Why does a publicly funded academy think good teaching is ‘commercially sensitive’

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July 29, 2014 by Paul Goldsmith

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Sometimes you hear something that makes you stop in your tracks and realise that our education system is going in the wrong direction. On Monday I heard a story that did just that. An academy (note, a state school) was approached by someone at my old school (note, another state school) and asked whether they would share the secret of their outstanding ICT results. The answer? ‘We can’t do that, it’s commercially sensitive information’.

Let me just emphasise. A school that operates in the public sector, that receives public sector money to educate the children of the UK, refusing to collaborate and share good practice with another school because of ‘commercial sensitivities’. Anyone see the problem with that?

I am a believer that all educators should work together if it leads to better outcome for young people, and that can mean collaboration within departments, within schools and between schools. If you teach a good lesson, you share it, if you come up with a good classroom management strategy, you share it, if you find a way of delivering a subject well, you share it. Why? It benefits the kids.

Even private schools, who do actually compete against each other for pupils, recognise that they and the kids have much to gain from working together. We form subject groups where we get together and share tips on running a successful department, good resources, and techniques to help pupils get good grades. Why? Because we are in the business of education, and in the end with kids it is not, and never must be, a zero sum game.

So when an academy tells a fellow state school that a way of teaching a subject successfully is ‘commercially sensitive’ it is easy to see why some people worry about the marketisation of education. This country’s pupils are not theirs. They are ours.

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