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Top heads should be paid cash bonuses to expand their schools, research says

The word "bonus" comes with seriously bad connotations these days, but new research has suggested heads should be paid extra money in a bid to persuade good schools to expand.

A report published today by the right-leaning think tank the Centre for Market Reform of Education (CMRE), has recommended heads of good schools be given bonuses as an incentive to take on the work involved in increasing pupil places.

It comes as part of a study claiming that greater school choice decreases inequality and school segregation. It adds that catchment areas could be scrapped to stop school choice based on where parents live.

“Policy could also increase equity by expanding choice to more pupils and enabling more pupils to attend better schools,” the report says.  "This could be achieved by introducing a profit motive in education and perhaps also by introducing bonuses to school leaders to stimulate expansion when successful schools become over-subscribed." 

Gabriel H. Sahlgren, author of the report and director of research at the think tank parents were currently restricted when it came to choosing their child’s school be it through their “wallet or their post code”.

“Relaxing restrictions on establishing schools and permitting bonuses to successful school-leaders could result in more school places for disadvantaged children,” Mr Sahlgren said.

“International evidence shows that increasing school choice reduces the impact of parental background on pupils’ success. The government could improve the current situation by introducing lotteries for oversubscribed schools, increasing the number of school buses, and incentivising good schools to expand.”

Increasing school choice has been a cornerstone of the coalition’s education policy, but one that has been hotly contested by heads and teachers leaders alike.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of heads’ union the NAHT, said he is regularly forced to argue against the case for school choice.

“My experience time and time again is that school choice doesn’t reduce inequality in education because the ability to choose is not distributed evenly throughout the system,” Mr Hobby said.

“It doesn’t work like that and tere is plenty of evidence such as that coming out of Sweden to show that market reforms can actually increase inequality rather than decrease it.”


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