Rare bonus for Bradford firm

Michael Shaw, Jon Slater and Stephen Lucas report on the progress of private companies running education services

The private company which manages Bradford's education has received pound;880,000 after persuading the city to lower its targets.

Last year Education Bradford received only pound;8,450 in bonuses. This year it managed to hit 31 of its 66 new targets and, according to a survey by The TES, became the only company of the nine running local education authorities in England to receive performance bonuses.

Targets set for companies range from pupil attendance rates to the test results of children in specific ethnic groups. The arrangements in the different authorities vary. While all the companies receive a basic fee, several do not receive target-related bonuses or fines.

Two companies have been fined for failing to meet targets. EduAction was penalised pound;186,000 last year for its work in Waltham Forest, north-east London, while Cambridge Education Associates lost more than pound;1.6 million for missing targets in Islington, London.

A third public-private partnership run by Serco in Walsall is also likely to be fined soon for missing three targets, although the penalties could be reduced because it exceeded two others.

Education Bradford succeeded in raising attendance and improving English and maths results at key stage 1 and KS3.

But it has missed all five targets relating to improving the performance of 11-year-olds.

Mark Pattison, the company's managing director, denied that the company had improved its results simply by persuading the council to change its targets. "We did not give ourselves an easy ride," he said.

"We only get rewarded if we have done significantly better than the national rate of improvement and these targets get more challenging each year."

Mr Pattison said that the proportion of Bradford pupils gaining at least five A* to C grades at GCSE rose by 2.6 per cent last year, while the national average dropped by half a per cent. But Education Bradford still fell 0.8 per cent short of its target.

A report by the National Union of Teachers this week warned that the outsourcing of local authority services was "not an efficient or effective use of money".

It argued that better long-term results were being achieved in authorities which had partnered with other councils, such as Liverpool's partnership with Wigan and Rotherham with Warwickshire.

The NUT said regulations should be introduced to stop companies poaching staff from successful LEAs and from making excessive profits.

COMPANY PROFILES

* Bradford

Education Bradford, a subsidiary of Serco, has managed the city's schools since 2001. The company met 31 out of 66 targets, with nine still to be assessed. It was awarded pound;880,054 out of a possible pound;1 million in bonuses this month.

* Hackney

Learning Trust exceeded its 38 per cent five-plus top GCSEs target in 2003 by 1.2 per cent. A not-for-profit company took it over in 2002. No reward for hitting targets.

* Haringey

Capita has provided the north London borough with strategic management since April 2001. There are no bonuses or financial penalties in the contract, although the company can be issued with "warning notices".

* Islington

CEA@islington has managed education in the north London borough since April 2000. It met 25 of 40 targets last year, but It has been fined every year since it took over and has amassed penalties of more than pound;1.6m.

* Leeds

Education Leeds, a not-for-profit company, has been running services since April 2001 with strategic support from Capita. It has met 24 of 34 targets, earning pound;387,620 in bonuses out of a possible pound;624,000.

* Southwark

Cambridge Educaton Associates took over managing education services in the south London borough after WS Atkins pulled out three years early in 2003.

No targets have yet been assessed.

* Swindon

A strategic partnership with Tribal Group started in May 2002 to provide strategic management services for the LEA. Has not yet had targets assessed.

* Waltham Forest EduAction began running the education system in the north-east London borough in July 2001. It met 141 of 159 targets last year. It was fined pound;186,000. Bonuses up to pound;280,000 were not awarded as it did not exceed any target.

* Walsall

A partnership with Serco, established in July 2001, has met 13 of the 16 targets assessed so far. Bonuses and penalties have not yet been decided.

May be fined for three targets it missed, but the penalties could be reduced as it exceeded two others.

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