Profiting from schools - Who cares, says former Ofsted chair

20th May 2011 at 01:00

A former Ofsted chair has called for profit-making companies to be allowed to run schools, describing the issue as a "red herring".

Zenna Atkins, who left the watchdog last year and has now set up a consultancy called Wey Education, plans to run a chain of academies and free schools.

"When you have a fixed fee for every child set by the Government, who cares whether (the body running a school) is making a profit or not?" she said. "As a parent, do I care? If it's getting good results, no, I don't. I can't understand why people are fixated with it."

Ms Atkins said academy contracts should be tied to schools' performance. "Even with academies we don't contract for outcomes or results. They don't even contract for basic results. If I were in central government, that's something I would look at."

She said that many schools are "deeply inefficient", and called for more clusters and federations to be formed, allowing schools to share back-office services and cut the "excessive" number of support staff.

She hopes to help staff and parents take control of schools by forming mutual companies, which they will become members of.

Ms Atkins said Wey Education will act as a "lifeboat service" to save struggling schools.

"Schools are floundering because they are spending more money than they need to," she said. "Lots of heads seem to know exactly how you get this right, but we don't have a single model anyone can pick up.

"We need a clear model - it's important people can see what they are getting. At the moment they can't."

"If the Department for Education and Ofsted are the coastguard, there needs to be a lifeboat service to help a school get back on its feet."

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