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Last Updated: Monday, 23 April 2007, 13:44 GMT 14:44 UK
US firm to manage UK state school
School pupils
The contract requires improvements in exam results
A private, US-owned firm is being hired to run the senior management of a state school in north London.

Edison Schools won a 900,000 contract to provide a head teacher and two deputies for Salisbury School in Enfield for three years.

As part of the deal, the incoming management team is expected to improve test and GCSE results and reduce exclusion rates.

The National Union of Teachers rejected the plan as a waste of money.

The vast majority of resources we use in schools are provided by private suppliers
Trevor Averre-Beeson
Salisbury School's new head teacher

Since 1997 private companies have bid for and won contracts to run local education authorities and offer support services - and some individual schools.

And private firms are involved in running schools through the government's flagship academy programme.

Edison currently has partnerships with 50 other state schools in the UK, but to provide training and consultancy services rather than their management team.

This deal is particularly unusual because the school is not judged to be failing, although it was in special measures up until 2003 and draws pupils from areas of economic and social disadvantage.

However it does have very high rates of exclusion, with an average of 200 pupils out of a school population of 1,200 being excluded a year, according to the new head teacher Trevor Averre-Beeson.

"If we don't reduce the level of exclusions we will have to constantly deal with crises and that will inhibit results," he said.

'Innovative'

Salisbury's pupils tend to start school behind their peers, with many at an early stage of learning English.

And more than a third are entitled to free school meals - a mark of general deprivation - while a quarter have special educational needs.

As part of the contract, Edison has to improve test score results of 14-year-olds and at GCSE, cut exclusions and improve popularity with parents.

Edison Schools' managing director Mark Logan said the contract offered the school an opportunity to bring about "significant and lasting improvement by providing extra resources to implement Edison's programme".

Enfield Council says it, and the school's governing body, want to speed up improvement and ensure stability during an 8.8m, rebuild which will bring the school onto one site.

The council also denies the deal is a "take-over" stressing that the governing body and the local authority will continue to have ultimate control over the school.

Private profit

Enfield's director of Education, Children's Services and Leisure Peter Lewis said the "ground-breaking initiative" would bring together the best of local authority practice with the open market.

National Union of Teachers General Secretary Steve Sinnott said the contract was a waste of money.

"Money would be better spent on children's education, whether it be more teachers, better resources or improving sports facilities, far better than lining Edison's pockets."

But Mr Averre-Beeson rebuffed these concerns saying, fears about profit and private sector involvement were often over-blown.

"The vast majority of resources we use in schools are provided by private suppliers - photocopiers, books, computers, school uniforms and so on.

"Edison isn't a company that is seeking to have huge profits. All profits are ploughed back into research and development."

He added that similar partnerships between schools and firms such as Edison could represent another model that could sit alongside successful state schools, academies and trust schools.

A Department for Education and Skills spokeswoman said: "We welcome all innovative and effective solutions to secure school improvement, whether through local authority 'in-house' solutions such as school-school federations or through partnerships with private companies".

She added that school improvement was a matter for local authorities.

Edison Schools UK was founded in 2002, as a subsidiary of the New York-based Edison Inc, which has been operating in the US since 1992.


SEE ALSO
Protest camp over planned academy
12 Apr 07 |  Education
Why the fuss over city academies?
17 Mar 05 |  Education
Blair wants another 200 academies
30 Nov 06 |  Education

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