Examination of Witnesses (Questions 413
MONDAY 12 DECEMBER 2005
Q413 Chairman: Can I welcome Sir
Cyril Taylor, Elizabeth Reid, Dr Elizabeth Sidwell, Sue Fowler
and Dr Melvyn Kershaw to our proceedings. Again I am going to
apologise, up front this time, for having all five of you at the
same time and having a limited period of time. I think you understand
better than most people how short is the time we have for this
inquiry. Thank you for coming. It is a great privilege to have
your experience and knowledge to inform the committee. I am not
going to be able to allow each of you to come back on every question
but, Sir Cyril, as you are sitting in the centre for some reason,
do you want to say anything to start with or do you want to go
straight to questions?
Sir Cyril Taylor: I think it may
be helpful for those who have not read the briefing paper if we
explain why the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust supports
the broad concept of a trust school. We think it could be an evolution
of the way specialist schools are collaborating nowI have
given you evidence of a number of those collaborations and we
think we probably have a hundred such groupingswhich is
to provide the sponsors who can get together and work with a group
of schools and for a group of schools to help each other. It is
not about competition or bringing in selection by the back door.
It is about helping each of the member schools to raise their
standards and we can see some fascinating potential developments,
including primary schools and special needs schools. That is basically
why we are supporting it. We think it is an evolution of the specialist
schools concept which has been very successful.
Q414 Chairman: What part did you
have in writing the White Paper?
Sir Cyril Taylor: Absolutely none.
Q415 Chairman: You were never consulted,
you have never discussed it?
Sir Cyril Taylor: I could not
even get a copy of it before it was published, but never mind.
Q416 Chairman: How many of you had
a part to play in this White Paper?
Dr Sidwell: None.
Ms Reid: None.
Mrs Fowler: None.
Dr Kershaw: None.
Q417 Chairman: None at all? No consultation?
Even the last lot, who were very good witnesses, were consulted
as governors and parents. It all streamed past you. Sir Cyril,
does it not muddy the water a bit? Here are you coming and saying
that what you want is great collaboration, groups of schools and
confederations of schools, and we have heard that before, but
round about the same time you were appearing in the national press
calling for the 5% of brightest children to be identified at 10
or 11 and fast-tracked through the education system. That is even
more radical than bringing grammar schools back, is it not?
Sir Cyril Taylor: I think there
has been a basic misunderstanding of what that proposal is. The
sad thing is that if you take comprehensive schools, and we have
proven that you can identify the most able by looking at the raw
scores of maths and English at Key Stage 2 which is taken at age
11, and you track those same children in the comprehensive schools,
whereas quite a significant proportion do very well at GCSE, when
it gets to A-level only 10,000 of the 30,000 get the three As
at A-level that they should. The whole point of the National Academy
for Gifted and Talented Children I think is to help the very able
children in the comprehensive schools to realise their potential.
It is not anything to do with selecting what type of school you
go to but with making sure that every school provides the provision
for very able children who are in effect a type of special needs
Q418 Chairman: But, Sir Cyril, you
have been around for quite a few years in terms of the education
sector. I know you have been closely involved in specialist schools
and city academies and CTCs and much else before that, and you
have seen off a lot of Secretaries of State, have you not?
Sir Cyril Taylor: I would not
put it that way. I have had the opportunity of serving nine of
Q419 Chairman: And a lot of Chairmen
of this Select Committee.
Sir Cyril Taylor: You have been
around quite a long time too.