Pro-academy campaign group launched by ‘superhead’ Rachel De Souza – but funders remain anonymous

A line-up of education reformers – including a former adviser to David Cameron – have joined forces to launch a new campaign aimed at mobilising parents to highlight the achievements of academies and free schools, but details of the group’s funders will not be released.

Rachel De Souza, chief executive of Inspiration Trust, has founded the Parents and Teachers for Excellence campaign group, which aims to promote the principles its members believe will deliver the best outcome for pupils.

They include promoting a knowledge-based curriculum, more assessment and effective discipline policies.

The campaign has been devised with the help of Rachel Wolf, a former adviser to David Cameron, and James Frayne (pictured right), former director of policy and strategy at influential think tank Policy Exchange. james frayne static showcase_3961ce5a64ac5e88df224505f835db67

The pair believe school freedoms have been under-emphasised in education reform in recent years.

Wolf told Schools Week: “The question of what we do in a school-led system and do with school freedoms has slightly got lost.

“We want to take the school debate to the next stage.”

That will include an advisory council of 29 education reformers (full list below) shouting about the principles they believe improve outcomes for pupils, including at events, and in national and local press.

The organisation has also been funded by a “small group of philanthropists” who the campaign is not willing to name.

De Souza said: “Vital structural reform freed schools from political control but only took us to the start line.

“We must now focus on how we teach and test children in schools so that we can raise standards – as well as exposing them to the sorts of cultural activities they might not get at home.”

The education debate has taken place amongst elites in Westminster and Whitehall for too long

The advisory council includes four parents, some of whom are also listed as governors, but the campaign wants to win the support of more parents and build-up a network of activists who can make the case for change in their local schools.

De Souza added: “For too long, the education debate has taken place amongst elites in Westminster and Whitehall.

“We are creating a movement that will recruit and mobilise parents and teachers from across the country to make the case for change.”

The group has stated it is “strictly non-partisan” but is supportive of free schools and academies.

Wolf said she wanted to persuade more schools to follow the campaign group’s four principles. The first is to promote a knowledge-based curriculum that has the prospect to “significantly raise standards”.

The second is for rigorous assessment that gives headteachers, teachers, parents and pupils the ability to measure progress, with another principle based on the need for effective behaviour policies.

Read more: Vote Leave campaigner and Tory donor behind Parents and Teachers for Excellence campaign
Read more: Vote Leave campaigner and Tory donor behind Parents and Teachers for Excellence campaign

The final is a call to promote enrichment activities throughout a longer school day, which Wolf said could include trips to museums or the theatre to help produce “culturally-literate” pupils.

For more, see this week’s Schools Week printed edition.


Full list of advisory council:

Tom Bennett, Founder of ResearchEd and Chair of the Department for Education Behaviour Group
John Blake, History Consultant & Leading Practitioner at Harris Federation
Christine Counsell, Director of Education, Inspiration Trust
Anthony Denny, Parent & Governor, Jane Austen College
Rachel De Souza, CEO, Inspiration Trust
Toby French, Lead Practitioner, Torquay Academy
Claire Heald, Executive Principal, Jane Austen College
Karl Hoods, Chairman of Governors, Harris Academy Beckenham
Hywel Jones, Head Teacher, West London Free School
Michaela Khatib, Executive Head, Cobham Free School
Mark Lehain, Principal, Bedford Free School
Stuart Lock, Head Teacher, Cottenham Village College
Helena Mills, CEO, Burnt Mills Academy Trust
Munira Mirza, Former Deputy Mayor of Education and Culture for London
Dan Moynihan, CEO, Harris Federation
Libby Nicholas, CEO, Reach 4 Academy Trust
Sara Noel, Parent and Governor, Cottenham Village College
Martyn Oliver, CEO, Outwood Grange Academies Trust
James O’Shaughnessy, Founder of Floreat Education Academies Trust
Bruno Reddy, Maths Social Entrepreneur & former Head of Maths at King Solomon Academy
Martin Robinson, Educationalist & author of Trivium21c
Mark Rose, Governor, Great Yarmouth Primary Academy
Jo Saxton, CEO, Turner Schools Multi-Academy Trust
Tony Sewell, Founder of Generating Genius
Jonathan Simons, Head of Education at Policy Exchange & Chairman of Governors, Greenwich Free School
Luke Sparkes, Principal, Trinity Academy
Alex Wade, Parent and Chairman of Governors, Fulham Boys School
Claire Ward, Parent, Cobham Free School
Rachel Wolf, Founder of The New Schools Network & Former Special Adviser to the Prime Minister for Education



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  1. ‘Vital structural reform freed schools from political control but only took us to the start line’ (big assumption that the remaining majority of schools which are still maintained by LA’s are still controlled by politicians to any greater extent than those that are academies) – ‘strictly non partisan’. Give me strength – is she for real?

    None of the principles has any bearing whatsoever on what legal status a school has. This is insulting to the vast majority of primary schools which are not academies and mostly have no desire to be so.

    • I suppose she’s saying that the RSC’s aren’t political. Given that they are political cronies given political appointments by political parties this is an “interesting” interpretation.

  2. Why would anyone be unwilling to reveal who is bank rolling this venture?
    A large number of accounting frauds perpetrated by Academies, Free Schools, and MATs have been reported in the press, including in Schools Week. These frauds usually revolve around hidden payments to people with conflicts of interest within the Academy, Free School, or MAT.
    We need finances within these organisations to be more transparent. Having a cheer-leading organisation that hides its finances is not a step in the right direction. Do all those named above support this lack of transparency?

  3. The Harris network is heavily represented, so I would say that Lord Harris is in the frame as Mr Moneybags. No coincidence that he is also a friend of our former PM. The Inspiration Trust links to Theo Agnew (ex-DfE director in the Gove years) as well as Rachel De Souza, and he too is a pretty wealthy man. Add in the Toby Young connection (WLFS)and what we seem to have here is an alternative Conservative education pressure group that is clearly there to promote the Cameron/Gove approach as opposed to Mrs May’s grammar schools focus. Let battle commence!

    • It is clear that the academies are going to be threatened by the increase in the number of grammar schools. Many academies have been guilty of covert selection either by defining their catchment areas or by exclusions, etc. How are they going to claim to be doing so much better than comprehensive schools if they effectively become secondary moderns themselves? Let us also not forget the increased religious selection which is being proposed.

  4. RogerOThornhill

    The interesting quote was in the TES from Ms DeSouza – “will move the education debate away from the “elites in Westminster and Whitehall”. No, don’t snigger.

    So is this more about they’ve lost any influence that they had in government circles? Theo Agnew is now at Justice, Wolf now gone from No 10. As Chris P says above it’s the Govian Blob in exile.

  5. A wise man once said, never read the comments:

    Education never ceases to amaze me. Whilst educators/parents etc. should have nothing against any of the four principles listed and the promotion of knowledge, free schools, academies and/or sharing of best practice, where is the trust and credibility here?

    We respect colleagues listed here in the group – and my point is about the donors NOT the individuals – as some will know many of them personally, but we should all challenge anything in our profession that is [funded by a “small group of philanthropists”] where a campaign is not willing to name donors.

    It should makes us all uncomfortable and we should all be calling for greater transparency.

  6. Nick Corston

    Knowledge based curriculum. Rote Learning. Lots of testing. Lack of transparency.

    ‘Are you with us or against us?’

    Who could argue against this rhetoric?

    Having heavily influenced good, honest, hard working teachers at the chalk face with this mantra, the pied piper Tom Bennett and followers are now after their fellow parents, wittingly and unwittingly.

    Not this one. I’m a parent, who has been very personally affected by the way that the EBacc and this thinking really is killing creativity in our schools.

    And continues to polarise all the great work and thinking and doing going on in our schools, including that by many of the people listed.

    Are you with us?

    • More disturbing, it’s rhetoric backed by militaristic language such as wanting to ‘mobilise’ teachers and parents who will in turn enforce PTE’s view of what passes as educational ‘excellence’ on the entire English education system.

  7. Calls to ‘mobilise’ parents in pursuit of ‘excellence’ sound a good thing, don’t they? Who would argue with excellence? Except that PTE’s views on excellence comprise ‘rigorous’ testing and ‘rigorous subjects’ which imply subjects not deemed rigorous (creative subjects, perhaps, D&T, PSHE?) should be sidelined.
    It all has the whiff of the ‘Foundation for Excellence in Education’, set up by one-time presidential hopeful, Jeb Bush, which lists as its aim: ‘To build an American education system that equips every child to achieve his or her God-given potential’. It claims it offers ‘bold reform’ including introducing tests which will be used to judge schools. Sound familiar?
    When Gove addressed the Foundation in 2013, he told them if people disagreed with him he told them ‘ever so politely’ to get out of the way. So much for consensus. So much for professional autonomy.

  8. Parents and Teachers for Excellence was incorporated in June 2016. It has two directors: Rachel de Souza and Johnathan Patrick Moynihan. PTE is registered at 70 Royal House, Greenwich, which, according to a local historian, was once part of a pub, ‘The Prince Albert’, and served as a munitions factory. There are about eight other companies listed at the same address.