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Parents lured by pound;25k fees cut

Cognita, the new private schools company chaired by Chris Woodhead, is offering parents discounts worth up to pound;25,000 to pull their children out of the state sector.

Pupils registered to join Cognita schools in two or three years' time have been told they will receive a 30 per cent fee discount for life if they enter in September instead.

The scheme, being used by up to three Cognita schools, was condemned by the head of a neighbouring state school this week. The head of a village school in Buckinghamshire told The TES that 13 children are leaving because of the offer.

Louise Metherell, head of Marsh Gibbon first school, which has only 100 pupils, said: "It is using big business tactics against small village primary schools. It is going to have an absolutely terrible effect on our budget."

Akeley Wood school, Buckinghamshire, which takes children aged three to 18, with annual fees ranging from pound;5,775 for infants to pound;8,475 for senior pupils, is said to have phoned parents with the offer.

Families have been told they could save up to pound;25,000 over the course of their child's school career if they join at the age of eight, rather than wait until they are nine, 10 or 11. Five surrounding schools, including Marsh Gibbon, confirmed their parents had been contacted with the offer in recent weeks.

Rees Withers, Cognita chief executive, said: "We do not see this as poaching, it is merely offering assisted places to children at state schools who meet our entry requirements."

News 16, Leader 22

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