Tories place trust in ‘free’ school plans for Castlebrae High

Cameron Rose believes trusts can transform the fortunes of Castlebrae High

Cameron Rose believes trusts can transform the fortunes of Castlebrae High

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EDUCATION chiefs are being urged to keep a “failing” high school open and instead hand over control to a trust.

The Conservatives are calling for Castlebrae Community High School, which has been earmarked to close next summer, to be run as a “free” school employing pioneering new management that has “successfully” turned around schools in England and Wales.

The Craigmillar school is set to be closed following poor exam results and a falling school roll, but the Scottish Tories are appealing for the city council to consider a range of experimental options before making the final decision on its future.

Tory education spokesman Councillor Cameron Rose is set to present a motion to full council tomorrow calling for a working group to explore viable alternatives to closure that would include converting Castlebrae into a free or co-operative school.

They also suggested recruiting a charity such as Teach First, which specialises in transforming the fortunes of under-performing schools.

However, the city’s education leader, Paul Godzik, said he didn’t believe there was “any appetite to introduce free schools into the Scottish education system”.

Increasingly popular south of the Border, free schools have been hailed the first in a new breed of state-funded schools which are set up by charities, businesses, teachers or parents, but remain subject to the same Ofsted inspections as state schools and would be expected to maintain the same rigorous standards.

Cllr Rose said: “The school could potentially stay open and we could apply methods which have been successful elsewhere in turning around schools. It might enable us to tackle the long-running sore of under-performing schools.

“I’m proposing a number of different options, one of which would be a public-funded school which would be run by a trust, or an organisation or charity that specialises in under-performing schools and which wouldn’t be subject to the same bureaucratic restrictions that our state schools have been.”

Co-operative sponsored schools exist in England and Wales in the form of trust, academy and specialist schools.

Trust schools are usually supported by a charity with local governors appointed as trustees to run the school, while academy schools are state-funded schools sponsored by a range of organisations, from universities to businesses.

Among the suggestions mooted is a proposal to convert Castlebrae into an Ark School or Harris Federation School, two charities that have a proven track record in turning round poorly performing schools, while another proposal is to consider making it a charter school which can receive public money and private donations but are not subject to some of the rules, regulations, and statutes that apply to other public schools.

The motion asks the council to report back to the Education Committee on the proposals at the end of March next year.

laura.cummings@edinburghnews.com