January 22nd, 2012 at 10:47 pm
Katharine Birbalsingh, the teacher described as a Tory darling for her attacks on state education standards, is at the centre of a dispute over her plans to open a free secondary school with a “private ethos” in an area of south London desperately in need of primary schools.
Birbalsingh has been accused of wasting taxpayers’ money by parents and teachers in Tooting, Wandsworth, the proposed site of the Michaela community school, where Mandarin and Latin will be on the curriculum.
The new secondary school will take money away from the local authority if it attracts pupils from schools under the latter’s control. And critics say because the department for education has earmarked half of the £1.2bn it has allocated to school building on free schools, it does not have enough money to tackle the national crisis in primary schools.
Official figures show that there will be a surplus of 2,000 secondary school places in the borough once Birbalsingh’s school has been built, but that there is already a need for an extra 115 primary school places and the area will be short of 600 places by 2015.
Nationally, of the 62 free schools due to open that are championed by the education secretary, Michael Gove, only 21 are primaries, yet official figures show that the number of children of nursery and primary school age in England is due to rise 14% by 2018. The increase of more than half a million children will take the primary school population to its highest level since the late 1970s, and London councils estimate there will be a shortfall in the capital of about 65,000 by 2015.
Birbalsingh, who became a cause célèbre in Conservative ranks after she criticised the indiscipline in state schools during a speech at the Tory conference in 2010, insists that her school will give parents the choice to send their children to an institution where the focus will be on traditional subjects.
She told the Observer that the school would benefit from the guidance of Anthony Seldon, headmaster of the fee-paying Wellington College, and of the 31-year-old chair of governors, Neil Mahapatra, an Eton-educated former assistant to Lord Rothschild and a Conservative parliamentary candidate, currently setting up a private equity firm.
Birbalsingh said that ICT would not be taught at her school because the emphasis would be on maths, English and foreign languages, not skills. The best performing four pupils from the school each year win the “prize” of boarding at Wellington for a week.
Birbalsingh said: “I don’t know how people can criticise those who are trying to do the right thing. This school will take children from Lambeth, Merton and Wandsworth. It is also needed in terms of ethos.” However, local opposition to the school is growing, with public meetings and a petition planned. There is concern that the site chosen for the school, which is due to open in September, is home to 400 businesses and that the move could lead to a loss of jobs.
Birbalsingh’s school was due to be sited in Lambeth, where there is a shortage of secondary school places, but was blocked when the local authority sold her preferred site to property developers. Janet Eades, a retired teacher from Wandsworth who is leading the campaign against the free school, said: “I would like to know what the demand and need is for this school in Tooting, which was deemed viable by the department of education because there was a need in Lambeth. How does this benefit Tooting or Wandsworth? It is a mess and is a sign of a planning failure and we are going to fight it hard. The money spent on this school could be used to expand primary schools in Wandsworth or carry out vital repairs on outstanding secondary schools in the area. We don’t need this school.”
Birbalsingh has not had a permanent job in a school since she agreed to leave St Michael and All Angels Academy, in Streatham, south London, two years ago following concerns at the school about her use of images of pupils during her controversial speech at the Tory party conference. However, there will not be an open application process for the position of head at the Michaela community school, which Birbalsingh is taking.
Stephen Twigg, the shadow education secretary, said that the case illustrated why the government should redraw its free school programme to take account of the crisis in primary school provision. He said: “There is an urgent crisis in our primary school system that the government is ignoring – 180,000 more places are needed before the election.
“Ninety per cent of the need is for primaries, yet half the funding from the autumn statement will go on pet projects like free schools. Only a third of free schools in the pipeline are primaries, and the areas with the biggest need – Barking and Dagenham, Bracknell and Milton Keynes – will not get a free school.”
A spokesman for Communitas, the public relations company hired by Michaela school’s project management firm, Place Group, refused to provide details about how much public money had been spent on the proposed school.
January 19th, 2012 at 1:18 pm
The Michaela Community School (MCS) group is seeking to take possession of theTrident Business Centre, having lost their preferred site in Lambeth.
Currently the Trident Business Centre is home to Wandsworth Youth Enterprise Centre, a registered charity, which aims to provide young people (17-30) an opportunity to set up and establish their own business. WYEC has been established since 1988 and the TBC, a trading subsidiary, was established in 1998. It currently provides hundreds of jobs for young people.
It is unlikely that suitable alternative accommodation for the Business Centre could be found in time for the stated opening of the Michaela Community School in September 2012.
Wandsworth Save Our Schools believes that this underlines many of the flaws in the arguments being put forward by the MCS group.
• The Wandsworth Youth Enterprise has a 100 year lease on the Trident building and Wandsworth have invested money in making it fit for that purpose. To convert the building to a school, would require alterations and planning permission, making it unlikely to the MCS to meet their target of opening in September 2012.
• The owners of the site, the London Development Agency, would have to either agree to give a lease to the MCS or to sell the site. It raises the question of who would pay? Would it be Wandsworth, at a time when they are cutting services to some of the most needy in the borough.
• There has been no demand for the school anywhere in Wandsworth. The demand, such as it was, was in the north of Lambeth. The MCS group are now trying to create that demand. As places will be allocated by lottery from a ten mile wide area there is little chance of local children getting a place at the school.
• There is, at present, no shortage of secondary places in Wandsworth, with about 2/3 of secondary students, only, being residents of Wandsworth and over 300 surplus places for year 7 (170 if faith schools are excluded). These figures will be increased by 120 when the Bolingbroke School opens in September 2012.
WSOS believes that, if this project goes through, parents who apply will not know until the last minute whether the school will open or not on time. In the meantime, other schools will be unable to plan because they may not know which pupils will/will not be attending any new school. That, given the MCS stated aims, it is completely contradictory and wrong for them to put in jeopardy a project which is doing so much to benefit so many young people and to risk such disruption to the start of a new school year.
January 19th, 2012 at 11:54 am
The Government’s funding of academies and free schools is flawed and lacks transparency, say the capital’s local councils.
London Councils, the organisation which represents the 33 local authorities in the capital, today warns that the Government’s proposals to calculate the Academies Funding Transfer for 2011-12 and 2012-13 are inaccurate, as they are not based on clearly demonstrable savings to local authorities.
In response to a Government consultation on this issue, which closed on Thursday (January 12), London Councils argues that the current proposals will leave local authorities with a shortfall in their education budgets, unfairly reducing funding available to maintained schools.
Growing numbers of schools across the capital are converting to academies as part of the Government’s drive to create independent, state-funded schools. The Education Secretary Michael Gove has urged councils to create academies or free schools if a new school is needed in the borough, to encourage innovation and choice.
The Department for Education (DfE) claims that councils will be able to make savings through the creation of these new schools which are outside of local authority control. However, London Councils warns that there is a lack of evidence to support the way in which the funding transfer has been calculated.
Any actual savings councils realise from academies will be made over substantial periods of time, as budgets are re-allocated – and not overnight, as the DfE assumes.
It also remains unclear how local authorities will make savings through the creation of free schools, where they will receive no obvious additional funding to support these new schools even though they will still have statutory responsibilities to fulfil, such as co-ordinating admissions, for example.
Steve Reed, Executive Member for Children and Young People on London Councils, said: “We have deep reservations that the Government’s sums on how academies will be funded do not add up and it will be council tax payers who have to pick up the bill for this. We are also concerned that the impact of these flawed calculations will be felt far beyond the classroom as other services are cut as a result.
“Councils across London want to work with the Government to raise standards in education, but we need the Education Secretary to work with us to make sure schools funding is fair.”
Councils are also concerned that the Government has failed to recognise the cost to local authorities of the creation of academies in their borough. All schools converting to academy status will receive a £25,000 start-up grant, but the cost to local authorities of the legal fees to transfer ownership of land, for example, has not been taken into consideration.
In responding to the Government’s consultation, London Councils calls for the DfE to use actual savings to local authorities, to quantify the amount a local authority will save through the creation of an academy. It also urges the DfE to work with London Councils and boroughs in establishing the level of actual savings and the timing of transfer, once local authorities know how many academies are open in their borough.
January 19th, 2012 at 10:18 am
Tuesday 17 January 2012
Row erupts after permit to run Malmö primary school advertised on Blocket auction site, with starting price of £47,000
A permit to run one of Sweden’s free schools – which inspired the flagship Tory policy of letting parents and teachers set up their own schools in Britain – has been advertised on the country’s equivalent of eBay.
The permit, which was put up for sale on the Blocket auction website on 4 January, would allow the buyer to run a primary school in the city of Malmö for up to 180 students.
The advertisement, which suggested a starting price of 500,000 Swedish kronor (£47,000), said more than a year’s work had gone into obtaining the licence for the Malmö Enskilda Grundskola, which any potential buyer would be able to open this autumn.
EUCommerce, a brokerage firm representing the seller, told prospective buyers: “If you want to avoid all the red tape for the ambitious and serious project of starting a school, this is a fantastic opportunity.
“The only remaining work to do is to find a suitable location for the school, new staff, etc.”
The ad was removed from the site yesterday after the Guardian contacted EUCommerce.
Free schools, which were pioneered in Sweden, are funded by the state but run independently. Free schools in England can contract out their management to private companies in exchange for a fee, but this is subject to a legally watertight procurement process.
Jan Björkland, the Swedish education minister, said the auction was totally unacceptable.
“I am extremely alarmed that someone who sought and received permission to operate a school is acting like this.”
Sweden’s schools inspectorate said, however, that it could not prevent those to whom it awarded licences from selling them on.
“There is no obligation to report to us if the shares in a company which has a permit to run a free school are sold,” Anna Sundberg, division head for permit assessment with the inspectorate, told Svenska Dagbladet, a Swedish newspaper.
The case has been seized on by critics of the policy in England.
Alasdair Smith, the national secretary of the Anti Academies Alliance, which campaigns against free schools in England, said: “If you start trading schools as profitable units to be bought and sold in the market, inevitably you see the shift in focus from teaching and learning to securing profit margins. That’s just the nature of the market, that’s just inevitable.”
Sweden’s decision to open up education to private providers in the 1990s has come under question since December 2010, when the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development published the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment.
This showed that Swedish students had dropped to 19th place out of 57 countries for literacy, 24th in maths, and 28th in science. This compared with 9th, 17th and 16th in studies done in 2000, 2003 and 2006 respectively.
Björkland has launched a parliamentary inquiry into the rules regarding free schools in Sweden, seeking to strengthen central control over those operating them, and increase the power of the state to close down those failing to provide education of sufficient quality.
He said this week that the inquiry would also lead to tighter rules over who could buy and sell schools.
“The question of who is serious enough to run a school and therefore receive the permits will be decided by the Swedish schools inspectorate, not by a company broker or by those who have already got a permit,” he said.
January 19th, 2012 at 10:13 am
By Angela HarrisonEducation correspondent, BBC News
Barclays Bank is to lend its support to England’s new academies and free schools.
The bank will offer £1m to groups that want to set up free schools and invest £15m in money management courses.
It will also offer work experience to 3,000 pupils aged 16 to 18 from academies and free schools, and encourage staff to become governors.
The National Union of Teachers accused the government of “opening up schools to the market place”.
A total of 24 free schools opened in September last year and 71 are due to open from this September.
Academies and free schools are key parts of changes the coalition government has brought in.
They are state-funded but with more freedom over the curriculum and teachers’ pay and conditions than other schools.
The government wants all schools to become academies, which stand aside from local authority control.
Free schools can be set up by groups including charities, businesses, parents and religious bodies.
But critics opposed to free schools and the expansion of academies say this will lead to a two-tier system and the break-up of the state education system.
Barclays plans to expand money management courses already running in some schools over three years at a cost of £15m.
It will also offer free banking to new free schools and academies, to help get them off the ground.
Groups wanting to set up free schools could also be eligible for an average of £5,000 in grants out of a £1.25m fund to help pay for research and planning, Barclays says.
The chief executive of Barclays retail and business banking, Antony Jenkins, said: “It’s a sizeable commitment.
“Barclays is supporting free schools and academies because we want to boost financial skills for young people.”
He added: “We really do believe in the power of education to create social mobility, to create powerful effects in people’s lives and to create economic growth, which of course is important to us as a bank.”
Mr Jenkins said it was important to give children real work experience, not just “tidying up the photocopying room and making coffee for people” and those coming to Barclays would get that – and experience what it was like in the world of work.
Education Secretary Michael Gove announced the link-up at an academy in central London, saying it would help underprivileged children because free schools were mainly being set up in poorer communities.
“I’m delighted that Barclays have read the new educational landscape so clearly and decided to make a real difference,” he said.
“Thanks to this commitment and generous package, students, teachers and governors will benefit enormously.”
Describing Barclays as one of “Britain’s most impressive and responsible companies”, Mr Gove said it would be the “leader of the pack” but he expected other companies to be “pitching in to help in the fantastic work being done in state education”.
NUT general secretary Christine Blower said: “Children and young people should not be influenced at an impressionable age by whichever large company manages to gain a foothold in their school.
“This is, of course, Michael Gove’s vision for the future of education in this country. It is extraordinarily flawed and will most certainly result in a two-tier system.
“Any successful business’s involvement in a school will surely be decided on what returns they can reap for themselves.
“While becoming a golden goose for big business, Michael Gove’s academies and free schools policy is utterly undermining the principle of a fair education for all”.
Asked if Barclays was concerned about supporting the academies and free schools programmes when they had attracted strong criticism from teaching unions and others, Mr Jenkins said: “Barclays is a non-political organisation.
“We are happy to support this initiative – we think it is going to have a lot of impact – but it is not the only thing we are doing in the educational space by any means.”
January 19th, 2012 at 10:09 am
Oasis, the Christian charity, are consulting over a plan to open a Free School in the Waterloo area. Two local Headteachers said:
Local Headteachers have expressed concern that the setting up of a Free School may have a negative impact on the existing schools in the area. The need for places in the borough is not in the North but in the South. All schools need to work together and with the Local Authority to ensure that every Lambeth child has access to a great school. For this to work we need to work in collaberation. The setting up of a new Free School could see schools compete for pupils, resulting in a loss of funding and some schools and pupils losing out at the expense of others.
January 19th, 2012 at 10:03 am
The government’s flagship free schools programme is unlikely to boost access to good schools as they are too expensive, research has suggested.
The Bristol research said it was “inconceivable” more than one parent-founded school would be set up in an area with spare places.
Their impact on raising standards in poor schools was a “one-shot game” and would be minimal therefore, it said.
But the government insisted its reforms would raise standards.
Published in Research in Public Policy and carried out by a team from Bristol’s Centre for Market and Public Organisation, the research examines the likely impact of government reforms.
It said free schools were potentially an important part of “open public services” and are highlighted in the government’s schools reform plans as a key route to achieving fairer access.
It said: “Free schools do offer this in principle: parents very dissatisfied with their state school can opt out and set up their own school.
“But there are two reasons why free schools are unlikely to be the best answer to this. First, there are very significant set-up costs, both in time and energy from the founders, but also in the straightforward sense of acquiring premises.
“While currently these are being generously funded by the government, this cannot continue if the policy matures and spreads.”
In November, the government said it would spend an extra £600m building 100 free schools over the next three years.
‘One-shot game’The research added: “It seems inconceivable that any local area with one free school and plenty of spare school capacity would be offered the resources for many others.
“So as a performance discipline device, this is a one-shot game, not a process of continuing pressure on low performing schools, which is what is needed.”
Spare places are often in areas where schools perform badly because many parents will have opted out of sending their children to local schools.
The research claims the main way of tackling fair access would be to end the policy of allocating places to pupils on the basis of their proximity to the school.
It added: “Our research shows that this proximity rule strongly favours children from more affluent family backgrounds.
“The gap in accessible school quality between rich and poor families widens by over 50% once a proximity criterion is imposed.”
The researchers also claimed that two decades of parental choice and school competition, through the school performance tables, had done little to improve quality.
A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “Parents rightly want to send their child to a good local school, with high standards and strong discipline.
“Free schools have the autonomy to make decisions that are right for local children. Evidence from around the world is clear that giving teachers and heads more freedom in the classroom helps to raise the quality of education.”
“Our reforms will drive up standards right across the board – bring the best graduates into the classroom, giving new powers for teachers to keep order and developing a world-class curriculum.”
January 19th, 2012 at 10:02 am
THE headteachers of all six secondary schools in Chorley have jointly written to The Citizen to air their concerns over a proposed “free school’ for the town.
In an unprecedented move, the heads said they wished to inform parents and the community of the “potential damage it could cause to the education of pupils in Chorley”.
The free school, which has been approved by the Department of Education, but not yet granted funding, is the Chorley Career and Sixth Form Academy.
Its website says it will provide state funded education to a small number of young people aged 11-19.
Once opened it would admit children intending to go to Year 7 in a secondary school in September 2012 or after and current year 9 and 10 students who are finishing their GCSEs and looking to do A levels or vocational courses.
The letter addresses concerns that a new school would draw pupils away from existing schools with spare places.
The Department for Education will meet the cost of building and setting up the academy.
But schools are funded on a per-pupil basis meaning the new academy could take up to £6,000 per child away from existing schools.
The letter said: “There are currently six secondary schools in the Chorley area all of which are rated as good or outstanding by Ofsted.
“A free school is designed to meet the needs of the community in areas where there is a lack of quality of provision or choice.
“This is clearly not the case in Chorley.
“There also seems to be a lack of clarity with regards to the vision behind this proposal.
“Initially it was going to be a 14-19 vocational provider but this has now changed to be an 11-19 provider, one gets the distinct impression that the driving force behind this venture is to set up a school of some type rather than to address a non-existent gap in the current provision.”
The letter is signed by Jon Hayes, Wendy White, Julie Heaton, Alan Davies, Mark Fowle and Claire Hollister, respectively the heads of Albany Science College, Holy Cross Catholic High School, St Michael’s CE High School, Bishop Rawstorne Church of England Academy, Southlands High School and Parklands High School.
On its website, the person leading the drive for a free school, Dr Bulvinder Michael, says: “The academy will be a small school with a real sense of community.
“It will have small class sizes so that students get more care and attention every day from leaving primary school all the way through to entering university.
“Students will not waste time and money travelling further than they need to because the academy is in Chorley.”
Various locations in Chorley have been looked at as a site for the new school, including the former CCH offices on Gillibrand Street, land on Bengal Street and the former tax office on Water Street.
The headteachers also expressed concern that the proposed free school would mean “scarce resources will be diverted from the current schools”.
The letter concludes: “At a time of financial instability and reduced funding for education generally any further loss of income can only be damaging to the children of Chorley, whichever school they attend.
“We believe that this is a hugely important issue and local parents, young people and other community members need to be made aware of the concerns of educational professionals and the implications for education in Chorley should this proposal be accepted.”
As reported previously. All six secondary school headteachers have written to The Citizen airing concern about a prposed free school in the town.
Below is the letter in full along woth a response from Dr Bulvinder Michael, who is leading the formation of Chorley’s free school.
I am writing on behalf of all the secondary school headteachers in the Chorley area to express our views and concerns regarding the proposal for a ‘Free School’ currently being put forward in the town.
I think that is it important that parents and the local community understand the views of the current schools on this proposal and the potential damage it could cause to the education of pupils in Chorley.
There are currently 6 secondary schools in the Chorley area all of which are rated as good or outstanding by Ofsted.
Two of these schools are academies and two are in the process of converting.
Three of the schools are faith schools. There is also exceptionally successful post-16 provision available in the area at Runshaw and the Preston colleges.
This breadth of provision allows parents to choose the educational establishment that is right for their child, secure in the knowledge that they will receive a high quality education from an institution with a proven record of success.
Due to the number of young people currently in the Chorley area there are places at several of the existing schools and so pupils always receive a place.
A free school is designed to meet the needs of the community in areas where there is a lack of quality of provision or choice.
This is clearly not the case in Chorley. There also seems to be a lack of clarity with regards to the vision behind this proposal.
Initially it was going to be a 14-19 vocational provider but this has now changed to be an 11-19 provider, one gets the distinct impression that the driving force behind this venture is to set up a school of some type rather than to address a non-existent gap in the current provision.
A new school is therefore unnecessary and unwanted and is not based on need or demand from the local community.
Should this application be successful, resources and funding will need to be allocated to setting it up and running it.
This means that already scarce resources will be diverted from the current schools into the new establishment.
At a time of financial instability and reduced funding for education generally any further loss of income can only be damaging to the children of Chorley, whichever school they attend.
We believe that this is a hugely important issue and local parents, young people and other community members need to be made aware of the concerns of educational professionals and the implications for education in Chorley should this proposal be accepted.
J Hayes – Albany Science College W White – Holy Cross Catholic High School J Heaton – St Michael’s CE High School A Davies – Bishop Rawstorne Church of England Academy M Fowle – Southlands High School C Hollister – Parklands High School.
LETTER FROM DR MICHEAL.
The vision of Chorley Career and Sixth Form Academy is well set out to transform the lives of young people of Chorley, a town which has higher than national average percentage of young people not in education , training and employment( NEET is above 10%).
Through a rigorous programme of career pathway for young people of all abilities from 11-19 the school guarantees success for all young people attending the school.
They will achieve one of the following: Go to university, gain employment or set up a business.
Failure will not be an option for any student. We challenge any of the six schools to take up the same guarantee that we are offering students who choose the school.
We are committed to improving the actual lives of these young people on leaving education at 18 or 19.
Chorley Career and Sixth Form Academy will provide parental choice for parents wanting their children to have a continuous education from year 7 to sixth form.
Every town around us including Leyland, Wigan, Bolton or Preston have 11-19 education provision.
Why should young people in Chorley be deprived of a similar opportunity?
Why should the young people of Chorley pay to travel to a post-16 provision?
Whilst post-16 providers are currently available outside Chorley Borough we need to consider not only how many of these students make it to post-16 education but in fact how many of the young people complete post-16 successfully to enter university or secure employment.
Research shows that 11-19 provision assures better chances of completing a post-16 education.
It is therefore not surprising that the number of young people in Chorley going to University is below national level and youth employment is at a record high.
Both the NEET percentage and the below national average percentage of young people entering university is indicative that the young people do not have sufficient education provision and motivation to improve their life chances.
There is a gap in this continuous provision and the change from 14- 19 to 11-19 was done on the basis of recognising this obvious gap in addition to wanting to achieve more successful outcomes by nurturing the young people at an earlier age from primary school.
In addition secondary schools who have taken responsibility for your child at 11 at the start of the secondary school should continue to bear responsibility to achieve success at GCSE for every student irrespective of ability.
Parental choices are indicated by first and second preferences of year 7 intake.
In Sept 2011 we have data to indicate that some of these schools had first preferences that were below the school capacity and that parents were offered the school on a second preference basis.
In addition, there is data to indicate that parents who were not offered their first choice chose to send their child to a secondary school outside Chorley Borough Council.
OUR INFORMATION HERE GIVES additional basis for a need for another school which will give parents more choice in Chorley and a different approach to education provision.
We all have a moral obligation to work together to give every young person in Chorley an equal opportunity to succeed in this very difficult work environment.
Post- 16 qualifications at the door step certainly will improve that life chances for all our young people irrespective of background.
As educationalists and members of Chorley community, we should embrace this new opportunity for our young people that will enhance current education provision rather than drain resources as suggested by some who are scaremongering for personal, political or social reasons.
Dr Bulvinder Michael Chorley Career and Sixth Form Academy
January 19th, 2012 at 10:00 am
A US private education firm’s UK arm has been officially approved to sell services to groups setting up free schools and academies in England.
Edison Learning, a for-profit education business, has been given approved status by the Department for Education.
It will be part of a group of approved suppliers which can provide education, contractual and legal services in setting up free schools and academies.
The firm says it wants to support schools’ “ambitions and aspirations”.
In the United States, Edison Learning is a major for-profit education business, managing schools in the state system, independent charter schools and also online “virtual” charter schools.
The UK arm of the company announced on Wednesday that it had become part of the Department for Education’s “framework” of suppliers, which can provide support and advice services to groups setting up free schools or seeking sponsored academy status.
A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “Schools are under no obligation to use these suppliers, all of whom went through a tender process to get on the framework.”
Continue reading the main story
Every child gets just one opportunity of a great education, and it is our job to ensure that any new academy or school we work with delivers exactly that”
Tim NashEdison Learning
There are 12 approved providers in two areas – “project management”, such as advice on legal and financial issues and transfer of staff, and “educational services”, which includes school policy, curriculum advice and staff recruitment.
Edison Learning is one of a smaller group approved to supply both these areas, with the aim of supporting groups through processes of the “pre-opening” phase.
Such an approved list is intended to speed up the process by offering pre-selected specialist advisers.
The Department for Education suggests that it can mean the difference between time scales of four weeks with such a “framework” supplier compared with up to six months for non-approved suppliers.
Free schools and academies are independent state schools, operating outside the local authority system.
Tim Nash, director of Edison Learning, said the company already had partnerships with more than 80 schools in the UK – and that it sold support services in the same way that publishers provided text books or technology firms provided computers.
Mr Nash said that if the “opportunity arose” the firm might want to manage schools – but that the boundaries around running state schools for profit had been made clear.
But he said that the firm was interested in setting up its own charitable body.
The challenge was about raising achievement and supporting schools, regardless of their status, he said.
“How do we help state education to be as good as it can possibly get? It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about a local authority school, academy or free school.”
In previous years, as Edison Schools and before that the Edison Project, the firm had been controversial, particularly with teachers’ unions, for its plans to sell private education services to public sector schools in the UK.
For several years it managed a school in north London, which has since become an academy, run by an academy trust.
“Every child gets just one opportunity of a great education, and it is our job to ensure that any new academy or school we work with delivers exactly that,” says Mr Nash.
January 19th, 2012 at 9:55 am
26 November 2011 Last updated at 01:12
The government is to spend an extra £600m on building 100 new free schools in England over the next three years.
The BBC’s Ben Wright said the money will not come from the existing education budget, although the Treasury will explain the source in Tuesday’s autumn statement on the economy.
Some 12 selective specialist maths schools will be among the 100 schools.
Free schools are run by independent education providers that are funded directly by central government.
They can be set up by groups of parents, teachers, charities, businesses, universities, trusts, religious or voluntary groups.
They are established as academies, independent of local authorities and with increased control over their curriculum, teachers’ pay and conditions, and the length of school terms and days.
The specialist maths schools being proposed would be for pupils aged between 16 and 18.
The schools, which will be the subject of a special application process outside the regular free school application process, will be connected to strong university maths departments.
Ministers say maths is a “fundamental strategic priority in education”, adding that these schools are not being created just to accelerate pupils through the normal exams faster.
The schools will have their own curricula and are intended to produce outstanding mathematicians who can work in digital technologies, produce breakthroughs in applied maths or develop innovative companies.
Chancellor George Osborne is expected to announce the new free schools when he delivers his autumn statement on the economy on Tuesday.
The autumn statement replaced the pre-Budget report, which under the previous Labour government was seen as a mini-Budget in which draft tax and spending decisions were outlined.