CfBT Education Trust Seeking Special School Closure

We have already written at some length about the new philanthropic organisations that appear to be doing the UK Tories’ dirty work and also the rather creative interpretation of UK charity commission guidelines that permit organisations like Teach First to operate as charities.

CfBT Education Trust is another on-message charity. They claim to “provide education for public benefit worldwide.” But try telling this to the parents of children at one special school in Lincoln, UK.

In a local newspaper report,“I chose Queen’s Park School because it was the best for my child”, we read that despite CfBT (who have been put in control of Lincolnshire’s school improvement services) promising to the contrary, proposals are being discussed which will see the closure of one special school, Queen’s Park School, with other existing schools, St Francis and St Christopher’s, taking up the slack. This is happening despite Queen’s Park school gaining an “oustanding” rating from Ofsted inspectors.

It seems that CfBT is perhaps forgetting its own charitable objectives, as closing a special school seems miles away from the shaking of the collecting tin.

We are told in the article that parents were assured last year that a consultation into special schools was not about closing them. Indeed, at the time of the consultation in June last year, Paul Snook of CfBT Education Trust in Lincolnshire said: “This is not about closing schools or saving money.

Mr Snook said yesterday, however, that the proposals were only at a discussion stage at this time but had the full support of the three heads and governing bodies who had worked together, with the support of the Tory-run county council, over the past 15 months.

To one parent, CfBT reneging on its promise beggars belief. Debbie Gutsell, 27, of Lincoln, has a nine-year-old son at the school. She said: “For the sake of a building, these children’s lives are being uprooted. And to think, we have an ‘outstanding’ Ofsted. My son would not be where he is today if it was not for that school. I looked at three special schools and I chose Queen’s Park because that was the best school and the best place for my child. This affects our children and we as parents made conscious choices about what was best for them.

There is a long history of education businesses masquerading as charities in the UK, of course. Exclusive public schools like Eton and Wellington College still continue to benefit from this anomalous privilege.

But what is particularly revealing is that, as with Teach First, the Tories are pushing their policies through via the charity route. They are doing this to avoid accusations of privatisation. But privatisation remains the name of the game, only charities not businesses are the new method of choice.

And CfBT seem to be particularly keen to pick up market share. They have already been criticised for tempting primary heads into converting to academies – a Tory favourite – and in the charities commission bumph are looking to gain from the Free School extravaganza or as they put it “pursuing with care opportunities to expand CfBT’s portfolio of schools
including the development of our response to the Free Schools
opportunity.

You can also read on the Lincolnshire Council website how CfBT have “overall responsibility for the governance, leadership, learning and workforce development in schools and settings.” Nothing particularly charitable about that, we think you’ll agree.

We can’t be the only people wondering how an organisation that offers corporate services like these is defined as a charity? We also wonder if privatisation via the charity backdoor is what Prime Minister Dave’s Big Society is really about?

He would know after all: he went to Eton.

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