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Parents support privatisation bid

Three private companies want to run a failing school. A community action group is in favour of one, the headteacher is keeping quiet

Parents are backing a city technology college in its bid to become the first private company to run a failing state school.

The parent and community group set up to save Kings' Manor comprehensive in Guildford, Surrey, originally opposed any private-sector involvement in the school.

But members of the group now say that they think Kingshurst CTC in Birmingham would do a better job of running Kings' Manor than the local authority - despite being more than 100 miles away.

The move by the Kings' Manor Community Action Group comes after a survey of parents who attended presentations by the three companies bidding to manage the school from next year.

Of the 93 people who returned questionnaires circulated by the action group, 91 were in favour of the Kingshurst bid, put together by its commercial arm, 3E's Enterprises, which has charitable status.

The other two bids - by the education company, Nord Anglia, and the not-for-profit company, the Centre for British Teachers - garnered only one "vote" each.

Ben Cartwright, chairman of the action group, described the survey results as "overwhelming" and said the group would now strongly urge Surrey County Council to approve the Kingshurst bid.

Lorraine Kerswill, spokeswoman for the council, said that the survey results would be taken into account alongside a separate questionnaire circulated at the meeting by the council itself.

The Conservative-controlled council is due to decide which option it prefers on Monday.

Steven Archibald, vice-chairman of the action group, admitted that it had entered the bidding process "with trepidation". But he said that Kingshurst had won parents over with its "genuine commitment to spreading best practice in education".

Profits would be ploughed back into the school. And, while the presentations by Nord Anglia and the Centre for British Teachers had been about their own companies, Kingshurst had discussed what it could do for pupils.

Mr Archibald added that Kevin McNeany, Nord Anglia's chairman, had alienated parents by beginning his presentation by saying that his company was the only one of the bidders to be listed on the Stock Exchange.

Yvonne Dickinson, a former deputy headteacher who worked at Kings' Manor for 32 years, said that the local authority had not done enough to attract more parents to the school, which has 400 pupils on a site designed for 900.

She was not persuaded by Nord Anglia's bid, but had been impressed by Kingshurst. She added: "I think that most of the parents feel very angry and let down by the education authority.

"I think now we would much rather see private enterprise run the school."

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