#GE2017 election manifestos – Prof Becky Francis & Sir David Bell on universities sponsoring schools

Senior academics and leading experts in their field gave their perspectives on the main education issues in the General Election campaign and challenges for the next Government.

One focus in the Conservative manifesto is for more universities to sponsor schools.

Comment from Professor Becky Francis, Director of the UCL Institute of Education who annually researches the quality of academies for the Sutton Trust:

“There really is no evidence that the input of universities and private schools as sponsors is going to help raise quality. There is an incredibly mixed picture. Here in UCL we have our own academy which we are proud of and shows the richness of these possibilities. But when you look across the board those relationships haven’t been successful in many other places. For example, the UTC programme has had very many difficulties and like the history of private schools sponsoring state academies has been patchy at best. So the assumption that pushing this forward will increase quality is very dubious and not evidenced based. There is also the question of the numbers of universities and where they are placed and how this will be a key element in driving improvement.”

Comment from Sir David Bell, Vice Chancellor of the University of Reading, former Chief Inspector of Schools and Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education:

“The picture is mixed when it comes to the sponsorship of schools. I have always been quite concerned about this. I think first of all its patronising to the assumption that there is a whole bunch of people running other educational institutions who know how to run schools.

Secondly, I think it risks a kind of ‘mission spread’ for universities. Its not as if they don’t have enough to do already.

Thirdly, I think for individual universities it quite tricky if you are trying to maintain a set of relationships across a whole number of schools and I think most universities would place a lot of store by those sorts of relationships and whether to some extent you get diverted into one particular school if you have this kind of requirement. But the strengthening of commitment in the Conservative manifesto says to me its going to happen.”

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