Elite keen to run trust schools

November 4, 2005

Top universities are queuing up to get involved in running the Government's new trust schools, the Education Secretary has told MPs, writes Jessica Shepherd.

Ruth Kelly told the Education and Skills Select Committee this week that many members of the Russell Group, the umbrella organisation for leading UK research universities, had shown an interest in backing the schools.

Microsoft and the Open University have also expressed a desire to jointly run a trust school.

Trust schools will be run under the leadership of successful schools or outside organisations, such as universities, businesses and faith groups.

The Government believes the schools will have more freedom than their state equivalents and that an external backer will provide focus and a strong ethos.

Giving evidence at the select committee, Ms Kelly said: "Many of the Russell Group members have said they are interested in getting involved in trust schools. And I can't think of a better way for them to get involved in a school. I'd like to see partnerships between trust schools and universities.

Michael Sterling, chairman of the Russell Group and vice-chancellor of Birmingham University, said: "We have shown an interest and are willing to talk about how we might get involved. However, higher education is not funded to run schools, so we are not envisaging spending money."

Ms Kelly also defended the work of the Learning and Skills Council to Barry Sheerman, chair of the committee, who labelled the organisation an "expensive bureaucracy".

Ms Kelly said: "The LSC operates with strong regional tiers and has significant expertise in working with businesses.

"I think it would be unfortunate to lose that."

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