Proposals for the development of ‘federations’ of schools are due to be announced next month. Schools within a federation will be able to collaborate across a range of activities including administrative support and governance, as well as classroom activity. David Miliband, Minister for School Standards, has made it clear that the partnership scheme, launched in 1997, which brings together maintained and independent schools, will continue to be promoted within the new federation framework.Over the last five years, the independent/state school partnerships scheme has supported projects between pairs, and increasingly, groups of schools throughout the country, so there are now 180 partnerships, benefiting more than 60,000 pupils in over 600 schools, with joint funding totalling almost 4 million pounds. Partnerships are deepening in quality and extending from collaboration to sharing resources.
The proposals for federations are part of the response to the challenge faced by secondary schools. It is estimated that 4 out of 5 jobs created between now and 2010 will demand skill levels above ‘A’ level, and that only a third of Britons currently have these skills, compared to three-quarters of Germans. Some fifty per cent of young people leave secondary school without five good GCSEs.
Extending the maintained/ independent school partnerships will present a severe challenge. There are only three Local Education Authorities which systematically integrate independent schools into their education planning. In some areas there have never been visits from senior officials to private schools. The differences in funding lead to cynicism and mutual distrust. Capital investment at independent schools is still almost three times the rate of that at maintained schools and recurrent spending at private schools is around 5400 pounds pa, compared to a state school figure of 3600 pounds.