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Schools in county may go 'private'

KENT should consider allowing the private sector to become involved in running one or more of its schools, according to the politician in charge of education. Cllr Paul Carter, Kent County Council’s Conservative cabinet member for education, has hinted publicly for the first time that the authority was prepared to turn to the private sector to take a hand in running some schools.

His comments are likely to spark controversy but are in line with the Government’s own proposals to allow private companies not just to build schools but also run parts of the education service. To date very few education authorities have opted to do down this route although more are now likely to do so.

Cllr Carter said: “I think it is time Kent looked at the private sector to run one of its secondary schools. Let’s see if there are companies out there who would be happy to do it and talk. We should at least have a look at the idea.”

He added: “The education secretary Estelle Morris has suggested private sector involvement in schools should be linked to standards. If companies are not be part of running schools, how can they be responsible for raising standards?”

Kent County Council is preparing to submit a £100million bid to the government within weeks to enable it to replace dozens of mobile classrooms and refurbish delapidated secondary school buildings. Council leaders hope ministers will sanction their proposals to bring in the private sector to pay for much of this improvement work.

Although it is unlikely that the council’s bid will detail specific proposals for private companies to run a school or group of schools, the Government is planning legislation to force authorities to consult with so-called “external partners” about whether they wish to take over failing schools.

Labour said it had misgivings about the idea of private companies running schools. “We would oppose it but it does look likely to become law,” said spokesman Cllr Matt Wheatcroft.

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