BY MURRAY WHITE
GOVERNMENT EDUCATION Minister Robin Squire this week hit back at long-held views of some members of the Catholic hierarchy that schools opting-out create a two tier system of education.
Addressing a conference of Catholic headteachers at the weekend, Mr Squire said that criticism was often levied against the policy of Grant Maintained (GM) schools that they put schools who remain with the LEA at a financial disadvantage.
"I do not accept the logic of that argument," he said, claiming that money previously tied up by LEAs for central services is now actually better directed to where it is needed.
Meanwhile, Labour MPs have added fuel to the fire by
stressing that they inten4l to reverse the opt-out poli4y if they win the next elect on. Catholic Labour MP ny Lloyd, writing in this week's Catholic Herald, says thati the party is intent of talking to bishops and parents on the most "just way forward". Opting-out is now more
non-Catholic schools, Mr popular among Catholic than Squire told the conference in Warrington, which was organised by the Association of GM Catholic Headteachers. A greater proportion of iM ballots have yielded "yes" votes at Catholic schools.
Mr Squire and Ihis colleagues have offereI a series of seminars in re dent months to promote the virues of the GM option w ich allows a school to "opt-out' of local authority control and manage its own budget funded directly by a Government agency but the Warrington conference was the first to be aimed exclusively at Catholic heads. More than 60 attended, only one from a school which had already gone GM. Some headteachers were prepared to talk quite openly about their plans to ballot parents on going GM, but others asked that their attendance at the conference not be made public. Bro Francis, chairman of the Association of GM Catholic headteachers, said he was "saddened that some came incognito because they didn't want their diocese to know they were there". More than 120 Catholic schools have now gone GM, and they now form the majority in some dioceses such as Portsmouth.