Firms 'should run failing schools'

Bicester Advertiser: James O'Shaughnessy argues that the rise of academy chains is timely because 'England faces a serious educational problem' James O'Shaughnessy argues that the rise of academy chains is timely because 'England faces a serious educational problem'

Failing schools should be handed over to private firms to run as a final attempt to raise standards, a former adviser to the Prime Minister has suggested.

Five times as many schools could be told they are under-performing in the future as Ofsted changes its inspection regime, and a new system will be needed to turn them round, according to James O'Shaughnessy.

In a report for the Policy Exchange, Mr O'Shaughnessy, who previously worked as a policy adviser to David Cameron, calls for the Government to introduce a new regime to deal with failing schools, with clear consequences for those that do not improve.

This should include using private companies, both for-profit and not-for-profit, to "tackle intractable failure".

The report says that in the last decade academy chains have begun to spring up.

Academies are semi-independent state schools that receive funding directly, rather than through a local authority, and have more freedom over areas such as pay and conditions and the curriculum. Some of these schools are grouped together to form "chains".

In his report, Mr O'Shaughnessy argues that the rise of these chains is timely because "England faces a serious educational problem".

It says that measures for dealing with failure over the past 20 years have been aimed at around 5% of under-performing schools, and this was what the original academy programme, established under Tony Blair's Labour government was designed for.

But it adds: "In the next five years the challenge is to cope with a much bigger and more publicly contested seam of chronic failure in which mediocrity is the norm."

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