Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Private schools in bid to go 'free'

A number of independent school are set to scrap fees and become 'free' under plans revealed by Education Secretary Michael Gove

A number of independent schools are set to scrap their fees and become "free schools" under plans brought in by the Government.

Among those hoping to break with their past and enter the state school system are a 400-year-old co-educational Yorkshire grammar school and a small independent primary school in Warwickshire.

The planned changes come after Education Secretary Michael Gove rushed through legislation shortly after the election to pave the way for parents, charities and businesses to set up independent schools within the state system.

A proposal by Batley Grammar School in West Yorkshire to ditch its charges of up to £2,949 per term has been approved by the Government to move to an advanced stage with a view to the school joining the state sector in September.

Headteacher Brigid Tullie said: "There are precedents for independent schools moving back to the maintained sector albeit as academies.

"That has been very positive with many such schools being amongst the most oversubscribed in the country. We intend to follow that success."

The Priors School in Warwickshire, a 164-year-old establishment that relies on voluntary donations for the majority of its income, is also in the final stages of the process of becoming a free school.

If it succeeds, it will offer a number of additional places free of charge to children from outside the villages of Priors Marston and Priors Hardwick, who currently have to pay fees.

North London's Wisdom School meanwhile will get rid of its annual fees of £5,100 for primary school pupils and £5,700 for secondary school pupils if its application for free school status is successful.

But the free schools idea has met with opposition in some quarters, with the National Union of Teachers (NUT) warning the Government earlier this month to stop "playing with the educational future of this country" and scrap the plans.

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