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Queries over cash to improve deprived schools
QUESTIONS have been raised over whether Oxford City Council should pay universities £300,000 to make improvements to deprived schools.
Craig Simmonds queried the deal as universities work with schools as part of a move to levy higher tuition fees.
But Oxford University said the council’s Leadership for Learning programme complements its existing work.
Mr Simmonds said: “This is a huge issue. The council is strapped for cash and should not be subsidising the university to do things it should be doing anyway.”
He said he had struggled to get clarity from council officers on whether the two schemes overlap.
He said: “We need to check that the city council is not subsidising the universities’ education programme and that we are getting additional people.”
Universities which want to charge up to £9,000-a-year tuition fees have to sign an “access agreement” with the Office for Fair Access on how it will work with the community. Both universities now charge fees of up to £9,000.
The agreements are to “to raise aspirations and academic attainment among children”.
Oxford University spokesman Matt Pickles said: “The Leadership for Learning project is running alongside our existing outreach efforts and does not replace our ongoing and long-standing work with local schools.”
The university already does “a huge amount of work with local schools and schoolchildren which is fully funded by the collegiate university” he said. “It is completely untrue to suggest the university is not meeting Office For Fair Access (OFFA) expectations.”
Brookes spokesman Ed Reed said the university runs schemes including summer schools, free short courses and links with colleges.
He said: “Oxford Brookes offers more than £3.5m to provide enhanced bursaries of up to £2,000 and additionally fee reductions of up to £2,500 for students from low income groups.”
The city council had yet to comment. Schools participating in its scheme are: Bayards Hill, Church Cowley St James, Cutteslowe, East Oxford, Larkrise, Pegasus, Orchard Meadow and Windale (three schools forming the new Blackbird Leys Academy), St Francis, St John Fisher and Wood Farm.
About 40 teachers and governors will get up to 12 days training, three one-day workshops, two meetings twice a term to address shared concerns and further mentoring.