Poor Parenting ‘Fuels Rise In Violent Behaviour’

Poor Parenting ‘Fuels Rise In Violent Behaviour’

BBC |March 30, 2012

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By Hannah Richardson BBC News education reporter

Poor parenting and family breakdown is fuelling a rise in violent bad behaviour in UK schools, a survey says.

A third of teachers polled for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers said they had dealt with violence like pushing, punching or kicking this year.

ATL head Mary Bousted said some pupils had a “total disregard”for school rules.

They were as likely to be “overindulged middle class” pupils as disadvantaged ones, she added.

The teaching union surveyed 814 teachers and support staff at UK schools on the issue, and heard tales of violence in the classroom.

More than half said they felt behaviour had worsened in the past five years.

One teaching assistant at a state primary in England said: “A pupil once hit me in the back totally unexpectedly, because I asked her to put a book away. I was so winded and hurt that I couldn’t carry on that day.”

Another, at a school in Wales, said: “I had a female student threaten to kick the smile off my face, in front of the whole class.”

While a teacher at an English state secondary recalled “six boys refusing to work, throwing glue, pens, fighting and throwing books”.

When teachers were asked about the root cause of poor behaviour, three-quarters (72.9%) blamed a lack of positive role models at home.

And nearly two-thirds (62.7%) said that breakdown of relationships within a family was a main cause.

‘Lack of respect’Some 73% said pupils behaved badly because they were seeking attention from their classmates and 42% blamed neglect at home as a factor.

A member of a school management team in England said: “A change in pupils’ behaviour is not helped by the lack of respect that parents show towards staff in school – there is no wonder that some pupils are rude when this is what they see as a role model.”

Dr Bousted said: “A minority of children are very aware of their rights, have a total disregard for school rules and are rather less aware of their responsibility for their own learning and how to show respect to staff and other students.

“This can apply as much to overindulged middle class children as those from challenging families.

“It is not surprising to see that poor behaviour is often attributed to problems at home.

“Teachers need to work with parents to encourage good behaviour and parents should be acting as good role models by supporting staff and helping them create a more positive learning environment for their children.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “Unless there is good behaviour in schools, teachers cannot teach and students cannot learn. We want to put teachers back in control of the classroom.

“That is why we are toughening up discipline powers so that teachers are better able to deal quickly with bad behaviour.

“Schools can now issue no notice detentions, we have clarified the guidance on use of force and we are giving teachers more search powers.”

Toddlers’ Make-Believe Games ‘Help Poor Pupils Succeed’

Toddlers’ Make-Believe Games ‘Help Poor Pupils Succeed’

BBC |March 30, 2012

By Hannah Richardson BBC News education reporter
Dressing up and doing number and letter activities at an early age can help poor children “succeed against the odds” at school, research suggests.An Institute of Education study tracking 3,000 children says early learning activities can give children a three-year academic boost by age 14.It says differences between rich and poor children emerge by age three.

This persists throughout school for too many children, it adds.

The Effective Pre-school, Primary and Secondary Education project has been following 3,000 children between the ages of three and 14 since 1996 t try to discover what factors lead to success.

It highlights the lasting benefits of what it calls a “stimulating early years home-learning environment”.

These are defined as being read to, playing with numbers and letters, doing craft activities, but also playing with friends at home and elsewhere, as well as enjoying “make believe” games like dressing up.

It also highlights the benefits of enjoying sports, dance, music and movement – activities more associated with middle-class homes.

The study says that differences in academic attainment and social development related to background emerge in children by the age of three. And these tend to persist to pre-GCSE level.

But it says that a good early years home learning environment serves as a “partial protection against the effects of disadvantage” and can even overcome it.

The study concludes: “Learning opportunities in the home such as reading with children, playing with letters and shapes, sharing nursery rhymes, (and) going to the library all have positive effects later in the secondary phase, in fact, more than parental occupation or income.”

Regular homeworkIt adds: “If parents focus on their children’s learning when they are very young it raises their attainment at Key Stage 2 on average by a whole national curriculum level, which is equivalent to about three years of school.”

This advantage then persists through the early years of secondary school, it says.

Regular homework – two to three hours per night – also has an impact at this age.

Those who did this were more likely to do well in English, maths and science and to have better behaviour.

The researchers said: “These effects were very strong and made a difference of between one and two national curriculum levels.”

Nature Deficit Disorder ‘Damaging Britain’s Children’

Nature Deficit Disorder ‘Damaging Britain’s Children’

BBC |March 30, 2012

By Richard Black Environment correspondent
BBC News
UK children are losing contact with nature at a “dramatic” rate, and their health and education are suffering, a National Trust report says.Traffic, the lure of video screens and parental anxieties are conspiring to keep children indoors, it says.Evidence suggests the problem is worse in the UK than other parts of Europe, and may help explain poor UK rankings in childhood satisfaction surveys.The trust is launching a consultation on tackling “nature deficit disorder”.

“This is about changing the way children grow up and see the world,” said Stephen Moss, the author, naturalist and former BBC Springwatch producer who wrote the Natural Childhood report for the National Trust.

“The natural world doesn’t come with an instruction leaflet, so it teaches you to use your creative imagination.

“When you build a den with your mates when you’re nine years old, you learn teamwork – you disagree with each other, you have arguments, you resolve them, you work together again – it’s like a team-building course, only you did it when you were nine.”

The trust argues, as have other bodies in previous years, that the growing dissociation of children from the natural world and internment in the “cotton wool culture” of indoor parental guidance impairs their capacity to learn through experience.

It cites evidence showing that:

  • children learn more and behave better when lessons are conducted outdoors
  • symptoms of children diagnosed with ADHD improve when they are exposed to nature
  • children say their happiness depends more on having things to do outdoors more than owning technology.

Yet British parents feel more pressure to provide gadgets for their children than in other European countries.

Anger over trafficThe phrase nature deficit disorder was coined in 2005 by author Richard Louv, who argued that the human cost of “alienation from nature” was measured in “diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses”.

In the UK as in many other countries, rates of obesity, self-harm and mental health disorders diagnosed in children have climbed significantly since the 1970s.

But nature deficit disorder is not generally regarded as a medical condition.

“There’s undoubtedly a phenomenon that’s not good for health, which is about not giving access to outdoors or green space, safe risk-taking and so on,” said David Pencheon, a medical doctor who now heads the National Health Service’s sustainable development unit.

“But I wouldn’t say we’ve identified a medical condition.

“In fact we don’t want to ‘medicalise’ it, we should see it as part of everyday life – if you medicalise it, people say ‘you’d better go to your doctor and take a pill’.”

But despite growing recognition of nature deficit disorder, policies aiming to tackle it appear thin on the ground.

Mr Moss cites statistics showing that the area where children are allowed to range unsupervised around their homes has shrunk by 90% since the 1970s.

Whereas some reasons behind the parental “cotton wool culture”are not based in logic – most sexual molestation occurs in the home, for example, not in parks – the one “genuine massive danger”is traffic.

“I think the first step for any child is playing outdoors in the street; and in the 40 years since I grew up, traffic has increased hugely, and that’s the main reason why none of us let our kids out on their own,” Mr Moss told BBC News.

“The only solution would be to have pedestrian priority on every residential street in Britain; when you are driving along the street, if there are children playing, they have priority.”

The report advocates having teachers take children for lessons outdoors when possible, with urban schools using parks.

It also says that authorities who cite “health and safety” as a reason for stopping children playing conkers or climbing trees should be aware that successive Health and Safety Executive heads have advocated a measure of risk-taking in children’s lives.

Health warningThe changes in childhood in previous decades are now filtering through into adulthood, where levels of obesity are also rising.

Dr Pencheon observed that although doctors are beginning to prescribe exercise instead of drugs where it is indicated, much more could be done from a policy perspective.

“One of the problems here is that the NHS is not incentivised financially to do public health,” he said.

“The healthcare system is run on a rescue basis – people come to us when they’re ill, we patch them up and try to get them going again – that’s not the culture of a system designed to keep people healthy.”

The National Trust is now beginning a two-month consultation aimed at gathering views and examples of good and bad practice from the public and specialists.

These will eventually be turned into a set of policy recommendations.

“As a nation, we need to do everything we can to make it easy and safe for our children to get outdoors,” said National Trust director-general Fiona Reynolds.

“We want to move the debate on and encourage people and organisations to think about how we take practical steps to reconnect children with the natural world and inspire them to get outdoors.”

400,000 Pupils Miss Month Of School

400,000 Pupils Miss Month Of School

BBC |March 28, 2012

By Angela Harrison BBC News correspondent

Nick Gibb, Schools Minister: “Missing a month of school is a significant amount”

Figures show 400,000 children were persistently absent from England’s schools in the past year and missed about one month of school each.

The government statistics show a small rise in the number of pupils skipping school without permission, but a drop in overall absence rates.

Overall absence rates, which include sickness, fell from 6% to 5.8%.

About 62,000 youngsters missed sessions without permission on a typical day in the last academic year.

There was a small rise – 0.1 of a percentage point – in the truancy rate – which measures absences where no permission has been given and children are not sick.

This now stands at 1.1% – a level which has stayed roughly the same in recent years.

There was a small increase in the numbers of children missing school for family holidays.

This accounted for 9.5% of all absence – compared with 9.3% the previous year.

The figures show that authorised absence fell to 4.7% in 2010-11, from 5% the year before.

Illness remains the main reason for children missing school, accounting for 58.7% of time missed.

Ministers are trying to crack down on pupils missing school, saying they are losing valuable time from their education.

Fines for parents

Schools Minister Nick Gibb welcomed the downward trend in absence but said he was very concerned about children who persistently missed school.

“A hard core of almost 400,000 pupils still missed at least a month of school. We should not underestimate the impact of this on their future prospects,” he said.

“The effect that poor attendance at school can have on a child’s education can be permanent and damaging. Children who attend school regularly are four times more likely to achieve five or more good GCSEs, including English and maths, than those who are persistently absent.”

Data also released by the government shows that more parents are being fined because their children are failing to attend school.

In total, 32,641 penalty notices were issued in 2010-11, up from 25,657 the year before. Of these, 7,902 went unpaid.

Academies ‘Making Limited Use Of Independence’

Academies ‘Making Limited Use Of Independence’

BBC |March 28, 2012

By Sean Coughlan BBC News education correspondent
Academies – soon to be a majority of secondary schools in England – are showing more signs of continuity than radical upheaval, suggests a survey.

The Reform think tank and Schools Network found that almost all these independent state schools had kept their links with other local schools.

It found the biggest motivation for becoming an academy had been financial.

Report author Dale Bassett said it showed it was a “myth” that academies would break up state education.

But the Anti-Academies Alliance attacked the report as “partial and selective”, and said the expansion of academies was driven by“narrow ideology” rather than evidence of school improvement.

‘Evolution, not revolution’ The study suggests that despite the expectation of innovation and experiment, the rapidly growing number of academies are not rushing to make changes.

Even though they have flexibility over the curriculum, the length of the school day and the school year, only a minority have made substantial changes.

And many of these options – such as changing the school day – are in practice available to schools whether or not they become academies.

Mr Bassett, research director at Reform, said the big picture was much more of “evolution than revolution”.

These schools, once an experimental minority, will in the coming months become a majority in the secondary sector, and this survey suggests that many schools are broadly continuing as before, including their amicable links with local authorities.

The biggest incentive to become an academy, cited by almost 80% of schools, was to get extra money, in a survey which had responses from about a third of academies across England.

Only 29% said that becoming an academy was because parents, governors or staff “were keen”. An even smaller number, 22%, identified flexibility over pay and conditions as an incentive.

The prospect of greater autonomy was cited by 73% of schools, but in practice so far there has been only a “relatively minor” use of this flexibility in areas such as the curriculum.

How much flexibility?

Mr Bassett said the findings suggested that “changing the plaque over the door” to show a school was now an academy was not going to be enough to trigger a wave of innovation.

And he said the results so far “explode the myth of anti-academy campaigners that academies would lead to the disintegration of the state education system”.

He argued there were substantial constraints on individual schools changing – such as a large majority of schools planning to retain national arrangements for pay and conditions.

In the survey, the biggest reason cited by schools for not“using their freedoms” was that national pay deals made it“culturally difficult”. But the next biggest reason was that schools had no interest or desire to change such national settlements.

Another reason for schools being reluctant to experiment – suggested in the free text responses to this survey – was that there were so many other policies that made school leaders highly risk-averse.

They questioned how much flexibility was a reality when league tables, the introduction of the English Baccalaureate and the shifting expectations of Ofsted determined how schools were required to behave.

Mr Bassett said the survey raised the question of how much school autonomy, applauded in theory, would be allowed in practice.

“Are we genuinely saying that we want autonomy?” he asked, calling on ministers to “strengthen the freedoms provided to academies and other schools”.

‘Forced’ academiesMartin Johnson, deputy general secretary of the ATL teachers’union, said: “This report confirms that few academy heads have really been driven by some grand idea of the virtues of greater independence.

“They’ve done it for the money. When the cash bribe dries up in 2013, no doubt we shall see an expansion of the government’s programme to force schools to convert.”

This highlights the increasingly bitter local battles over“forced academisation” where some struggling primary schools have been compulsorily turned into academies, despite the opposition of governors and protests by parents.

There have been accusations of a lack of democratic accountability over the chains of providers which have taken over academies – and claims that they are a stepping stone towards privatisation.

The National Union of Teachers, responding to the survey, challenged whether this process was about autonomy or concentrating power in Whitehall.

“It is one of the great contradictions of the academy programme that while it is asserted they will be free of central government control, in fact they are answerable directly to the education secretary,” said the union’s general secretary, Christine Blower.

“Most of the so-called innovative practices being carried out by the academies quoted in the report are already available to all schools – as many of the school leaders surveyed acknowledge.”

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “This survey backs up what head teachers have been telling us – that academy status frees them to get on with raising standards without interference from local or national politicians.”

Grammar School: Kent County Council Backs Expansion Plan

Grammar School: Kent County Council Backs Expansion Plan

BBC |March 29, 2012

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By Angela Harrison Education correspondent, BBC News

Critics say selective schools actually reduce parental choice

Kent County Council has voted to allow a grammar school to expand onto a new site.

The decision is likely to lead to the first major expansion of a grammar school in England for half a century.

The law in England forbids the opening of any new grammar schools, but recent changes allow them – and other popular schools – to expand.

Critics accuse the government of “expanding selection by the back door”.

England has 164 grammar schools and there are 68 in Northern Ireland.

Academic selection and grammar schools were abolished in most areas of England in the 1960s and 70s.

But some areas retained them – including Buckinghamshire, Kent and Trafford. In other areas, there are individual grammar schools. Children have to pass the 11-plus exam to get in.

In 1998, Labour banned the opening of any new grammar schools, but recent changes to the Admissions Code – the rules schools have to follow when allocating places – allow oversubscribed schools to expand beyond their boundaries.

‘Parental demand’In Kent, parents in the Sevenoaks area set up an online petition to campaign for such an expansion, arguing that this was the only part of the county without a grammar school.

They say more than 1,100 pupils who have passed the 11-plus have to travel for an hour to Tunbridge Wells to their nearest grammar school.

Now Kent County Council has voted to press ahead with plans to set up a “satellite school” in Sevenoaks linked to existing grammar schools in Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells.

The new “satellite school” would take in 120 pupils in a year.

The National Grammar School Association says many other grammars would like to expand. Jennie Varley, vice chairman of the group said: “This is excellent news.

“It’s what the parents in Sevenoaks wanted and they put together a great campaign. This may now encourage other grammar schools to do the same.”

‘Back door’Labour’s education spokesman Stephen Twigg has accused the government of “sneaking in changes” and “expanding selection by the back door”.

“We should not divide children at 11,” he told MPs earlier this year.

A Department for Education spokesman said on Thursday: “The overriding objective of this government’s reforms is to increase the supply of good school places so parents have real choice.

“That includes making it easier for good schools – grammar or otherwise – to increase their published admission number.

“Legislation prohibits the establishment of new grammar schools, and ministers have been clear that that will not change.”

Margaret Tulloch, from the Comprehensive Future campaign group, said grammar schools widened the gap between rich and poor.

“We want to see not grammar schools abolished, but selection abolished. We don’t want the 11-plus; we don’t want children facing this barrier, this test at 11, which rejects most children, especially poor children and children with special needs,” she said.

“I’m very concerned about what is happening. This is the thin end of the wedge.”

Parents Ignore Computer Game Restrictions, Says ATL Union

Parents Ignore Computer Game Restrictions, Says ATL Union

BBC |March 26, 2012

By Hannah Richardson BBC News education reporter
Parents are ignoring age restrictions and allowing their children to play potentially damaging violent computer games, a teachers’ leader says.The Association of Teachers and Lecturers raises concerns about children spending hours a day playing inappropriate computer games.ATL head Dr Mary Bousted acknowledged such activities could be difficult to police.But added that parents needed reminding of their duties

Members of the union are due to debate a resolution at their annual conference in Manchester next week, which calls for tougher legislation with regard to such games.

‘Very serious’Dr Bousted said some of these games were “very violent” and could have an effect on “tender young minds of children and young people”.

And she was sure her conference would hear how parents are ignoring age restrictions of computer games.

She told reporters: “Of course, they’re extremely difficult to enforce, just like films, like TV.

“It’s about reminding parents and carers that they have a very real responsibility for their children and that schools can’t do it alone.

“It takes the very serious and labour-intensive business of proper care and attention of young children before they go to school and while at school to allow them to learn most effectively.

“If they’re up to 12 or one o’clock playing computer games, and coming to school exhausted, not interacting with other children, that’s not good preparation for school, and not good preparation for life.”

She added: “The fact that children spend hours locked in their rooms playing computer games, which means they’re not interacting, they’re not playing and not taking exercise.”

The motion calls for the union’s executive to commission research which will allow it to lobby government for the introduction of more “stringent legislation” on computer games.

CRB Checks Mean 4,000 Offenders Rejected As Teachers

CRB Checks Mean 4,000 Offenders Rejected As Teachers

BBC |March 26, 2012

More than 4,000 offenders, including rapists, paedophiles and drug dealers, applied to become teachers last year only to be rejected after checks.

The information was released to the Press Association after a request to the Criminal Records Bureau.

CRB checks have prevented more than 130,000 unsuitable people from working with children or vulnerable groups.

The Association of School and College Leaders says the number of offenders who apply to teach is “very small”.

It also said it is extremely encouraging that the system is picking up people with convictions.

Last year more than 263,000 people who applied to become teachers had Criminal Records Bureau checks.

This led to just over 1.5% of them being turned down on the grounds of their previous behaviour.

Those who were rejected had almost 9,500 previous offences between them, including 50 sex offences, 11 for arson and two for making threats to kill.

Separate figures also show that sex offenders and hundreds of violent criminals applied to work in nurseries last year.

Gove Tells Head Teachers School Reforms Need To Be Accelerated

Gove Tells Head Teachers School Reforms Need To Be Accelerated

BBC |March 24, 2012

By Judith Burns BBC News, in Birmingham
Education Secretary Michael Gove has told head teachers the pace of school reform in England needs to accelerate. Speaking to the Association of School and College Leaders, Mr Gove said: “Over the next ten years the world we inhabit will change massively.”

He said education would need to keep pace as technology changed“how we teach and how students learn”.

But ASCL general secretary, Brian Lightman, said he feared schools could not take an accelerated pace of change.

Mr Gove told head teachers meeting in Birmingham: “Lest anyone think we have reached a point where we should slacken the pace of reform – let me reassure them – we have to accelerate”.

More flexibility

He said the education system should equip young people for all the challenges and opportunities of the changing world.

“Over the next ten years the world we inhabit will change massively,” he said.

“Technology will change out of recognition, millions more will go to university, the number of low-skilled jobs will fall, with more reward for those with good qualifications.”

Afterwards, from the conference stage, Mr Lightman told Mr Gove: “I worry about your wish to accelerate reform.

“We all know as leaders that we need to consider one very important issue before we implement any reform in our own schools, and that’s capacity.

“I think there’s a real issue of capacity in lots of our schools, and actually, by accelerating the reform too much, you actually prevent us from doing it properly.”

Mr Gove told the conference that heads were key to implementing change and to the overall success of the education system.

He praised several head teachers and schools for their outstanding achievements and said: “We have the best generation of young teachers ever in our schools. We have the best generation of heads ever in our schools. And our whole school system is good, with many outstanding features.”

But he added: “We have for generations failed to stretch every child to the limit of their ability – and we have for all our lifetimes, failed the poorest most of all.”

He said there was a lack of “rooted determination in some quarters to make all schools excellent”.

‘Negative messages’In questions to Mr Gove after the speech, the reaction was muted. A head from Crewe, Martin Kerridge, said the effect of constant announcements and reviews from government was of accelerating pace and uncertain direction.

Another head spoke of sustained pay freezes and negative messages from government leading to low staff morale.

In response to a question, Mr Gove hinted he would be in favour of a relaxation of Ofsted’s plan for no-notice inspections.

England’s schools inspectors had been planning on moving to no-notice inspections because of claims that they do not get a true picture of schools if notice is given.

“I know that there is a lot to be said for the principle that if you are going to have an inspection at no notice then it should actually be at short notice,” Mr Gove said.

“I think a head teacher would want to be in their school in order to greet the inspector; I think they would like to know the afternoon or evening before.”

He added: “I’m leaving that judgment to the chief inspector, because he’s independent,” which drew laughter from head teachers.

Mr Gove also said that a poll by the union and the Times Educational Supplement, which suggested that half of heads were considering quitting, had given him pause for thought.

However, speaking to journalists outside the conference hall, Mr Gove said the poll had not reached a majority of school leaders.

And his response to the union’s concerns about the pace of change was robust.

“If people say ‘It’s all just a bit too much’, my view is ‘man up!’”, he said.

Academy Schools Federation Hopes To Run College For Profit

Academy Schools Federation Hopes To Run College For Profit

The Guardian World News |by Jeevan Vasagar

barnfield federation

Pete Birkett, chief executive of Barnfield Federation. The federation hopes to manage a state-run college for profit. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

A federation that runs a chain of academy schools plans to become the first in the country to run a state further education college as a profit-making business. The change– which is to be put before the college’s governing board at Easter – would mean surplus cash from the college could be used to pay a dividend to shareholders.

The Barnfield Federation, which runs four schools in Luton, wants to be the first academy backer to take advantage of a provision in the Education Act 2011 that allows further education colleges to run on a for-profit basis. Academy schools are not at the moment run for profit. But the federation is exploring doing so in future if the law is changed to allow it.

Barnfield’s chief executive, Pete Birkett, is looking at creating a new business model for schools by establishing a private company that would raise funds from private equity and pay dividends to shareholders.

Public funds from the Department for Education would be paid into a company limited by guarantee, which does not have shareholders.

As a first step, Birkett is proposing to set up this model for the Barnfield further education (FE) college, which sponsors three schools in Luton. Shareholders would receive a portion of the college’s financial surplus.

Birkett said: “As legislation changes, we could possibly bring in the academies. I can’t do that until there is permission to do that.

“If we can make it successful in the FE sector, there’s no reason we can’t make it successful in the schools.”

The proposed model marks the latest step in the privatisation of public services under the coalition, after the Guardian disclosed recently that two police authorities had invited private security firms to bid for services including criminal investigations.

Birkett said: “We’re ready to step up a level – modernise public service thinking and delivery.

“We’ll be able to attract third-party investment in our buildings and infrastructure, which is what we need.

“I think there’ll be opportunities to review existing terms and conditions and say, are they fit for purpose, for the 21st century?

“So, traditionally we’ve had three-term years – do we want to continue with three terms a year? Is the time now right to make changes that will deliver improved outcomes in a more efficient way?”

Barnfield is also proposing to use the new model to provide incentives to staff through share ownership.

Birkett said he had contacted a private equity group with an interest in education to discuss the proposals. “The response to that, yes, they believed there’d be a lot of interest from private investors.”

Regulatory changes in the Education Act which have gone largely unnoticed allow FE colleges to be privatised.

The new model gave greater flexibility over how to spend surplus cash, Birkett argued. “Why do we want to sit on lots of reserves when we could be spending them throughout the organisation? There are restrictions on what we can use reserves for – we can’t give staff a pay award. But in a company you decide.”

Birkett argued that running a school as a business created a strong incentive to raise standards and attract more pupils.

“If you’ve got a school that has capacity for 1,000 students, and it’s only got 500 because it’s failing, its income is only half what it should be. If you can create good schools, you’re going to be filling to capacity and you can invest. And if we can raise equity through other means, then that’s got to be good, that’s what we’re trying to do.”

The Conservative thinktank Policy Exchange has argued in a recent report that private companies should be allowed to set up and run schools under a social enterprise model that would give employees a share of ownership and re-invest a portion of any profit back into the school.

The deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, ruled out profit-making in state schools in a speech last year. However, the education secretary, Michael Gove, a former chairman of Policy Exchange, has approved a free school in Suffolk that will outsource management to a commercial company in a 10-year contract worth£21m.

Birkett said he expected the government to relax barriers to profit-making in future. At present, academy schools are run independently but are still classed as public sector bodies. Their surpluses cannot go to shareholders.

Birkett said: “I see that happening in the near future. If you look at fee-paying independent schools most of them are successful, so why couldn’t that happen in the public sector? Why couldn’t we use the fee-paying school approach to drive standards?”

According to the Institute for Public Policy Research, a left-leaning thinktank, there is only “weak” evidence to support the claim that commercial providers will raise standards in schools more rapidly than the existing mix.

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