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Agenda;Briefing

Am I the only one who is concerned about the growing influence of business in our schools? We regularly read about private companies being invited to run schools, appoint sponsorship governors, and involve themselves in all forms of so-called "partnership".

Surely no business gets involved in education except for profit? Or influence? And if an under-performing school can be improved and even make money for someone in the process, why aren't the proper authorities capable of doing it?

You aren't the only one and you have put the concerns many feel clearly. The involvement of business in the running of schools, usurping the influence so recently won by governors and parents and possibly looking to win future customers for their products, is a highly political issue.

We all need more information and discussion about what exactly is involved, since these ideas seem to have found their way into policies without a great deal of debate. There is in fact a day conference on the funding of schools, with particular reference to private finance initiatives, at the University of London Union on Saturday, October 23, and I intend to be there to hear what experts have to say.

It is called "Beggars, Choosers and Losers" and will be introduced by Peter Downes, former headteacher and president of the Secondary Heads' Association. Other speakers include the officer responsible for schemes at the DFEE, a Conservative education spokesperson, and a representative of Unison. There will also be short contributions from parents and governors.

"Beggars, Choosers and Losers" is organised by the Campaign for State Education. To book write to 158 Durham Road, Wimbledon, London SW20 ODG with your fee payable to CASE. Fee pound;40 including lunch; for CASE members only pound;5.

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