18 months ago Cognita, the for-profit private school company set up by ex-Ofsted chief Sir Chris Woodhead as a “venture capital investment” *, hit the headlines when parents accused Cognita
of “milking” the Southbank International School in London for profit. Cognita denied the claims but Sir Chris told TES* that the dispute had been resolved amicably after his firm agreed to invest heavily in the school.
In June it was revealed that Cognita was being investigated
by the Department for Education over allegations that it defrauded the Teachers Pension Scheme. It was also accused by a whistleblower of running a “brutal” regime and attempting commercial espionage.
In October, Judge Robert Reid QC ruled that the Cognita-owned Milbourne Lodge in Esher, Surrey, had acted unfairly
in removing two children, aged eight and six, without warning after the children’s parents criticized the school’s parents’ association, the Friends of Milbourne Lodge, for lack of transparency in its fundraising and spending. The Judge said that the parents’ association was “somewhat shadowy” and a “shambles”.
Now it appears that a group of parents at another Cognita school, Saint Andrews Sukhumvit 107, Bangkok, Thailand, are angry. They have started a petition
containing an open email to Sir Chris Woodhead alleging lack of transparency and a disdain for parental views following a decision by Brian Rogove, Cognita’s Asia Pacific CEO, to change the leadership of the school.
In October, Cognita’s new director of education, Geraint Jones, told TES
that complaints about private equity firms taking over education-providers were generated by opinionated people who were “just creating stories and headlines and nervousness around the system.”
It appears that Cognita doesn’t need opinionated critics to create headlines – it’s doing a good job by itself.
* TES 30 September 2011: not available on line