Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80-99)|
TAYLOR GBE AND
23 MAY 2007
Q80 Paul Holmes: I am not quite sure
where you got that from. In the letter that you sent to the Committee
on 15 May you say that you strongly support the goal of establishing
400 academies on the site of low-attaining schools so that within
five years there will be no failing schools in the country. That
is quite an astonishing claim, that in five years' time there
will be no more failing schools.
Sir Cyril Taylor: It is not a
claim. It is a goal, which I sincerely hope we will achieve. I
happened to serve as High Sheriff of Greater London a few years
ago and I spent a lot of time studying the problems of young offenders.
The Home Office published a fantastic study in 1996 called Misspent
Youth. The origins of young offenders in this country, almost
all of them were excluded from school, cannot read and write properly,
substance abuse, bad peer group culture and disadvantaged family
backgrounds. Many of these low-attaining schools have those sorts
of problems. The knock-on cost to the country in welfare, health,
of young offenders: one young offender, somebody estimated the
other day, is £50,000 a year real cost of being in prison.
Because of the re-offending rate of 85% within a year of being
released, one young offender could cost the taxpayer £1 million
or £2 million. We cannot afford to have 400 low-attaining
schools and this ought to be at the top of the priority list.
Q81 Paul Holmes: I agree absolutely.
All these are problems we have faced for the last century. What
is the magic ingredient X that you have identified that means
that 400 academies will solve this problem that we have had for
the last hundred years?
Sir Cyril Taylor: The initial
record is extremely encouraging. The 20-odd schools that have
GCSE cohorts averaged 40% last year compared to 27% for the last
year of the predecessor school. Many of them have only been open
one or two years. The CTCs are amongst the best schools in the
country and they are the forerunner of this initiative. We have
identified crucial elements of change and this is why some of
these low-attaining schools are so low-attaining that I do not
think you can turn them round by normal methods. You have to close
them, pupils transfer, usually the leadership has to change, ethos
of discipline. It would be fascinating to have a really in-depth
study of how Malory School has been transformed in such a short
time. Pupils want to learn but you have to have the right environment
for that. We owe these 400,000 children a decent education. Social
justice demands that every child in this country has the opportunity
of going to a decent school. Seventy-five thousand 16-year-olds
leave school every year without qualifications.
Q82 Paul Holmes: I agree with all
that but, to return to the question, and to break it down into
two parts, first of all, I asked what is the ingredient X of academies
that is going to solve this 100-year-old problem? First of all,
you say the evidence is very encouraging. The last parliamentary
debate I took part in and the last Parliamentary Questions I asked
on this showed that, on the figures that were availableand,
as you say, it is very early days for academiesone third
of academies were doing better than the predecessor schools, one
third were doing about the same, and one third were doing worse.
So in the early days of evidence there is not very much evidence
yet for us to judge on. Is that correct or not?
Sir Cyril Taylor: My data is different.
We have a chart in the outcomes study.
Q83 Chairman: We also have very different
data in the Committee. It may have been said in the heat of debate.
Sir Cyril Taylor: I think you
might be referring to five A-Cs including Maths and English, and
that is a harder task. English is often a problem because of ethnic
minorities not speaking English at home.
Q84 Paul Holmes: My data was not
said in the heat of the debate. It was based on Parliamentary
Questions; it was based on hard evidence. It was not last year
but the year before so we have one year more evidence, but the
evidence is still quite clear so far that there is simply not
enough evidence to judge academies on because they are too young,
Sir Cyril Taylor: I do not agree
with that. The 15 city technology colleges are amongst the highest
performing schools in the country. Many of them were founded on
the sites of previously... The Sylvan School, which Lord Harris
backed, had no first choice applications. It had 9% five A-Cs.
It is now 90%. The school is transformed.
Q85 Paul Holmes: We will come back
to CTCs in a minute. On academies, the second part of my question
was what is the ingredient X that makes this huge difference that
previous schools were failing to achieve?
Sir Cyril Taylor: Leadership is
absolutely fundamental. Without an outstanding head teacher, the
challenges of taking on one of these schoolsthese are the
heroes and heroines of our system.
Q86 Paul Holmes: Do you have hard
evidence to back this up?
Sir Cyril Taylor: I am not sure
you can get statistical evidence but Ofsted will tell you they
rank leadership when they inspect.
Q87 Paul Holmes: So we are embarking
on a huge experiment, privatising 400 schools, on the basis of
gut feeling rather than evidence?
Sir Cyril Taylor: No. The 15 city
technology colleges were the pilots. They are outstanding schools.
The initial 20 schools that had GCSEs in those six are doing extremely
well. What is your alternative? To do nothing for these schools?
Q88 Paul Holmes: For example, there
are seven secondary schools in and around my constituency in Chesterfield.
If I went along to any one of those heads and said, "I will
build you a £25-£30 million brand new single-site school,
I will let you hand-pick your staff and I will let you ignore
the DfES as much as you like", would they be able to achieve
the same sort of results as academies, yet still be in the state
Sir Cyril Taylor: The whole building
thing, as you know, has now been changed. The sponsor's money
goes into a permanent endowment.
Q89 Paul Holmes: The sponsor's money
is fairly irrelevant because the vast bulk of the cost is from
Sir Cyril Taylor: Yes, but many
of the future academies will not be occupying brand new schools.
Q90 Paul Holmes: No, but you are
basing your evidence on the few academies and the CTCs that already
exist. Let us not talk about future hypotheses. Let us look at
what actually exists. If I went to any one of the seven secondary
school heads in and around my constituency and said, "You
can have the £25-£30 million brand new school, you can
have the status, you can handpick your staff" and so on,
would they not get the same results as academies?
Sir Cyril Taylor: I happen to
know the Sheffield School quite well and I think you have an outstanding
Director of Educational Services there. He is actually on our
Council. I think Sheffield has made enormous improvements.
Q91 Paul Holmes: I said Chesterfield.
Sir Cyril Taylor: If you would
like to come and visit some academies which are miracles of transformation
... This is an initiative that works.
Q92 Paul Holmes: I am not disputing
the transformation in some academies. I have visited some of them.
What I am saying is, are you saying that could not happen if you
let any existing state school head have the same access to new
buildings, new site, new status, handpicking staff and all the
rest of it? One academy the Committee visited in London, for example,
was an ideal school; it was every head teacher's dream: a brand
new school, handpicked staff, the children came in at year seven
and you had no baggage from the previous school. It was year seven
and then years seven and eight and so on. That is the dream of
every teacher in every school. If any existing state school head
was given all that, are you saying they could not replicate what
academies have achieved?
Sir Cyril Taylor: Building Schools
for the Future has taken over the building of academies. It is
in the way this has all been worked out. We have to see just how
it works on the ground. I do not have a precise number but I understand
the capital budget is underspent by £1 billion per year.
Whose fault is that?
Q93 Paul Holmes: That is not relevant
to the question I am asking.
Sir Cyril Taylor: The money is
there. Why is it not spent by the local education authorities?
Q94 Paul Holmes: This has absolutely
nothing to do with the question I am asking. What evidence do
you have that the only way to improve these schools is to create
them as independent schools, fully funded by the taxpayer but
independent, rather than giving existing state school heads the
same access to buildings, to handpicking the staff and all the
rest of it?
Sir Cyril Taylor: Obviously, the
record to date is of comparatively few schools but the fact that
we persuade sponsors to put up substantial sums of money, the
fact that local education authoritiesManchester is so keen
on this initiative that they have a wide range of academy schools
that are supported by the local education authority.
Q95 Chairman: Does Liz Reid want
to come in on this? It is getting two-handed between Paul and
Sir Cyril. Liz, do you want to make any comment on Paul's question?
Ms Reid: Simply to say that, in
so far as we have a role, we have welcomed academy schools into
the network and they work with other schools in the network on
a range of programmes. We do some work at the behest of the DfES
to support individual academies with practitioner support from
high-achieving schools. There is a big collective effort going
on to make sure that academies are welcomed into the family of
schools nationally, regionally and increasingly locally, and schools
are working with each other to make sure that they are a success.
So it would be true to say that academies are actually drawing
on all of the experience of successful work that there is in the
specialist schools network.
Q96 Paul Holmes: Still no evidence
to justify this great leap into academies has been offered at
Sir Cyril Taylor: I keep challenging
you on that. Forty-seven academies open; only one was in special
measures and Middlesbrough is now out of special measures. Previously
a lot of those schools were in special measures with serious weaknesses.
That is hard evidence. If you had scored 46 out of 47, that is
Q97 Paul Holmes: There is also hard
evidence that schools in Excellence in Cities areas, for example,
have shown the same sort of turnaround. Phoenix School showed
the same sort of turnaround without going down the academies route.
So there is evidence that all sorts of things can turn failing
schools round, not just academies.
Sir Cyril Taylor: Yes.
Q98 Paul Holmes: One of the unique
things about academies, so we are told, is the role of the private,
charitable sponsor, whatever group it is. You have just mentioned,
for example, a couple of local authorities. Sunderland, Manchester,
Kent, Coventry and Kensington & Chelsea are all acting as
co-sponsors now into academies. Surely that undermines what one
of the initial concepts of academies was, that there would be
a unique contribution from some sort of private or charitable
individual, but we are just going back to LAs being involved.
Sir Cyril Taylor: Wait a minute.
There are still independent schools. The trustees still have the
power, even though the local authority may be appointing a substantial
number of the trustees, and they still have the authority and
the motivation to make the changes necessary.
Q99 Paul Holmes: A state school head
could not be given the freedom to do that? It has to be an independent
Sir Cyril Taylor: You have to
have a good head in the first place.