Private education companies and Christian groups are lining up to enter the education market created by pivotal reforms of the state school system.
A company which runs 60 low-cost independent schools, GEMS, said it was discussing the creation of a charitable arm allowing it to enter the "new state schools' market". The Christian group the United Learning Trust, which is already the biggest single sponsor of schools in the academy programme, also confirmed it was in talks with one local authority about eight or nine state schools.
The moves follow publication of the education white paper unveiling plans to turn all primary and secondary schools into "self governing independent state schools". Every school will be encouraged to acquire a trust, made up of business charities, faith groups, universities or parent and community organisations. The trusts will be able to appoint the governing body, own their own assets, set their own admissions policies as well as control teachers' pay and conditions.
"There is every indication we will be setting up a number of these trusts around our academy schools," Sir Ewan Harper, chief executive of the United Learning Trust, said. John Bridger, of GEMS schools, said the organisation had "a lot to contribute" to the new system.
The paper also outlined more powers for parents: they will get the right to demand new schools, the closure of struggling ones and the sacking of headteachers. Proposals set out by the education secretary, Ruth Kelly, will also see local authorities becoming parents' champions rather than education providers.
Advisers will be provided to help poorer parents choose and pupils will get subsidised buses.
The reforms were criticised by teachers' leaders. Steve Sinnott, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, called the plans "extraordinarily wrong-headed", The Guardian reports.