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`It makes me sick'

Head of private schools chain says state sector is crippled by `inefficient culture'

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Head of private schools chain says state sector is crippled by `inefficient culture'

Putting up wall displays, collecting dinner money, performing lunch duties and providing cover are vital tasks of the teaching job and should not be delegated to assistants, a key figure at the country's largest private school chain has said.

Geraint Jones, the new director of education at private equity-owned Cognita, said that moves to pass these jobs to support staff over the past 10 years had led to a level of inefficiency in the state sector that made him "sick".

Mr Jones told TES that 13 weeks' paid holiday is enough compensation for hard work during term time, and that teachers have a duty to go beyond their classroom duties. He described staffing costs of between 80 and 90 per cent of the budget as "ridiculous".

Mr Jones, a 35-year-old former police officer who became Ofsted's youngest ever inspector at the age of 28 before moving into leadership in both private and state schools, said: "My views are personal, but I've seen quite an inefficient culture (in the state sector). A lot of money is wasted.

"If I look at the numbers in school of administrative staff because of workforce reform, and I see that money which could be spent on young people, and curriculum enhancement, and teachers, and facilities and resources, it makes me sick, actually.

"The reality is that good teachers don't just teach. They care passionately about all the other things. Contacting parents, writing their own letters, working in the holidays, doing cover, doing duties - it's part and parcel of the profession."

He stressed that it has always been important to him to do everything from picking up litter to getting to know pupils while on playground duty. "I want to put my own displays up; it's my territory, it's my class," he added.

Mr Jones said that if state schools can learn one thing from Cognita - which has previously being accused of "milking" its schools for profits - it is "how to run an efficient school".

However, he insisted that the main driver of Cognita's schools is excellence in teaching and learning, with profits ploughed back into the schools themselves: 43 of its 44 UK schools received a "good" or "outstanding" rating in their most recent Ofsted reports.

A statement from Cognita claimed it has no plans to get involved in state- funded free schools "in any way".

Mr Jones, who has been headteacher of the chain's first school, Quinton House in Northamptonshire, since 2009, spoke as teaching unions began industrial action over pay, conditions, jobs and pensions.

National pay and conditions have come under huge pressure in recent years because of hundreds of academy conversions and plans for regional pay. Members of the NUT and the NASUWT teaching unions have been told to respond to work-related emails only during school hours and to submit only one written report a year to parents, among other "work to rule" measures.

Mr Jones has also complained that too much leadership in the state sector is "leadership by report", with leaders jerking from one deadline to another in an attempt to appease Ofsted and other bureaucrats. "I have so much respect for heads who have the courage to stand up and say `no' to that level of bureaucracy," he said.

He admitted to being an unapologetic traditionalist, but he does not object to private companies becoming involved in state education.

In a separate development, Swedish firm Internationella Engelska Skolan, which runs Breckland free school in Brandon, Suffolk, has just been bought out by a private equity firm, to the consternation of unions.

"I read the story about Breckland and I shrugged my shoulders. So many people have so many opinions and they don't even work for the company - they are just creating stories and headlines and nervousness around the system," Mr Jones said. "There's a moral conflict, but again, where's the evidence in people's judgement that a group such as Cognita is in it purely for the money?

"Every single one of the inspection reports has improved under Cognita's ownership," he added. "Show me a local authority with that kind of reputation."

CV: Geraint Jones

  • Has an undergraduate degree in German, a PGCE in modern foreign languages and PE, and a master's degree in educational leadership.
  • Spent four years working as a police officer in South Wales.
  • 2001-09: Teacher, then vice-principal, at St Edmund's Girls' School in Salisbury, where he pioneered the popular Wake `n' Shake morning exercise routine.
  • 2009: Made principal of Quinton House School in Northamptonshire.
  • September 2012: Began role as director of education at Cognita.
    • Photo: Geraint Jones. Photo credit: Getty

      Original headline: `State sector's inefficient culture makes me sick'

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