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For-profit firms should be allowed to run schools, says former policy head

17/10/2012 Joanna
James O'Shaughnessy, the former head of policy for Number 10 Downing Street, who left his post earlier this year, wants to see for-profit firms brought in to help boost attainment in underperforming schools.

In his report 'Competition meets collaboration', published by the think tank Policy Exchange, Mr O'Shaughnessy calls for a "new failure regime" to accommodate the changes being made to the Ofsted inspection process, with which those in teaching jobs will be familiar.

This has seen the 'satisfactory' grading being removed and replaced by a 'requires improvement' judgement, and Mr O'Shaughnessy proposes a 'three strikes and you're out' approach based around this new policy in order to raise standards.

Any school given a 'requires improvement' notice would be "forced" to become an academy. On the second occasion of receiving such a judgement, the academy would then be "obliged" to join a 'chain'. Finally, on the third issuing of the 'requires improvement' grading, an educational management organisation, which may or may not be 'for-profit', would be brought in to run the school.

"The for-profit sector has an important role to play in improving our school system," the report states.

"It is … perfectly reasonable to ask whether, if the public and charitable sectors may not be enough on their own, the private sector can play a significant role in dealing with underperformance."

However, Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, told the BBC that he did not agree with Mr O'Shaughnessy's proposals.

"There is no evidence base that profit-making schools raise standards, so having these as the 'last resort' does not logically follow," he said.

"There is evidence that not-for-profit schools can raise standards in even the most challenging environments, so the profit motive is not required."

Association of School and College Leaders general secretary Brian Lightman told the news provider that Ofsted's raising of the bar with the removal of 'satisfactory' grades was evidence that schools are improving. 

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