Learning is not about profits

22nd October 2004 at 01:00
The world has gone mad. A successful headteacher, the man who has rescued a school from oblivion, suspended from his job. And why? Because his school has not got a balanced budget.

Dick Ewen has overseen a dramatic improvement in just two years at Islington Arts and Media School (IAMS). The Office for Standards in Education, ironically, says the school is offering "good value for money".

Parents are queuing up to get their children admitted.

But this is not enough. The head has committed a sin. He has not made a profit. So the private company which runs the school suspends him.

Does it understand the purpose of our schools? Does it think they are businesses designed to make a profit? They are schools, places where the future is constructed in the minds and hearts of our children. Whatever it takes, we should provide. When you start introducing the values of the market-place then you have lost all sense of priority.

I am responsible for my school's budget. We are accumulating a deficit of about pound;60,000 a year, because we have highly experienced - and therefore expensive - teachers. But that is why we are successful.

We, like the IAMS, are improving. Once only 13 per cent achieved five top-grade passes at GCSE. We have now been as high as 40 per cent, an achievement to be proud of. To do this we have marginalised our financial difficulties, and so students have succeeded and are building their lives on that success.

To tackle the deficit I must reduce staffing costs, but if I make teachers redundant I cannot deliver the curriculum. I would be denying the main purpose of the school to satisfy an accountant.

Neither the local education authority nor the governors want to compromise the quality of education. Reducing teacher numbers or raising class sizes is wrong if it disadvantages other people's children. Our LEA knows this.

Why sacrifice a school to satisfy numbers on a page?

If we want our children to succeed then we have to be prepared to pay for it.

Education cannot be done on the cheap. Concepts of profit and loss do not help the children and they will not attract the staff who want to make a difference. To attract those staff, the advertising says that schools are places where you use your head. Presumably this is not the case if you own one.

Geoff Brooks is deputy head of Cefn Hengoed school, Cardiff. Feeling aggrieved? Write a 400-word Sounding Off article and get paid as you grumble. Send it to susan.young@tes.co.uk

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