Wanted: more universities to sponsor free schools in England

The Guardian is reporting that the government has promised to open 500 new schools by 2020, and urged universities to help, but not everyone thinks it’s a good idea.

…Around half of England’s higher education institutions have some kind of sponsorship arrangement with schools, mainly backing academies or university technical colleges, but so far there have been only around 10 university free schools… 

The government wants to see many more. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills pushed the idea in its recent grant letter to the Higher Education Funding Council for England, arguing that university-run free schools could help widen participation, as well as supporting the government’s free schools policy. David Cameron has pledged to open 500 more free schools in the current parliament…. 

Nick Timothy, director of the New Schools Network, which supports free schools, says: “When criticised about fair access for students from poorer backgrounds, universities reasonably say the problem is caused by inequality in the school system. By setting up free schools, universities can help to improve the quality of schools in England and improve access to higher education for disadvantaged students.”

But Nadia Edmond, principal lecturer in the school of education at the University of Brighton, who has researched different university-school interactions, says these exclusive relationships can be damaging. “They talk a lot about partnership with the community but it’s undermining those partnerships because it is privileging particular relationships with particular schools and not others,” she says…

Howard Stevenson, professor of educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Nottingham, which set up a free school in 2014… questions to what extent people who run a good university might be able to run a local school and whether sponsored schools become a distraction from a university’s core purpose.

“I see this as part of an increasingly incoherent school system which is leading inexorably to a marketised and privatised system,” he says. “It signals the determination of the government to proceed with an agenda despite the fact that there is very little evidence to support any significant benefits.”…

More at Wanted: more universities to sponsor free schools in England

 

What do you think of the principle of universities launching their own free schools?

Is it something more of them should be doing or unfair, perhaps, on other schools?

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Categories: Academies, Free Schools and Policy.

Comments

  1. Uni involvement no guarantee of success.  At same time, uni involvement with just one schools could undermine ties with others.  Danger that uni-sponsored free schools could be viewed as privileged and giving fast-track entry to the uni.

  2. Uni involvement no guarantee of success.  At same time, uni involvement with just one schools could undermine ties with others.  Danger that uni-sponsored free schools could be viewed as privileged and giving fast-track entry to the uni.

  3. Britinfloridaus

    Take a look at St. Paul’s way school east London. Four years ago a failing school. Formed a trust with a uni and local businesses. Now a flourishing outstanding school.

  4. Nairb1

    Or possibly this comment in the original ‘Inadequate’ report suggests a reason for the way forward: ‘The new, experienced headteacher provides strong leadership. He has a clear and accurate view of the school’s main strengths and weaknesses, and has begun to establish an ambitious and compelling vision of what needs to be done to bring about rapid improvements.’
    or maybe
    ‘The support given by the local authority has been robust and well focused’

  5. Nairb1

    Or possibly this comment in the original ‘Inadequate’ report suggests a reason for the way forward: ‘The new, experienced headteacher provides strong leadership. He has a clear and accurate view of the school’s main strengths and weaknesses, and has begun to establish an ambitious and compelling vision of what needs to be done to bring about rapid improvements.’
    or maybe
    ‘The support given by the local authority has been robust and well focused’

  6. Nairb1

    Or possibly this comment in the original ‘Inadequate’ report suggests a reason for the way forward: ‘The new, experienced headteacher provides strong leadership. He has a clear and accurate view of the school’s main strengths and weaknesses, and has begun to establish an ambitious and compelling vision of what needs to be done to bring about rapid improvements.’
    or maybe
    ‘The support given by the local authority has been robust and well focused’

  7. Nairb1

    Or possibly this comment in the original ‘Inadequate’ report suggests a reason for the way forward: ‘The new, experienced headteacher provides strong leadership. He has a clear and accurate view of the school’s main strengths and weaknesses, and has begun to establish an ambitious and compelling vision of what needs to be done to bring about rapid improvements.’
    or maybe
    ‘The support given by the local authority has been robust and well focused’

  8. Britinfloridaus University of Chester Academies Trust sponsored academies not doing too well, though.  UCAT was paused from taking on more academies a couple of years ago.
    That said, neither of these examples can be used to judge whether unis are successful or not when they get involved in schools.  Some will be, some won’t – just like academies, free schools, multi-academy trusts, LA schools etc.

  9. Nairb1 Exactly – checking Ofsted reports before schools were taken over often show improvement was already taking place.  This was the case with Downhills, for example, Harris took it over when it was already on the up and then claimed it was responsible for the improvement.

  10. Britinfloridaus

    Not in this case. 5 years ago parents were saying my child goes there over my dead body. It has bedn team work all round

  11. Britinfloridaus Have a look at the Ofsted reports.  St Paul’s Way was given Notice to Improve in March 2009.   That’s more than five years ago.  The school was judged Satisfactory in July 2010 with Outstanding capacity to improve.  Again, that’s more than five years ago.
    That said, the support the school’s received has contributed greatly to its improvement.  The Foundation Trust comprises https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_Mary,_University_of_London, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King%27s_College_London, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_East_London, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_Warwick, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catlin_Group_Limited, London Borough of Tower Hamlets and Tower Hamlets NHS.  It could be held up as an example of the effectiveness of local support which the NAO said was more effective than interventions such as academy conversion.

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