Cameron's former policy chief says failing schools should be run for profit
James O'Shaughnessy, the former director of policy at Downing street suggests private sector should take over failing schools.
"As the prime minister said earlier this year, there is a 'hidden crisis' where coasting schools have been allowed to bump along in mediocrity for years, delivering a sub-standard education to their pupils,” O’Shaughnessy said.
Currently, 6,000 schools are deemed as “satisfactory” by school inspecting body Ofsted. However, rules were tightened in September and satisfactory schools that do not improve after notice could be redefined as “failing”.
The new inspection regime could mean up to a third of England’s schools could be obliged to improve.
O’Shaughnessy argues that local authority control will not be able to provide the dramatic improvements needed to pull so many schools out of failing status.
To address the issue, O'Shaughnessy recommends that proven education firms should be paid by results to turn failing schools around.
The report sets out a three-step programme to reverse a school’s failing status, which would begin as soon as a school is given notice to improve. Firstly, a school would immediately become a state-funded but privately run academy under a new sponsor.
Secondly, If the school continues to be defined as failing it would be obliged to join a successful academy chain of at least three schools bound together legally, financially, and operationally.
Finally, if no improvement is seen by the third stage the governing body would have to hand over the running of the school to a proven educational management organisation. This organisation then may choose to run the school for profit.
Criticism to the plan has come from some influential figures in education, who believe that running schools for profit is ineffective in improving standards.
"There is no evidence base that profit-making schools raise standards, so having these as the 'last resort' does not logically follow. Particularly with all the ambiguities of motive it introduces," said Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers.