs do not control schools. Schools do. The job of the LEA is to support schools in identifying good practice and spreading it and in identifying weakness and rooting it out.

LEAs need to make further progress in developing their new role as champions of their parents and communities. Their job should be to undertake only those tasks schools cannot do for themselves, or where it makes sense for the resources and expertise to be combined for greater effectiveness. Their focus should be on creating a framework which increases the chances of schools succeeding and reduces the chances of failure.

In addition to LEAs having a role in backing up Ofsted inspections with support and advice, LEAs will all be expected to set strategic development plans detailing how standards will be raised. These will be updated regularly. Such education development plans CEDI's) will form the basis of the national drive for rapid and radical improvement in standards and effectiveness. EDPs would be developed in partnership with representatives from education networks, bringing together parents, governors, the business community, colleges, universities and the voluntary sector in that area. The plan would set clear targets to raise standards and increase participation in education both pre- and post-16 locally. Such plans will be subject to the approval of the secretary of state for education and will be prepared in statutory consultation with local governors, parents, schools and diocesan authorities.

Schools have an important role to play in the life of their communities. The school is often the centre of many communities. We will therefore encourage much better use of school facilities for evening activities and leisure and educational provision at weekends and in the school holidays. We will expect schools and LEAs to develop plans to facilitate such activities,

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while developing positive structures to involve all teaching and non-teaching staff in this development.

We also believe that all schools and LEAs should themselves be properly audited and inspected. We will there fore build on the existing work of the Audit Commission and Ofsted to monitor all schools and LEAs regularly to ensure that they are financially efficient, acting in the interests of the whole community and working effectively to raise standards.

We want to see new links between schools, LEAs and all parents. The new rights for parents to sit on school governing bodies and for parental representation on the education committee will greatly enhance the responsiveness of LEAs. But it is also important that all schools have an input from the LEA about its plans for raising standards and achievement.

All school governing bodies should therefore have representatives from the local education authority as part of the wider improvement in accountability. LEA representatives will be one element in a school partnership - and should not dominate any school governing body; parents will have more places on all school governing bodies than the LEA.

The status of schools

Labour is offering a new deal to all schools, based on one overriding criterion - improving the quality of education. Where schools are offering a good education, no one should get in their way. Where they need to change, they should be helped to do so. Om proposals involve extending delegation, strengthening accountability and bringing fairness in funding and admissions.

Schools will be organised in one of Wee ways. These will replace all the existing categories of school status - voluntary aided, voluntary controlled, county, special agreement, grant-maintained and city technology college.

Community: While based on the existing county schools, community schools would have a number of important changes to increase the role of parents and the independence of the school. There would be one extra statutory parent on school governing bodies. There would also be an opportunity for parent governors to join other local parent governors to elect at least one representative on the education committee. The school would have increased delegation in line with the new minimum 90 per cent target. The school would be responsible for personnel functions (with LEA support), but the LEA would continue to employ the staff.

Aided: While based on the existing voluntary aided schools, a number of important changes would be made. These would include the development of the role of parents as outlined above. Together with increased delegation in line with the new 90 per cent target, the school would continue to be able to employ staff, develop an admissions policy in partnership with the LEA and hold the school assets in trust. Aided schools would continue to receive capital grants to cover 85 per cent of their costs.

Foundation: Foundation schools will offer a new bridge between the powers available to secular and church schools. They will offer greater flexibility and devolution within the local management system as part of the local democratic framework. Building on voluntary controlled schools, the foundation schools would have an opportunity to develop within the local education system the ethos which many GM schools feel they have developed.

Foundation schools would automatically have at least five parent governors, Wee foundation governors and two LEA governors. We would

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expect it to have attractions for many GM schools and city technology colleges. But the changes outlined earlier in this document might mean that community or aided status might prove equally attractive.

New local foundations could be created by the governing bodies of schools for groups of schools or by individual schools, along the lines of existing educational foundations. Some like-minded schools in a local community might group together, for example, to form a new foundation. Membership of foundations would be drawn from the governors of schools, parent-teacher associations, churches and local councils as appropriate. Proposals for a new foundation would be subject to approval by the secretary of state. The dominant group in the foundation would be the governors of the schools forming the foundation. In the initial period, these would most likely be the governors who serve on such schools. To avoid some governors being self-perpetuating through long terms in office, governors would be expected to serve fixed terms between re-election or nomination.

Foundation schools would be given powers to employ staff in line with current practice in aided schools, while maintaining national pay and conditions. The foundation would have stewardship of the assets of their schools, to hold in trust for the community. They would have the charitable status like aided schools and parent associations in community schools. Where a school ceases to fulfil its education function, any public investment would be returned to the public purse.

Each of the options would be open to all schools to choose. Schools would be offered the chance to ballot their parents about the designation and future of their school. Such ballots would help the governors to decide on which of the three options was best suited to their school where disagreement is clearly expressed amongst parents.

Avoiding instability

The development of these options means that it would not be in the interests of pupils, parents or individual schools for any further applications to be made or votes taken for GM status.

Any further moves to GM status would increase uncertainty and affect the stability of schools. All schools will have the opportunity to seek any of the options in Labour's new partnership - and we believe they will prove attractive. We urge all schools to reunite the education service for the future and to avoid unnecessary disruption, friction and conflict. All schools should therefore await the choice available in this paper to be implemented by the incoming Labour government.

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The proposals we are making in this paper offer all schools in the land greater control over their own affairs than they are able to exercise today.

We are preserving the ethos and day-to-day independence of schools while being a part of the local system.

We are reuniting the education service and giving local education authorities a new role as the champion of parents and pupils in their area and as a vehicle for raising standards in schools.

We are improving education by developing a strong vigorous independent inspectorate.

We are giving parents a far greater say over education in their LEA and in their schools with new places on education committees and governing bodies.

We believe this new framework gives us the chance to work in partnership, to raise standards and improve education for every child in the country.

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Appendix 1

The existing system

Traditionally, there have been three main types of school operating within the state sector at a local level. Voluntary-aided, voluntary control-led and county schools grew from a different historical basis. These are described in more detail below. The main differences relate to powers to employ staff, ownership of school buildings, numbers of governors from different sectors and capital funding. Voluntary aided schools have to find 15 per cent of capital themselves, receiving the rest from the government.

County schools were established by LEAs, which continue to own the buildings and sites. Responsibility for day-to-day maintenance is now a matter for the governors. Staff are formally LEA employees - though appointments, salaries and conditions of service matters are largely decided by the governors within national agreements. The LEA decides on admissions policy which is implemented in conjunction with schools and under the supervision of the DfE. Governing bodies have equal numbers of parent and LEA nominees, with one or two teachers and the head (depending on size) plus co-optees.

Voluntary controlled schools were set up by a voluntary foundation, usually the Church of England or the RC church, but sometimes a nondenominational privately supported body. The LEA meets the running costs. Buildings remain in the ownership of the foundation, but the LEA meets the maintenance costs. The LEA handles admissions, while staff are formally LEA employees. Governing bodies have equal numbers of parent, LEA and foundation nominees together with teachers, head and co-optees. The LEA never has more than one quarter of the governors.

Voluntary aided schools were set up by voluntary bodies or trusts, mainly the churches. They are similar to voluntary controlled schools, except the governors formally employ the staff and meet 15 per cent of the costs of structural maintenance, with central government meeting the rest. The governors decide which children will be admitted. The make up of governing bodies varies with the number for schools laid down in a statutory instrument.

More recently grant maintained schools have transferred the funding and the planning of their schools from local to central government, which functions are in the hands of the Funding Agency for Schools. The governors own the site, buildings, employ the staff and decide which children should be given places. Governing bodies are dominated by those governors who made the proposal to seek GM status.

In 1994 - the latest available breakdown - the figures for types of schools in England were as follows: voluntary controlled - 2,909; voluntary aided - 4,032; special agreement - 54; county schools - 14,503.

By 1995, there were 1,032 GM schools in England, of which 698 were formerly county schools, 226 formerly voluntary aided, 95 formerly voluntary controlled and 13 formerly special agreement.

Over 30 per cent of schools opting for GM in England status had either been voluntary aided or voluntary controlled previously.

Around five per cent of schools have chosen grant-maintained status since the Conservatives introduced the policy in 1988. The number is well below government expectations and has slowed to a trickle more recently. The main differences between GM schools and LEA schools (of whatever type) relate to accountability, equity of funding, admissions poLicy and planning procedures. There are many similarities between voluntary aided schools and GM schools. However, GM schools do not have to find any of their capital spending themselves.

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Appendix 2

The role of the governors

Governing bodies are responsible for ensuring that their schools are managed effectively and deliver high standards of teaching and learning. Their composition allows for the voice of parents, members of the local community, teaching staff and local authority to be heard and can ensure that schools are responsive to local needs and aspirations. Within the framework of legislation, governing bodies determine the ethos and direction of their schools. When these powers are used constructively, they can help to develop a sense of ownership and pride in a school that is shared by pupils, parents and staff and has a positive impact on all aspects of achievement.

The articles of government specify the powers and duties of governing bodies. The articles have to conform to many legislative requirements, so that they tend to be similar for all schools of a given category, whilst local management of schools (LMS) has blurred many of the differences between different categories of schools.

Under LMS, governing bodies' responsibilities extend to the management of school budgets, personnel functions, the maintenance of buildings and site, and the curriculum and organisation of the school. Once a year they must publish an annual report on their activities and hold a meeting with parents.

All governing bodies are incorporated and so share joint liability for their actions. Governors' powers and duties can only be suspended in exceptional circumstances; delegated financial powers in LEA-maintained schools may be suspended for serious financial mismanagement or when an Ofsted inspection has identified a 'failing school'. The secretary of state has the power to place additional governors onto a GM school governing body in the event of concerns about a governing body's effectiveness.

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Appendix 3

Grid 1: The current school structure

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Appendix 3

Grid 2: Proposed new structure