Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence

Letter to the Chairman submitted by Sir Cyril Taylor GBE

  Liz Reid and myself are looking forward to our meeting with the Education and Skills Select Committee in the Wilson Room, Portcullis House on Wednesday 23 May at 9.30 am. We understand that you want to discuss the work of the Trust over 20 years, its current place in the education infrastructure and what its role may be in the future.

  We were founded as an educational not for profit charity in March 1987 with our main purpose being to help to establish the City Technology Colleges. In 1993, the role changed to helping to establish specialist schools. The first 45 of these schools opened in 1994. Today there are now 2,697 specialist schools, which is over 85% of all the 3,100 mainstream state funded secondary schools. The 2,209 non selective specialist schools in operation in the summer of 2006 averaged 60% 5 A*-C grades at GCSE compared to 48% for the 695 non selective non specialist schools. In 2006 pupils in the non selective specialist schools achieved 45% 5 A*-C grades including English and Maths compared to 34% of pupils in non specialist schools. Our work for specialist schools is focused on three areas: helping to raise sponsorship, helping the schools to raise their standards of achievement and spreading best practice by conferences, publications and generally encouraging collaboration and cooperation between schools.

  We enclose a copy of our annual report, our corporate plan for 2007-08, sponsors' brief on specialist schools and an analysis of our 2006 educational outcomes by Professor David Jesson of York University.

  Since September 2005, the Trust has also played a support role in helping newly established academies to raise their academic standards. 84 academies will be open by September 2007. We do not, however, have responsibility for raising sponsorship for academies. We strongly support the goal of establishing 400 academies on the sites of low attaining schools so that within five years there will be no failing schools in the country. We enclose a brief on the academies project.

  We must emphasise that we are an independent registered charity and not a non-departmental government body. Our funding comes both from government grants and affiliation fees from over 4,000 affiliated British and overseas schools.

  The Trust has a 40 person governing council that supports the Chief Executive, Liz Reid, and holds her accountable for the successful delivery of targets by herself and her 300 staff. The Council elects annually its chairman, vice chairman and trustees.

  With regard to our place in the educational infrastructure, we believe we provide a valuable support for English secondary schools in helping them to raise their standards of achievement. Our mantra is providing services for schools by schools.

  With regard to our future role as we move to an entirely specialist school system, we believe that our emphasis should continue to help schools to raise their standards of achievement by providing services which they value and are willing to pay for. Enclosed is a copy of the 12 principal goals which have been agreed by our Council for the coming years.

  Finally, we believe that members of your Committee will want to learn of my own role as advisor to the Secretary of State for specialist schools and the academies programme. This role is a voluntary unpaid advisory role. I also receive no remuneration for my role as chairman of the SSAT.

  I meet with the Secretary of State once a quarter, and more frequently with Lord Adonis and his officials to discuss issues which might affect the efficient and effective administration of both the specialist schools and academies programme. I have no decision making powers in the Department, but hope that my advice on both matters has been useful. I have served in a similar capacity for the past 10 Secretaries of State for Education since 1987.

Sir Cyril Taylor

May 2007

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