Private firm runs Hackney school

10 Sep 98
The London borough of Hackney in conjunction with the London Diocesan Board for Schools has become the first council in the country to use a private company to help run one of its failing schools.

11 September 1998

From the beginning of this week's school term, Ram's Episcopal school is being managed in a joint venture with the Centre for British Teachers, a Berkshire-based education services company. Nevertheless, though a non-profit-making organisation, the CfBT is seeking to achieve a turnover of £50m by the end of next year.

The move will be ratified by councillors next Tuesday. Hackney said this week it will consider bringing in the private sector to help other schools with a consistently poor performance.

The CfBT was brought in to Ram's Episcopal after an Ofsted report in 1995 criticised teaching standards and the school was ordered to take special measures.

One of the first things the CfBT did was to appoint its own headteacher – one of its former consultants. The company will also provide training for teachers at Ram's.

The initiative represents a turning point for traditional school management. The government has been encouraging the private sector to become involved in the running of state schools.

This latest move goes further than its Education Action Zones (see article below) in that it deals with an individual school rather than a selected area.

The action is unpopular with the unions. Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, claimed Hackney was turning its back on its responsibilities. However, those at the school said that desperate times called for desperate measures.

CfBT is also one of three companies bidding for a contract to run a Surrey county council school. On Monday councillors at Tory-controlled Surrey deferred until October 15 a decision on whether to use private firms to take control of a failing comprehensive – Kings' Manor School in Guildford.

Kings' Manor failed an Ofsted inspection. This summer it was criticised by inspectors for its high truancy rate, bad behaviour and low standard of attainment.

So far Surrey has received bids from Nord Anglia, a Manchester-based firm which runs private schools, and the UK arm of the US company Edison Project. Councillors said they wanted to examine the proposals in 'more detail' before making a decision.

Andrew Povey, chairman of the council's education committee, said: 'In order to establish a secure and prosperous future for the school, it has to become more attractive to a wider section of the community of Guildford.'

One proposal envisages making the school a centre of excellence for information technology and business education.


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