Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 413 - 419)



  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 now—I have given you evidence of a number of those collaborations and we think we probably have a hundred such groupings—which 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 child.

  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 them.

  Q419  Chairman: And a lot of Chairmen of this Select Committee.

  Sir Cyril Taylor: You have been around quite a long time too.

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