Select Committee on Education and Employment Minutes of Evidence


Examination of witnesses (Questions 100 -119)

WEDNESDAY 27 OCTOBER 1999

COUNCILLOR ANDREW POVEY, COUNCILLOR IAN PEACOCK and COUNCILLOR RUPERT PERRY

Chairman

  100. We have been interested in the past in the role of governors and in the situation clearly many still have a legal responsibility, so could I ask Councillor Povey to describe the exact relationship, first of all between the County Council, 3E's Enterprises Ltd and then the Kingshurst 3E's—which I understand is a charitable trust—and the governing body of the new King's College school and then specifically the relationship between the Foundation governors who are appointed by the Kingshurst 3E's charitable trust and the 3E's Enterprises Ltd? Could you unravel that for us?
  (Cllr Povey) Yes, okay. The relationship between Surrey County Council as the local education authority and 3E's Enterprises Ltd is the contractual one. That is the contract that we have let as a council. The relationship between the LEA and the governing body of the new school is the same relationship as you would have between our local education authority and any other aided school, so we appoint one or two LEA governors and they are able to make use of the LEA governor training facilities and all the other things that the LEA does with respect to governing bodies. There is no direct relationship between the LEA and the Trust set up. The Trust was set up as part of the contract and I think the members of the Trust are basically employees of 3E's Enterprises Ltd and they appoint some of the—well, they appoint all of the Foundation governors and my recollection is that some of the people they have appointed are from the local community, they are not all employees. They have not sought to control the governing body by that route.

  101. And how do those Foundation appointed governors relate back then, both to the Trust and to the 3E's Enterprises Ltd?
  (Cllr Povey) The Foundation governors have a role as governors of the school. They are not under instruction from the Trust or the company.

  102. Can you just tell us what proportion?
  (Cllr Povey) That is defined by law and I cannot quite remember the numbers off the top of my head, but I think the Foundation governors would be in a majority on the governing body. I am sure that is correct.

  103. So there is a concern there, I think, perhaps for other governors on that body, is there?
  (Cllr Povey) But that is no different to any other Foundation school or aided school.

  104. So if it were a church school—?
  (Cllr Povey) Yes, it could still have a majority of governors, yes.

Mr Willis

  105. The involvement of a private sector company in King's Manor has obviously been ground breaking news. I described it as the genie now being out of the bottle and it will not be able to be put back. You perhaps would want to comment on that, but would you agree that what has happened at King's Manor is, in fact, the privatisation of the school?
  (Cllr Povey) Well I think that is a very emotive word actually and I do not know that that is helpful. I think what we are trying to do is find a route to make the school successful and to do our best for children in North Guildford so the fact that we have chosen to exercise our responsibilities in that particular way is just that the Surrey County Council is quite an innovative council. Whether you want to use that particular term, I do not think matters.

  106. After ten years the contract is ended; what happens then?
  (Cllr Povey) I think members would want to take a view. Ten years ahead seems a long way ahead and one does not know what sort of a world we will be living in then and what kind of legal framework, but I am quite sure members would want to take a view as to what is best for that school at that point in time.

  107. If you could crystal ball gaze, would you expect that every school in Surrey would be privatised in ten years' time?
  (Cllr Povey) I would not wish to crystal ball gaze like that, I do not think. No. I think we are interested in raising standards in any way that we can in Surrey and if that involves the private sector, then fine.

  108. You see, what perplexes me, and in fact it was a question my good friend Mr St. Aubyn asked earlier, is if this is good enough for a failing school in Surrey, why is it not good enough for the others?
  (Cllr Povey) It is not a question of it being good enough. This is a way forward for a school that has not been very successful in the past, has been re-launched in the past, has got some good points about it and we all recognise those, but it was a very particular and difficult situation with long-standing problems and we felt that we really needed to go down this route as a way of breaking from the past.

  109. One of the effects of judging the success or otherwise of King's Manor will be in fact a rise in its pupil roll. Clearly, part of the contract is in fact to do that. Given that you are not going to have a house building boom in Guildford, where are those children going to come from and could I perhaps suggest they will come from other schools and therefore what will be the knock-on effect on the other schools?
  (Cllr Povey) I think at the moment a lot of children from the local community do go elsewhere and the school is seen—

  110. Out of Surrey?
  (Cllr Povey) No, I would not think out of Surrey, but to other schools out of the community in which that school is based.

  111. Right?
  (Cllr Povey) We are in a position of rising pupil numbers at secondary school level and will be for some years to come, so there will be a take-up there. Some of the other schools are heavily over-subscribed and there is a very large private sector.

  Mr Willis: Thank you very much.

Mr St. Aubyn

  112. May I ask a supplementary there because we are going to have evidence later on this morning from the National Union of Teachers who, in their submission, say that the improvements you are trying to achieve could have been achieved by the LEA. They go on to mention the support that will be required by Surrey County Council, which they put at £1.2 million, to cover contractors' fees and the additional appointment of staff, as well as performance payments and building improvements. Could you comment on their general point that they feel the LEA could have done all this and, secondly, the sum of £1.2 million, how that would have compared with the cost of the LEA bidding?
  (Cllr Povey) I think whether the LEA could have done it, I do not think it could in this particular situation because the local education authority cannot really promote one school against the others in the area. It has to take a view across all its schools and I think that is the particular difficulty in this situation. What the company in this particular case brings is, I think, marketing skills, certain technical skills, knowledge of other examinations, for example the international baccalaureate. It has a lot of experience within the company of turning round failing schools, which is what in effect they did with the CTC where they come from, and so it is bringing technical skills that we do not actually have in Surrey even though we are seen as one of the leading LEAs. As regards the money side of it, the capital money tends to come from capital grants. The overall revenue expenditure is expected, over a medium term, to benefit the Surrey taxpayer because at the moment the school has a considerable subsidy as a small school and over a period of, say, medium term—say five to seven years—if the company is successful in attracting more children into the school, there will likely be a net benefit to the taxpayer because the money saved will more than cover the cost of the contract.

Chairman

  113. May I ask, and to broaden the discussion to the nature of the LEA private company contract, may I just pinpoint the phrase that it was not the LEAs responsibility to prioritise for a particular school?
  (Cllr Povey) No, that is not what I said. I think I said—

  114. That is why I want to clarify it, please?
  (Cllr Povey) Well, I think it is not really right for an LEA to promote one school against its others. The LEA in Surrey has five secondary schools in Guildford and it would be difficult for the LEA to adopt a position that is going round saying to everybody: "Send your children to this particular school and not the other four". I do not think that is a viable position.

  115. By implication of what was said earlier, you have made the choice to go to a contract to do just that?
  (Cllr Povey) Yes, but I think that is the difference.

  Chairman: I fail to see the difference, I am afraid, but I think we need to take this on further. Mr St. Aubyn?

  Mr St. Aubyn: On that very point though, would you say that under an LEA run system, it is quite permissible for a dynamic Head to promote an independent school and in the sense, as opposed to having a dynamic Head who will move onto another post, you have actually institutionalised the dynamic Head, if you like by, getting—

  Chairman: At exactly £1.2 million.

  Mr St. Aubyn: Yes.

Chairman

  116. Councillor Perry?
  (Cllr Povey) May I just answer that question first?

  Mr Willis: No, you have given the answer.

Chairman

  117. I think you have given the answer to that. Councillor Perry?
  (Cllr Perry) It is just this point that there are other ways of doing it.In Islington, for example, George Orwell school has been closed. We have re-opened it as the Islington Arts and Media School and on the pupil roll thing it is a success even at the start because the previous school was under-subscribed; the current school is over-subscribed. It does cost money and of course you need a dynamic Head, which we have, and he was one of two dynamic Heads we recruited last year, so now in all our secondaries we have dynamic Heads and that is why eight out of nine of our schools are over-subscribed.

Mr Willis

  118. You do not need the private sector if you have a dynamic Head?
  (Cllr Perry) I think you need a bit more than that.

Mr St. Aubyn

  119. Councillor Perry,—and I agree you need more than that—but could I just focus on this item, because you have chosen to use the private sector. You were not directed by the Secretary of State to do so in terms of tendering your services. This is what we are told. I know from the Surrey experience that there was a real attempt to involve the parents in the school concerned and the teachers and the governors. To what extent can you, at the LEA level, involve governor representatives, parent representatives, in your choice of a contractor to take responsibility—indirectly through you—for the quality of the schools in their area?
  (Cllr Perry) I think the decision actually on the contractor will be made by the Secretary of State. Islington Council will be making a recommendation to the Minister about who we would like to be the contractor, but it will be the DfEE decision.


 
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