A place where I'll post up some thoughts and ideas - especially on literature in education, children's literature in general, poetry, reading, writing, teaching and thoughts on current affairs.
Thursday, 2 February 2012
I make a generous offer to ex-head of Dept of Education
I didn't make it up. Look (and see below this extract from today's Guardian, my generous offer to Sir David):
Let state schools be run for profit, says former Department for Education chief
Sir David Bell, the department's top civil servant until last year, believes move to profit-making is likely but is still 'a bit far off'
The former top civil servant in the Department for Education has said he sees "no principled objection" to profit-making companies taking over state schools and believes they will "probably" be allowed to do so eventually.
Sir David Bell, permanent secretary at the department until the end of last year and now vice-chancellor of Reading University, said in an interview with Education Guardian: "In those areas of systematic failure, where all other options have failed, can you object to somebody coming in and trying something very different and making some profit out of it?
"It could lead to better education for the kind of students who have been systematically failed for generations."
But, he added, profit-making was still "a bit far off" and it would be introduced "very gently, not in a big bang sort of way".
Michael Gove, the education secretary, said last year: "I don't have any particular objection to involving any organisation that is going to improve our education."
But he added: "We don't need to have profit-making organisations involved at the moment."
Though Nick Clegg has stated the Liberal Democrats' opposition to "running schools for profit", many in the Conservative party – particularly those associated with Tory thinktanks – support the move and are pressing for its inclusion in the party's next general election manifesto.
Bell's cautious backing for commercial firms running schools comes as a surprise because of his long background in state education and public service.
A former primary school teacher in Glasgow and Essex, he became chief education officer in Newcastle and chief executive of Bedfordshire council. He was head of Ofsted before moving to the Department for Education in 2006.
"Psst, Sir David, come over here. Come and sit in the car with me for a moment. I won't take up much of your time. I work for a company with many different interests: we import food from Poland, sink oil wells in Alaska, install surveillance systems in public toilets - pretty well anything actually.
We've seen your statements about the schools of the future and we like what we're hearing. Let me blunt with you, Sir David. Do you have a pension? Might I be so bold as to ask how much? Hmm, doesn't stretch all that far, does it? I'm going to make a guess: you would give your right hand to pay a visit to, say, the Grand Canyon, the Sidney Opera House, the Great Wall of China...or an exclusive Mediterranean holiday with a private beach. But it's all beyond your means, isn't it?
I think I've got the answer. We're very interested indeed in getting into the schools market. The snag is we're very good on surveillance systems, we've very good on waste disposal in low lying areas but education is pretty well a closed book for us. I'll be frank - closed books are the only kind of book I know. Last time I read a book was 'Noddy' in 1986. But hell, education - it's just something you have to get through before you start doing real things, don't you think? Well maybe you don't agree but don't let that stand between us.
Here's what I'm suggesting: you could come on to our board, we would pay you a generous stipend worth several thousand pounds a year. In return you would share some of your expertise with us. You would enable us to establish our education portfolio. We need to know exactly what are the weak spots, the areas of anxiety, if you like, so we can go in there with both boots on and grab the market. With you on the board we could be market leaders. What do you say?"