Monday, 2 May 2016

A Sedgehill postcript - education as a 'significant cash generative business'

I am adding this as an appendix to my main post on Sedgehill - following a fortunate Google search that came across a site that says a lot about the direction in which education is being taken by the Tories.


My son Adam, who wants to study languages at university, was hoping and expecting to stay on at Sedgehill this year but returned to school for Year 12 to find that, even though he had previously been assured that his A level subject choices would be provided for, the school would not be able to provide French or German lessons in the timetabled school day. Instead, a teacher had agreed to provide French tuition at the end of the school day - a kind offer but not ideal - but German tuition would only be through 'online learning' - far from ideal. Not surprisingly, Adam decided that he had little choice but to leave the school that had supported him so well up until then.

Online tuition may have some merit but surely cannot possibly provide the direct interaction and face-to-face discussion needed to fully develop learning, particularly in language acquisition. Neither can it provide the friendships and classmates that I would also see as a key part of schooling. However, it is of course exactly the model that the CEOs of edu-businesses like to champion - because it's a great way to 'deliver' a low-cost service that allows them to maximise profits out of education.

To my surprise, I have just come across an article boasting about the profits that could be made from such an online tuition model - and listing Sedgehill as one of its clients!
The article explains that InterHigh "the UK’s first and only online secondary school" has been recently acquired by Wey Education PLC. It caters for students who are home-schooled but hopes that "individual schools or academies ... could ‘buy in’ subjects not currently on the syllabus" and that "in fact, InterHigh is already delivering Spanish, German, economics and history lessons for Sedgehill School, Lewisham". [Note the use of 'delivering' rather than 'teaching']

Wey Education's Chair, David Massie (described in the article as a 'serial entrepreneur' - although a quick web search suggests to me that his experience seems to lie in the mining, financial and aviation sectors rather than education), goes on to explain that "the plan is to rapidly grow it by opening doors to the educational establishment in the UK while taking the InterHigh brand international ... It isn’t yet Ofsted regulated, but Wey is working closely with the Department for Education (DfE) to get it into the system ... We are told it will take a couple of years to change the law, but we are working with them to be the pilot to develop the regulations.” 

The article goes on to boast that City broker WH Ireland "sees revenues for the current year of £1.5mln, rising to £3.2mln and then £5mln, generating pre-tax profits of £400,000 in 2017 and £900,000 12 months later". However, they also have an eye on the 'international market' ... "The company already has a sales person in Africa, but the biggest opportunity resides in Asia and China in particular. The People’s Republic is a hothouse for education, where schooling is done on an almost industrial scale ... 'Ten thousand students is not a pipe-dream for the Asian business if we find the right partner' ... 'On those numbers and with a premium price of, say, £5,000 you’d have a very significant, cash generative business"

So, is this the future of education that is envisaged by those driving Tory education policy? Schooling run by 'serial entrepreneurs' so that they can create a 'significant cash generative business'? It might be good for business but, as far as my son was concerned, it was not offering the good education he had previously enjoyed at Sedgehill School.

Fancy investing in Wey? - you can hear more from Mr Massie here (explaining that 'the world has changed ... teenagers don't really talk to each other any more')

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