Head was last to know

5th February 1999 at 00:00
Parents support privatisation bid

The first Greg Gardner heard about privatising Kings' Manor was when he opened the pages of The TES. Mr Gardner was taken aback at the plans, not least because he is the head of the Guildford comprehensive, and no one had thought to tell him.

"We had no knowledge of what I believe is a social and educational experiment," said Mr Gardner. "We thought we were being consulted about the general direction forward for the school."

Mr Gardner is standing aside from the battle waged by three independent contractors for the soul of his school; he has expressed no preference.

But he is happy to voice his dissatisfaction with the whole business at a time when the school that he has managed for seven years should be straining every sinew to lift itself out of special measures.

"Really one would prefer to have total concentration on that. The whole motivation of staff, pupils and parents to the same end is a very big part of coming off special measures in my view.

"It has been quite distracting to be concerned a) about the fate of the school, b) about the staff's own career futures, and then c) about the national controversy over private involvement in state schools. It has been very difficult."

The LEA has played its full part supporting the school through its advisory service. But Surrey's plans to hand over the school to an outside contractor have scarcely helped: "There isn't sufficient recognition of how stressful it is to be under special measures. I think the staff's reaction is similar to mine."

Mr Gardner says that he is baffled as to the purpose of the exercise. The school, he says, is already linked with business, and the chair of governors manages the nearby Surrey Research Park.

"I don't see why we couldn't have brought the prestige and resources of Surrey, a considerable LEA, to bear to make a really good school.

"What exactly is the point of handing the management over to the private sector?"

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