John Simkin Posted January 16, 2006 Share Posted January 16, 2006 Rebecca Smithers and David Pallister Monday January 16, 2006 The Guardian http://education.guardian.co.uk/newschools...1687374,00.html An adviser to the government's £5bn city academy programme yesterday resigned after it was revealed that he had promised that wealthy individuals who agreed to make large donations to expand the programme would be rewarded with knighthoods and even peerages. Des Smith, a secondary headteacher who was also a council member of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT), which helps the government to recruit sponsors for the academies, stepped down from the advisory post after admitting that he had been "naive" in comments he had made to an undercover reporter. Contacted by the Guardian yesterday at his home in east London, Mr Smith said: "I have resigned today from the council. I have been shattered by this experience. I was naive. I shouldn't have said what I did. I'm desperately sorry." The head told the Sunday Times reporter that big financial donations to help set up the schools would guarantee an OBE, CBE, knighthood or even a peerage. He remains head of All Saints Catholic School and Technology College, Barking and Dagenham, a former Roman Catholic comprehensive which has been a specialist technology college since 1994 and where he has been credited with making great improvements. He had also been working as a consultant, via the council of the SSAT, to its chairman, Sir Cyril Taylor. Mr Smith said he had not been in touch with Sir Cyril about his decision to stand down. The Sunday Times reported that Mr Smith told a journalist posing as a potential donor's PR assistant that "the prime minister's office would recommend someone like [the donor] for an OBE, a CBE or a knighthood". Asked if this would be just for getting involved in the academies, he responded: "Yes ... they call them services to education. I would say to Cyril's office that we've got to start writing to the prime minister's office." For a donation of £10m, "you could go to the House of Lords". Earlier the defence secretary, John Reid, speaking on ITV's Jonathan Dimbleby programme, said: "I don't know who Mr Des Smith is ... He doesn't speak with any authority for the government at all. As far as I'm aware, he doesn't speak for the Labour party either." He added that people who contribute to the city academies programme usually have made other contributions to society. "If you look at the honours list, you will see that the range of people who receive honours range far and wide beyond those who make monetary contributions." Six sponsors who have made gifts since the programme to establish academies was launched in 2001 have been honoured under Labour. City academies - described by ministers as independent state schools - are funded directly from Whitehall, attracting government funding for the lion's share of the £25m capital cost after individuals and other donors commit to sponsorship of £2m. The government has hailed the involvement of business in the schools as bringing "a distinctive approach to school leadership, drawing on the skills of sponsors and other supporters." But critics have questioned why businessmen with no record in education should be allowed to have a role in the running of schools. There are 27 established so far, which have largely replaced secondary schools that were failing. Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, had called for Mr Smith to step down from the council, saying that his position was "untenable." The SSAT describes itself as "the lead advisory body on the specialist schools and academies initiatives ... providing advice and support for schools seeking to achieve or maintain specialist school status and to sponsors wishing to establish academies." Sir Cyril told the Sunday Times: "In no way is giving money to the academy linked to the award of an honour." Downing Street said: "It's nonsense to suggest that honours are awarded for giving money to an academy." The education department added: "This is not the view of the department nor has this view been expressed by the department. We are clear that the notion is complete and total nonsense." Sir Cyril could not be contacted for comment. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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