Harris Federation – Spotlight on Sponsors

The academy schools movement is increasingly dominated by chains. These self-styled ‘charities’ are in reality ‘edu-businesses’ paying fat cat salaries to their CEOs, developing corporate branding and seeking aggressive expansion in the education ‘market’. This briefing looks at the Harris Federation.

The Harris Federation is a key player amongst academy chains and has played a leading role in developing academy policies since they were introduced by New Labour. Harris Federation have several well established schools.

The Federation is named after Lord Phillip Harris of Peckham, one of the richest men in Britain who has a personal fortune of £275 million and runs the Carpetright chain of carpet stores. Harris is a member of the Tory Party and has many large donations including to several leading figures (see below).

The Harris Federation currently runs 13 academies, 1 of which is a primary school and has 2 more in development. 2 primary schools, which Michael Gove has declared are ‘underperforming’, are to be forced to become academies with Harris identified as a sponsor.  Harris also has 2 ‘free’ schools in development, one in Tottenham, North London.

Parents, staff, governors and the head opposed Downhills Primary being forced to become an academy. Gove sacked the governors and has made Harris the preferred sponsor.

Harris boast that the “Harris Federation has a performance record in terms of improvement in examination results combined with numbers of outstanding Academies which is unmatched by any Academy group in the country.”

We are happy to acknowledge the success of Harris where it is due but it is important to look more closely behind the spin. The use of GCSE equivalents and the high rate of exclusions may have helped Harris. It is also important to recognise that most of the Harris academies for which results have been published were set up under the New Labour programme. This was a very different programme that carried with it massive capital and generous transitional funding. In effect, brand new schools were set up.


Harris has spun its figures by using GCSE Equivalents

Under New Labour a set of GCSE ‘equivalents’ were introduced where other qualifications were counted as equivalent to 2, 3 or 4 GCSEs. This was used by many schools, but particularly academies, to improve their GCSE rankings.

The government recently removed 3,000 GCSE equivalents. While many school results were affected by this, academies were most affected, and academy chains did very badly.

When the equivalents are removed the average drop for all maintained schools nationally is 6 percentage points for 5 A*-C with English and Maths from 59.1% to 53.2%.

Harris Federation has 8 schools which entered pupils for GCSE in 2011. When you remove equivalents Harris GCSE results fell by 14% – far more than the national average.


Claimed GCSE A*-C withEnglish and Maths Result adjustedto remove equivalents drop inresults
Harris Academy at Peckham



Harris Academy Bermondsey



Harris Academy Falconwood



Harris Academy Merton



Harris Academy Purley



Harris Academy South Norwood



Harris City Academy Crystal Palace



Harris Girls’ Academy East Dulwich





The national average for 5 GCSE results at A*-C with English and Maths with equivalents removed is 53.2%. This means that half of the Harris Academies are below the national average.

GCSE data: http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-files/Guardian/documents/2012/01/26/2011KS4Publication_alldata.csv



Many people (eg the recent children commissioner report http://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/content/publications/content_561) are concerned that one way for academies to improve their results is to exclude a disproportionate number of the pupils.

The average permanent exclusion rate for local authority schools is 0.15% for 2009/10.

Harris Academy South Norwood permanently excluded 0.92% of its pupils, that’s 6 times the national average.

Harris Academy Falconwood excluded 0.53%,

Harris City Academy Crystal Palace excluded 0.41%,

Harris Academy at Peckham excluded 0.36%.

These figures illustrate a significantly higher rate of exclusion than the national average

Exclusions data: http://www.education.gov.uk/researchandstatistics/datasets/a00196834/permanent-and-fixed-period-exclusions-from-schools


Is Harris Federation a charity or a business?

The annual report for 2010 shows that the Harris Federation has a turnover of £130 million. It employs 1,157 people.

Whilst for legal, and perhaps moral reasons it presents as a charity (it was made an exempt charity in August 2011 so it no longer has to publish accounts with the charity Commission) its operations make it appear much more like a business.

It runs two separate but connected business arms

  • Harris Academies Project Management Limited “The company is used for construction work on a number of Harris Federation academy buildings.”  Made £337,000 profit.
  • HCTC Enterprises limited “The company is used to carry on business as a general commercial company”. It operates the Lewis Sports and Leisure Centre and made £23,000 profit.


CEO gets ‘fat cat’ pay and business culture pervades the federation

In 2009 29 people earned more that £60,000 per year, totalling £2,460,000.

By 2010 this had risen to 46 people earning £3,850,000 – an increase of 56%

For comparison an MP earned £65,738 in 2010.

In 2011 the government allowed academy chains to be defined as an ‘exempt charity’. This prevents us looking at their more recent annual reports. However the Guardian reported in November “A director of the Harris Federation earned £243,027 – a rise of £26,411 on the year before.” This compares to a paltry £142,500 for the Prime Minister.


It is clear that Lord Harris sees his business interests and his schools in a similar way. Author Francis Beckett reported in 2008 that “[He] phones his stores to see what the sales figures are, he calls his schools to find out the attendance figures.”



In an interview in the Financial Times in 2009 Michael Skapinker reported a discussion with Lord Harris “Can hospitals really be run like carpet shops? Aren’t they public services rather than businesses? Well, everything’s about serving a customer, he says.”



Aggressive expansionism

In 2010 Harris attempted to take over Kelsey Park school in Bromley, backed by Michael Gove. Both the Headteacher and Bromley Council were against the school becoming a Harris academy. The TES reported:

‘Kelsey Park head Brian Lloyd said he felt his school was the subject of a “hostile takeover bid” being improperly backed by the Government.’



While Harris were pushing Kelsey Park to become an academy they were also involved in initiating a ‘free’ school in the area, which would have competed for Kelsey Park pupils, further pressuring Kelsey Park.


Eventually the Kelsey Park governors voted to join the Harris Federation.

At the same time Cator Park girls school was invited to join the Harris Federation. The proposed ‘free’ school would also have impacted on Cator Park.

Cator Park also voted to join Harris.

After Harris had brought both schools into its Federation the ‘free’ school proposal was then withdrawn.


The Anti Academies Alliance is very concerned that the growth of academies means more and more of our schools are being taken over and run by chains like the Harris Federation. These chains look more like businesses than schools, and many are proud of this similarity. Is this how we want to see our schools run in the 21st Century?


 The Harris Federation and the Tory Party

“For a long time Lord Harris has been a great supporter and a great friend to me.” David Cameron

Chair Lord Phillip Harris of Peckham is a Conservative Peer and has donated a little over £2 million to the Tory party through his personal and business interests. This includes £50,000 to Boris Johnson, £120,000 to George Osborne, £145,000 to David Cameron to assist his Tory leadership election campaign.

Lord Harris gave David Cameron silver goblets for Xmas as well as a £3,500 hamper. Lord Harris is understood to be Cameron’s most influential backer and to have persuaded him to stand for leader of the Tory Party. At one point Harris was considered a possible treasurer of the Tory Party.

Chief Executive Officer Daniel Moynihan spoke at the Tory conference in 2010 and was asked to sit on a ministerial advisory group on the role of local authorities in education.

Sir Cyril Taylor is a non-executive director. Sir Cyril served on the Greater London Council from 1977 until 1986 and was elected deputy leader of the Conservative group from 1983. In 1994, the Conservative government, at the urging of Sir Cyril Taylor, designated 35 schools as Technology Colleges, the fore-runners to academies. He then reputedly persuaded Tony Blair to set up the academies programme on a train journey to York!

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37 Responses to Harris Federation – Spotlight on Sponsors

  1. A. O'Sullivan says:

    Working within the education sector and with trusted colleagues working within The Harris Federation, it is very much the case that current Ofsted inspection procedures have been manipulated with the support of fellow schools within the Federation. On the day, unannounced inspections would see an end to the practice of relocating less proficient teachers and creating the scenario of pupils with more severe behavioural issues to remain off site. Budget concerns remain non-scrutinised through creative accountancy and the corruption of professional-personal financial interests. As an example, maintenance services at an inflated cost have been ‘entrusted’ to the partner of The Federation’s Primary Regional Advisor.

  2. Concerned Mum II says:

    My experience of a Harris school, Bermondsey, in particular has not been good but I have nothing but praise for their SEN department.Since my daughter attended from Year 8-Year 9 she rarely had the same teacher as many left for unknown reasons. Found out a teacher (who has now left) had over-marked the students, so unsure if the grades given are realistic. A school report was sent describing another child – I’m still waiting for the amendment.School trips are limited as they believe it’s all about the military style education they operate. If you are a child from care/do not have a supportive parent and you are struggling with school then you will fall through the cracks or hidden away on an Ofsted visit! One old teacher was so put out that my daughter did not want to go on a trip that he said he would remember this and she would never go on another trip again.Things happen for a reason and my daughter has now left for a better school.Instead of academies look to support and find great strong teachers, have children call the teacher by their surname and not their first name as if you’re buddies. No make-up, short skirts, nail varnish. No restrictions on running about at break time or keeping children silent during their lunch break. When there is a class with a high percentage of disruptive children, the good children suffer. There was nothing wrong with the school format during the 80s

  3. Julianne says:

    I know a few people who work for Harris Academies, their general turnover of staff is massive and their monthly salaries are less than when with the LA. One particular school was taken over a few years ago, then the head was pushed out followed by heaps more teaching staff. The working ethos is dreadful and staff moral non existent. People are in fear of their jobs, some having been there for years and having no peace of mind or respect. Stress is on ‘outstanding teaching’ yet support staff are thrown in and expected to teach and cover with minimal training (if any at all) The emphasis is totally upon results and no care for the children. Teaching staff receive constant observations and are overwhelmed with unachievable workloads. This needs to stop, its time for these ‘businesses’ to be exposed for what they are, greedy corrupt entities.

  4. An Onymous says:

    I don’t wish to give my name, but I am a former teacher at Harris Academy. I lasted a short time and I decided it was just too much and left. The school is set up as a business and not a school – with an executive head, school head, associate & deputy head, faculty directors, subject leaders and then teachers – so it is very hierarchical. They usually hire their teachers through agencies, as a loophole to pay them less and have the ability to fire staff at will. They say after one term they will consider putting you on full time – if you last that long.
    They have a large turnover of staff. On the first day of term, they ‘welcomed’ the new staff and it totaled 30 odd teachers. Teachers are miserable, as an overwhelming amount of work is given, and expected to be done, so many teachers stay until 7pm in order to get work done. They also say your ‘official work hours’, but you are frowned upon if you are not there half an hour early or leave on time.
    Students are viewed as statistics, as the school uses data to drive all its decisions. Welfare isn’t considered important, but results are everything as is Ofsted.
    I’ll try reply if anyone has any questions, but no promises.

  5. RWilliams says:

    In 2009, the OFSTED report for The Quest Academy’s predecessor school stated ” Its main strength lies in the excellent leadership of the headteacher, who, in a relatively short time, has inspired staff and students to work together closely and create a positive learning environment. A strong team of senior managers is raising the aspirations of both teachers and students.”

    “students enjoy school, feel safe, and have mature
    views on adopting a healthy lifestyle. Elected captains and vice-captains of the four houses, prefects, and members of the school council have a good impact on their peers and on the whole community.”

    I think you can argue with its rate of progress!!!

  6. Quest Academy. Whilst it is important to be critical of academies where there is fault (and there is certainly plenty of that around)it is equally important to ensure that targets are selected correctly. I have looked at the Quest Academy OFSTED Report, and it really is one the academy should be proud of. Yes, there are historic weaknesses, but the strengths are enormous: *Strong leadership has led to significant improvements in all areas since the academy opened. It is well on the way to becoming good. * Earlier this year, the academy received ministerial recognition for improving students’ progress and was in the top 100 schools for this achievement * Behaviour has been transformed since the academy opened. It is a calm and well-ordered place to learn * The pursuit of good or better achievement for every student is at the heart of the academy’s work. Achievement gaps between different groups are closing rapidly * The Principal, governing body, Executive Principal and Trust share a vision for the academy to provide an outstanding quality of education and are driving improvement relentlessly to this end.

    You can’t argue with this rate of progress! If only every academy delivered as much as this, there would be no controversy.

  7. RWilliams says:

    After three years the Quest academy is still satisfactory!!! Outstanding school, Coloma Convent, takes over failing satisfactory school, Selsdon High School, and three years later OFSTED still rates it as satisfactory.

  8. Arriviste Benz says:

    I have an interview for a Harris Academy in two days time. Any more advice from people who have worked at one before?

  9. jane says:

    1. The relevance of that political affiliation of the Harris Academy – or rather Lord Harris – is that by donating large amounts of money to a political party it can been interpreted as an attempt to buy favour when it comes to expanding the academy chain. The implication being that the “preferred” sponsor for academies is the one who puts up most money and who wants a particular school. This does not lead to sensible structures and control in education.

    2. The evidence is that the model currently proposed for farming out education to all and sundry, rather than planning centrally and locally by governments, does not work either in the UK or internationally – so why are we following that model rather than following the model of, for example, Finland which has been consistently performing at the highest level. Why follow Sweden and the US who, on international comparisons, are no better than the UK?

    In the ’70s we had a standard of teacher training and primary education which was the envy of much of the rest of the world. It was not a model of learning by rote but one based on creating the ability to learn and reason. Visitors came from, for example, the US and Sweden to study our methods. Unfortunately, we then had successive Governments interfering and using education as a political, get tough, football. If what you say were true, then political leaders should be accepting the blame for the current position in international comparisons and, to paraphrase, “politicians leave those schools alone”.

    3. This does not make sense. On an analysis of Ofsted reports for converter academies published in June it is clear that performance in schools which have converted has got worse. A few schools which were converted to academy status have shown improvements, but others have consistently failed.

    4. I’m not sure this is relevant.

  10. Alex R says:

    Some points (Re-post):

    1) I fail to understand the relevance the political affiliation of the Harris Academy.

    2) It seems evident that (on the world stage)education standards in UK are low to mediocre, so I cannot see why there is so much animosity against a business improving education procedures & methodologies.

    3) Not all schools need to be run like Academies, however there is clearly a need for some to be.

    4) It seems to me that the public are happy with the standard of secondary education. This is an error.”Aim for the sky & you might reach the ceiling”. Unless you are happy with reaching only the sink.

  11. Alex R says:

    Some points:

    1) I fail to understand what political affiliation the Harris Academy has.
    2) It seems evident that (on the world stage)education standards are low to mediocre, so I cannot see why there is so much animosity against a business improving education procedures & methodologies.
    3) Not all schools need to be run like Academies, however there is clearly a need for some to be.

  12. Bob Warren says:

    In taking over a school on the premise of improving standards then the key point is the current students.
    If the organisation keeps all current students in the new ‘academy’ it has a sound basis for doing so. If it rejects ANY of the present students then it needs to be condemned most vehemently. Charter schools in Canada and many private (non government) schools in Australia have adopted this model. They then trumpet their success which is achieved on the back of students who are less gifted, able, or economically disadvantaged.
    The problem that this engenders is that surrounding schools are forced to pick up these students, usually with no extra resourcing and they in turn suffer in attempting to maintain/raise standards – it becomes a quick road to the lowest common denominator and the entrenched 2 or 3 tier education structure. Where’s the equity it that?

  13. John Smith says:

    Information needed on David Ross Academies please, as well as schools who have withdrawn from their possible involvement.

  14. Desi Boy says:

    My son and daughter will not be going to a school who’s first priority is profit not education. Thanks but, no thanks.

  15. Captain Swing says:

    JBDingley, the Tories closed more Grammar Schools in the early 1970’s that Labour did in the 60’s so there’s your theory blown out of the water…But businessmen taking over schools? Why? Because they’re nice people? No (they’re not). Because they know lots about education? No, my cats know more than Lord Harris. To get their snouts in the trough? (Ohhhh yessssss! Churchill (the dog)).

  16. lerxst says:

    Academy Trust accounts are published on the DfE website so no need to write to the Trust. Just download the latest version. I expect 2012 accounts will be available soon.

  17. JBDingley says:

    Pauline, what a stupid comment, check your facts, Lord Harris runs a charitable foundation dedicated to improving educational opportunities for children in the West Midlands, he’s not privatising anything.

    And regarding your comments re right wing philosophies, well look what your left wing ideology has done since the abolitionif grammar schools, well bloody done!!

  18. Pauline Allies says:

    Lord Harris has until recently run@ Carpetright, as I understand it. He is stepping down as the company is in trouble. Of course he is very well qualified as a Tory to suggest a right wing privatistion philosophy to run educational establishments. He is probably as well qualified as the intelligent, caring man who, in my opinion, is the vile Michael Gove.

  19. JBDINGLEY says:

    They are a charitable foundation who want to improve the, until recently, dire schooling this country has to offer, there isn’t some evil plot here contrary to what this website would have you believe!!! Lol

  20. concerned mum says:

    Could someone please clarify how exactly do Harris Academy and other Academies make their money? With figures of over £100m pounds the mind boggles! They say they don’t make a profit so where does it go? Is it all used to pay salaries and overheads?

  21. Neil Moffatt says:

    With a school in Croydon as the latest in this chain of forced conversions, with no legal grounds at all (a minor sub-standard inspection report was caused by computer failure to supply the figures in time for an otherwise excellent school), are there not now legal grounds for contesting the process? Can they break their own rules and act entirely on the interests of Harris, their ‘friend’ in a transparently old-pals act?

  22. Nigel says:

    Exempt charities are required to provide a copy of their most recent accounts to anyone who requests them, notwithstanding that they are not registered with the Charity Commission. Check out s.172 of the Charities Act 2011.

    BTW I will be at the Roke Primary School meeting this evening. Seems it’s been decided not to bother with consultation as mentioned at s.5 of the Academies Act 2010.

  23. Jon says:

    Roke Primary School in Kenley, Surrey is now being forced into academy status with the Harris Federation, against the wishes of the governors and parents.


  24. Jane says:

    Approximate information like this can be obtained from Companies House at a cost of £1 per document. Since the Academies Act 2010 the academy trusts have become exempt charities, so their accounts are no longer available via the Charity Commission.

    The accounts for Barnfield to August 2011 show that the highest paid person earned between £110k and £120k. 3 staff are paid between £60k and £70k. In 2010 no-one was in this salary range. According to the 2009 salaries, 1 person was paid between £100k and £110k and one was paid between £70k and £80k.

  25. david smith says:

    I would like to know what salary is paid to the boss of the Barnfield Trust in Luton?

  26. A says:

    At interviews over the last 2 years I have met two teachers who had actually resigned from a Harris Academy without a job to go to, because they hated working there so much. I have also met another 2 teachers who were working there on a supply basis who had no desire whatsoever to stay on a permanent basis even if asked. They warned me not to go there as “everyone’s stressed, unhappy and wants to leave.” One of the supply teachers told me just 2 weeks ago that, on her first day, she arrived very early as she has a relatively long journey, and getting there around 7a.m. found the car park so full she had trouble finding a place and that the car park was still full at 7 pm. She also said she was teaching IB languages but, after trying IB this year, they are dropping it next as the students are so used to being spoon fed they cannot cope with an exam that actually requires them to think. Needless to say she will not be returning in September even if asked. As for me, after 2 years on supply I would love to have a permanent job again, but will not apply to a Harris Academy even though there is one within walking distance of my flat. In the past before meeting these people I naively did apply, but being 53 and on pay scale UPS2 they would not have me anyway. (The difficulty of people of my experience and age getting a permanent teaching job in the present climate is another topic I could go on about for ages). As a language teacher who has experience of both the experience of the past in this country and abroad,it seems to me that we have gone mad. Other countries have higher standards and much less of this nonsense. When will people in this country realise we are going along the wrong path?

  27. Mike G says:

    I completely agree with your first paragraph here and would love you to have a similar look into how the David Ross Education Trust is performing.

    The expansion of these academy chains seems to be more about who you are than how qualified you are to guide the education of the children of the nation. They’re businesses masquerading as charities, in it for the benefits of such status – would the same people be stepping up to the plate if they couldn’t be run as charities?

    Whilst David Ross is well renowned for his rise to fame as co-founder of Carphone Warehouse his performance since he was forced to resign from there has been a little less impressive.

    He was forced to resign from a number of his directorships and the one he kept (he’s Chairman of Cosalt plc) has been driven from a company with a turnover above £100M to one that he tried to buyout recently for £400,000 and has been suspended by the UKLA for the last 3 months for failing to produce it’s accounts for 2011. Shareholders have been calling for his head for more than 6 months. http://www.lse.co.uk/ShareChat.asp?ShareTicker=CSLT

    He’s in a honeymoon period with his academies, his trust is funded to the hilt with the transfer in of former public assets and government funding. He puts his name to it as though he’s the one who’s financing it when it’s primarily funded by others.

    On the face of it all seems well but when the rapid expansion slows and the fresh funding has to come from within or from donations is the model he’s pushing sustainable? He is well equipped for running cash rich enterprises, not so sure about when he’s faced with having to balance the books on a tight budget. Can we have the spotlight on the David Ross Education Trust please.

  28. Mrs A Simpson says:

    Harris Academies are relentless in their inventiveness of removing staff who are not slavishly following the party line. Their most recent initiative is to hire in a private firm of ‘inspectors’ prior to an HMI inspection and use this as a vehicle to find teachers with previously Outstanding lesson observations as now ‘Inadequate’ without these ‘inspectors’ looking at vital documents such as SEFs and seemingly blind to other evidence of exemplary or good practise. Next comes bullying from the Head to attend an ‘informal capability meeting’ ..- does this even exist??? and hey presto, in staff files appears an ‘Inadequate’ report just in time for the change in the law regarding capability & weak teachers in September. Harris staff also have to sign a confidentiality agreement which prevents them from speaking out about what is going on. Needless to say, I am not one of the staff. Can friends of people who work in these horrible places PLEASE start to tell the truth??!!

  29. Mrs A Simpson says:

    Harris Academies appear to be on a mission to purge out teachers who are over 50, female and black in addition to fuelling a ridiculously high level of turnover of staff in general. There are staff with outstanding grievances and at least one case going to Tribunal for racial discrimination this autumn. Currently Harris Bermondsey has 27 staff who are leaving at the end of this year and several other staff who have left during this academic year, plus casualties who are off sick despite years of exemplary service, excellent attendance records and high GCSE results. Why are we accepting their heinous aggressive management policies which create an atmosphere of fear and stress at work inevitably affecting the delivery of education to the students who are often left with an army of supply teachers covering in many subjects?

  30. ross kingsley says:

    There are going to be two Harris Acadamies in Merton as of September 2012 as Bishopsford Arts College has been forced to join the federation. That school has a hugely challenging and complex intake and had been making progress.

  31. ‘The faults of the burglar are the qualities of the financier’.
    – George Bernard Shaw

  32. Rodger Williams says:

    We aren’t going to send our children to an academy say the parents of Sevenoaks:


  33. Ryszard Konietzka says:

    Check out Harris’s ‘close to the mark’ admissions policies as well. ALL children are tested and allocated to one of 9 ability bands. The school then apparently admits children in proportion. What they don’t tell you is the fact that they

    i) select the top of each ability band, rather than a random sample
    ii) if a child is otherwise admitted outside the above policy, they then take children from the top of the bands.

    So, in effect, a quasi-grammar school, together with ‘equivalent’ qualifcations to make up the rest.

  34. Rodger Williams says:

    It worth submitting a FOI request to all the boroughs that have an Harris academy to see if the ability profile of each Harris academy matches the one that applied to the academy.

  35. John Bolt says:

    Excellent analysis of how these people work. There is an National College for School Leadership report out on academy chains which shows very clearly how school autonomy is a thing of the past in these chains …. and chillingly NCSL buys into the chain’s way of seeing things quite uncritically. There is a review of this report on the Socialist Educational Association blog at http://educevery.wordpress.com/

  36. Lynne Faulkes says:

    just how much are these “sppnsors” putting into schools’ education?

  37. john Hobson says:

    One aspect which isn’t being picked up is the staff turnover figures. Staff are effectively bulled and constantly monitored, burnt out and leave. They are enticed by inflated job titles and generally don’t have the experience for the jobs but as Harris a system they don’t care.

    A few weeks back Harris advertised for 13 staff and is wasn’t even easter. I’d expect turnover is running at close to 100% over 3 years.

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