The man in charge of a scheme aiming to revolutionise schools in Birmingham has revealed radical plans to improve education for city pupils.
Speaking exclusively to the Post for the first time since Birmingham Education Partnership (BEP) was tasked by council bosses to drive improvement in city schools, chairman Tim Boyes has revealed the private sector could play a key role.
He also said, under the blueprint, city schools would be split up into districts which would work together to improve standards.
But Mr Boyes warned the current situation of academies, state and free schools was creating a "divided and polarised" network of pupils.
The 50-page school improvement plan was set out by Birmingham City Council in response to the Trojan Horse scandal, which saw hard-line Muslims attempting to take control of governing bodies at schools.
Council bosses have pledged £11.7 million to BEP to implement the plan and clean-up schools in the wake of the scandal – including a £500,000 spend on training school governors, with a recruitment campaign set to begin this month.
New rigorous checks will be in place to prevent any potential extremists slipping through the net, and Birmingham businesses will also play a key role.
Mr Boyes, head teacher at Queensbridge School in Moseley, said: "In the private world there is a real sense of corporate social responsibility.
"We hope to create a network of big employers, with top CEOs sharing expertise on governance."
He said law firm Pinsent Masons would be "at the centre" of the network, which is also aimed at tackling the city's skills gap, while schools would also be urged to tap into resources offered by charities and voluntary organisations.
"When it comes to really looking at the life experience of children, it takes a whole city to raise a child," he said, adding BEP would lean on the council to boost community facilities such as parks and libraries.
Meanwhile, he revealed that BEP – which is made up of head teachers across the city – would create "families of schools" that would "feed off each other".
He said the initiative would use the city's district structure, with a head teacher from each of Birmingham's ten constituency areas being appointed as "district leaders". He added: "They will work with clusters of schools, identifying problems and sharing best practice."
He said the plan, to be carried out over the next three years, would boost the number of schools being deemed by education watchdog Ofsted as "good" or "outstanding".
Currently, just 53 per cent of Birmingham's 418 schools are "good" – seven per cent less than the national average. While 24 schools (six per cent) are currently "inadequate" – including the five at the centre of the Trojan Horse plot.
Mr Boyes said the education system – now made up of a mixture of academies, free, faith and local authority-controlled schools – was contributing to pupils being "divided and polarised".
"It is true that there is a problem in Birmingham and the country with government policy that says choice is the key organising feature of the education system," he said.
He added that many pupils did not, in reality, have a choice of where they went to school – with pupils in "poor neighbourhoods" often being forced into failing schools.
"We are not for or against academies; we are for everyone," he said. "We know both maintained schools and academies will suffer if leadership or management isn't good.
"But schools that are defined by social class, ethnicity or religion do not help community cohesion. We need to build trust and relationships, a sense of togetherness."
The plan also includes a report – due to be published in June – which will debate whether secular schools should provide daily Christian acts of worship.
School leaders and students will also be taught skills to "cope with radicalisation", while guidance has been sent setting out rules to safeguard against religious extremism.
Former education secretary Estelle Morris will take over as chair of BEP in September – a move Mr Boyles said BEP needed to "galvanise us into action".
Baroness Morris, a former teacher and Yardley MP, said: "Schools must not be isolated from each other and need to be part of a wider education community. We now have a mixed economy of schools, academies and free schools but that must never detract from the need to work together for the benefit of the children.
"The creation of BEP is testament to that spirit of working together and a strong commitment to retaining a sense of 'Birminghamness'."
The plan will also include a new council "operational group", with Birmingham's education commissioner Sir Michael Tomlinson at the helm.
Mr Tomlinson, who was appointed as a result of the Trojan Horse scandal, said: "It is crucial that these new arrangements prove effective for all schools in Birmingham and I will continue to work closely with the council to ensure they have the support they need.
"This model of school-to-school working has proved to be effective in other parts of England."
Councillor Brigid Jones, the council's cabinet member for children and family services, said: "Education has the power to transform lives. Every child in Birmingham has the right to a fantastic childhood and the best preparation for adult life in the modern world."
She said the plan aimed to "tackle uncompromisingly" the weaknesses and failings of the council highlighted in the damning reports by Peter Clarke and Ian Kershaw triggered by the Trojan Horse scandal.