Should universities run state schools?

Francis Gilbert's picture
 10
I appeared last night on a panel at the Conservative Party Fringe chaired by the Vice-Chancellor of Birmingham, Professor David Eastwood, with the other guests being Times Education Editor, Greg Hurst, Kevin Courtney of the NUT,  and Professor Edward Peck, also from Birmingham University. Both Peck and Eastwood convened the panel largely because they wanted to highlight the merits of the new free school that Birmingham University has set up.

I was asked to speak first and talked generally about how both universities and schools can -- and do -- learn from each other. The research I've examined reveals that actually universities could learn a thing or two from schools because there's evidence that teaching at universities is relatively poor compared with schools: they have no version of "Ofsted" checking up upon the quality of their teaching; academics are largely rewarded for the research they do and see teaching as a poor relation to the "real business" of research; and students often report that universities rely far too much upon lectures and don't give the personalised attention they got at school. This said, schools could learn more from the research that universities conduct; there could be much more inter-action between the two sectors; the values of independent learning and wide reading which universities seek to instill need to filter down much more into schools. The biggest issue though is that the government need to take on board much research that universities have conducted into the destructive effects of exams. This crucial issue is out of the hands of teachers; we have no control over what is exams are set or, indeed, their content.

Professors Peck and Eastwood were very keen to show-case their amazing new free school, which would be effectively run by the Birmingham University Education Department. Greg Hurst though made the Professors a little uneasy when he questioned their admissions policy. As with many free schools, it's not going to be a local school, but will effectively "bus" students in from all over the city. One parent in the audience who had been wanting to send his children to private schools, instead of his local school which he described as being "hell", was delighted; he clearly saw the school as a free private school. Eastwood and Peck were both rattled too when I asked whether there would be an unfair allocation of resources, with the university school receiving more grants and money than its neighbouring state schools which wouldn't have the university's know-how in raising funds. They assured us that everything would be equitable, but the questions remain. Since the whole point of free schools is that they compete with neighbouring schools then won't the school try and use every resource to raise extra cash? Furthermore, wouldn't the university be keen to "poach" the best Sixth Form students for their university? It's not hard to envision the best Sixth Formers being creamed off to the university in much the same way that many school Sixth Forms do between GCSE and A Level. That means that Birmingham University has an unfair advantage over other universities.

 

 
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Ricky-Tarr's picture
Tue, 09/10/2012 - 15:58

That means that Birmingham University has an unfair advantage over other universities.

Why 'unfair'? They'll have earned it by starting this school.

Cambridge has some beautiful buildings and a river running through.
Is that 'unfair' too?

Egalitarianism can be taken too far.


Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 10/10/2012 - 07:49

Guest - I have commented about Lord Adonis's puff for academies and free schools on the thread about Gove's speech to the Tory conference. I am puzzled why you should link to the article on this thread since it is about universities and their relationship with state schools. I'm unsure what point you are trying to make. As I've said on the other thread, it would be helpful if you provided a short summary instead of lazily providing a link from which readers are supposed to fathom what you are trying to say (if anything).

guest's picture
Sat, 13/10/2012 - 16:40

'.......I asked whether there would be an unfair allocation of resources, with the university school receiving more grants and money than its neighbouring state schools which wouldn’t have the university’s know-how in raising funds. They assured us that everything would be equitable, but the questions remain. Since the whole point of free schools is that they compete with neighbouring schools then won’t the school try and use every resource to raise extra cash?'

leading private schools are collaborating with state schools as never before. A group of them including Eton, Highgate, and City of London are about to open a new state sixth form college in Newham — the London Academy of Excellence — aiming to get all its students into higher education. “Aspiration + hard work = a place at a top university” is its banner.

A lot of progress has been under the radar. The London Challenge programme, launched a decade ago, systematically partnered successful schools with struggling schools, including training and support for headteachers and help in recruiting staff to teach English, maths and science. “Make the best the norm” was the slogan.

This mentality has changed the face of London schools for the better. Like the Olympics, it makes you proud to be British'

http://www.eetimes.com/electronics-blogs/pop-blog/4374110/Most-engineers...

Allan Beavis's picture
Sat, 13/10/2012 - 18:24

"Leading private schools are collaborating with state schools as never before."

Really? You give one example in Newham but your assertion that independent school fervour in patronizing state schools (just Acadmies mind, as they also have claim to "independence") is entirely at odds with the despair articulated by Anthony Seldon, Master of Wellington College. reported here www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/jun/30/britain-private-schools

Charged by Cameron to encourage more private schools to sponsor Academies, he has been frustrated at the lack of interest. He fears private schools have lost their moral compass (that was evident when all along they benefited from charitable status whilst doing very little to give anything back to their community or less affluent children) and are quite content to soldier on in splendid isolation.

The question of course is if private schools really do have anything to teach state schools. The top public schools are financially extremely well endowed, with outstanding facilities and resources. What each and every state school needs is the same level of resources as Eton et al. Not their patronage of a tiny number of isolated Acadmies.

So who do we believe? You or Seldon?

guest's picture
Sun, 14/10/2012 - 08:36

'Depressingly, the politics of private-state school reform is still too often seen in terms of cash transactions.

On the left, the conventional wisdom is that charitable status gives an unfair subsidy to private schools which ought to be ended, while some private school leaders and governors, whenever it is suggested that they might sponsor academies or otherwise support state education in a non-tokenistic way, retort that their parents are already paying twice for education, through their taxes and their school fees, so why should they pay a third time over?

Some say they would rather “give up” charitable status than be expected to do this.

Both these approaches are misconceived........

The leaders are there. Dulwich is sponsoring an academy in Sheppey. Wellington is sponsoring an academy in Wiltshire. The King Edward VI Foundation is sponsoring an academy in Sheldon, east Birmingham. All these academies replace failing comprehensives.

The Girls’ Day School Trust has converted two of its outstanding private schools, in Liverpool and Birkenhead, into state academies.

And five substantial academy chains – built up by the Mercers’ Company, the Haberdashers’ Company, the Woodard Corporation, the United Church Schools Trust and the City of London Corporation – have grown out of the management of historic chains of private schools, leveraging this expertise and experience in education to service academies alongside.'

http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/politics/2012/09/beyond-our-berlin-...

Following Lord Adonis’s speech today (Tuesday, 2 October) to the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, Joe Davies, Headmaster of Sutton Valence School near Maidstone, Kent commented:

“Public schools recognise their obligations to the wider community, and realise they have to do more. But many schools, like mine, are already ahead of the game, and it would be sensible for the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Charity Commission to audit the contribution that’s already being made. I think they’d be more than surprised.”

Fiona Millar's picture
Wed, 10/10/2012 - 11:39

This is fascinating Francis. I have looked at the website but it doesn't appear to say how the pupils will be chosen from these "nodes" around the city. This is definitely one to watch!

Zafar's picture
Sat, 20/09/2014 - 19:17

Fiona
I have read the admissions policy and the basis of selection is clearly set out in that. LA looked after children will have priority followed by siblings which will not be applicable in year 1 and then by distance between the school gates and the applicants home . In the case of selection from other areas of the city the nodes are the distance of the child's house from the relevant train station

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 13:29

It sounds to me like those setting up the free school are keen to make it representative but are going to face very substantial challenges in doing so - most obviously because children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds are unlikely to apply to schools away from home.

Rather than getting into an adversarial debate I would rather engage in constructive discussion with them.

Melissa Benn's picture
Thu, 08/11/2012 - 11:54

Yes I have caught up with this post rather late. But it is clearly part of a new development where 'successful' institutions create free schools - and there is an element of selection involved. Someone needs to do some serious research on what is happening/will soon happen to the intakes of all the schools affected by such magnet projects; it is obvious that social polarisation/segregation is going to increase.

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