University free school plan ‘insulting’ to teachers, says Oxford boss

Asking universities to set up free schools is “insulting” to teachers and heads, the vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford has claimed.

Speaking to the Today programme this morning, Professor Louise Richardson said forcing her institution to establish schools would be a “distraction from our core mission”, and said universities already helped the schools community in many ways, but running them was “not what we do”.

The government is currently consulting on plans it set out in its green paper to force universities which want to raise their fees to set up a new free school or sponsor an academy in the state system.

I think it’s frankly insulting to teachers to suggest that a university can come in and do what they are working very hard to do

“I think there are many wonderful teachers and headteachers throughout the country, and I think it’s frankly insulting to them to suggest that a university can come in and do what they are working very hard to do and in many cases doing exceptionally well,” Richardson said.

“We have no experience in running schools so I think it would be a distraction.”

She said she was “deeply sympathetic” to the idea of social mobility through education, and claimed her university already had “extensive relationships with schools”.

“We have our education specialists providing professional development with schools. We have deep and varied relationships with schools,” she said.

Richardson accepted that some universities were already involved in running schools, like the King’s Maths School which is sponsored by King’s College London, but said it would not be suited to Oxford.

“They have a very different setup than we do,” she said. “We are deeply involved in the community and we do use our expertise to enhance education, but what we do best is run a university.”

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  1. It’s great that such an eminent person has spoken out against the demeaning assumptions of Maggie May and Nick Timothy. The Green Paper also starts from the assumption that independent schools are much better than state schools and therefore there should be a one-way traffic system whereby poor, benighted state school teachers learn from the wisdom of their private sector peers. This of course ignores the fact that few private school teachers would survive in a maintained school, even though the state trained them. When teachers from Wellington College started discussions to take over a maintained school in Wiltshire a few years ago, they had to have the concept of Key Stages explained to them. The level of ignorance displayed by our politicians and their pointy-headed SPADs is breathtaking.

  2. I heard her being interviewed and it was a breath of fresh air, admitting that this isn’t a university’s core purpose and they know far less about running schools than those that already run them.

  3. It demonstrates once again that there are people out there who think setting up and running a school is easy and these are the very same people who have no clue about teaching.Thank goodness the professor put it into perspective that the school system is run best by qualified teachers and headteachers.I cannot believe we still have politicians who are totally out of touch with real education in this country!!