The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) has hit back at proposals by the Policy Exchange which suggests schools should follow the John Lewis business model.
In its report, Social Enterprise Schools1 the think-tank says that the government should consider allowing private companies to set up and run schools under a John Lewis style social enterprise model with teachers having a stake in the profits.
But the NAHT has expressed grave concerns about the initiative, claiming it could jeopardise fair access to education for all and compromise the essential impartiality of schools.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT: “The idea of teachers making a profit from their schools is even more unpleasant than the idea of profit-making schools in general. It will compromise their integrity and impartiality and do huge damage to their relationship with parents if they are suspected of making decisions based on what’s in it for them rather than what’s best for the child.
“Often, teachers need to make difficult and unpopular choices, such as excluding a student. How will parents react if they suspect teachers of benefiting from it? It only works if they are seen to be above self-interest.
“John Lewis is a respected and ethical company, but it sells products. No-one minds particularly if it doesn't set up a store in a poor neighbourhood, no-one minds if it doesn't cater for a particular group of customers. But transplanting these practices into education has far more sinister connotations. It is a simple fact that our most vulnerable children cost more to educate than others, especially if you want high attainment for all.”
Mr Hobby added: “You cannot prevent these distortions with rules about the percentage of free school meals (FSM): poverty by itself doesn't determine ability or effort. Such schools would be driven to select from among FSM pupils on the basis of aspiration, engagement and learning difficulties.
“Private enterprise works well where the pure and unrestrained profit motive leads to socially beneficial outcomes. This is not the situation in education. You can set up regulation after regulation to try to counter these distortions and deficiencies but you are left with the conclusion you'd be better off without the profit motive in the first place. “
1. To read the report go to the Policy Exchange web site http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/publications/category/item/social-enterprise-schools/
Page Published: 22/02/2012