Beccles Free School Proposer Melanie Tucker and MTM Consulting
For the avoidance of all doubt neither I or mtmconsulting have any financial interest in Beccles Free School. Any work that has been done either by me or mtmconsulting has been on a pro bono basis. No fees have been charged or paid.I also contacted the Seckford Foundation and they said that no money had been paid to MTM by them or anyone else in respect of Beccles Free School
Recently Melanie Tucker was was quoted by the EDP saying:
I think there has been a groundswell of positive opinion for the establishment of free schools and positive comments from parents who want to see a choice.This comment (made on 27th January) seems to me strange as there appears to be growing opposition to the free school particularly since it announced it would open in Carlton Colville.
Hundreds have signed a petition opposing the free school including local councillor and Conservative Leader of Suffolk County Council Mark Bee, there have been constant critical letters in the local press and five Headteachers of local schools and academies signed a letter opposing the school and sent it to all local parents.
MTM Consulting which is an educational consultancy. MTM's website gives this information about Tucker:
Melanie, who founded mtm and leads our education marketing services, has experience in the world of business and as a senior manager in independent boarding education. Her work includes marketing independent and state schools and colleges as well as defining strategies for effective competition in education and scenario planning.
Melanie has carried out a number of extensive projects for schools of all shapes and sizes. She is an innovative thinker and an expert in business strategy.
Melanie has many years’ experience as a Justice of the Peace, a Non-executive Director of an NHS Trust and as a Trustee of charitable foundations concerned with land management and property.MTM offer a range of educational services mainly in the independent sector but increasingly to free schools and academies. Melanie Tucker sees free schools eventually going on to be profit making and (echoing the words of fellow free school founder Tony Callaghan) as an alternative to "bog standard schools":
In mtm’s Independent Education Sector Report 2010 we said that we could not see the government allowing profit in their first term. Given the nature of the coalition with the Lib-Dems, (ideologically against free schools and certainly against profit taking), this will certainly be the case. But we predict that if Conservatives get in for a second term they will allow profit taking in order to see their reforms through at the desired rate, and respond to parental demand for school improvement.
The upshot? The academy and free school programme will be a real driver of structural change in the schools market, impacting on all education providers. This will be given momentum by parental and public opinion no longer tolerant of “bog standard schools”, particularly given the requirements of universities and employers for qualifications and core skills that will add value to their children’s careers.And of the Beccles Free school this is discussed on her Blog in the same sentence as she mentions underachievement in rural Suffolk by implication at Sir John Leman and other local schools.
In free school projects with which mtm is involved we have seen growing support from parents. This was endorsed by Rachel Wolf director of the New Schools Network who said that she sees “a massive pent up demand for free schools.” This has certainly been the case with the Waveney High School project in Beccles where there has been a strong response from parents who want a first class school that will enable their children to achieve more in rural Suffolk where there is a history of pupil underachievement.The same post sees free schools as a way of weakening local authority control and trade unions by "marketisation":
There is certainly a missionary zeal on the part of the government to see school improvement and to diminish the power of local authorities and unions by the use of market forces to achieve the reforms.But what is interesting is that Melanie describes MTM as being involved at all in the free school bid. Early on in the process a local resident wrote to the proposers concerned about the involvement of Melanie Tucker and suggesting there might be a perceived conflict of interest. The resident has supplied this blog with copies of this correspondence:
During a public meeting this evening I asked which education company Melanie Tucker represents. She did not answer the question. I am sure you will agree that we need the utmost clarity and transparency during a consultation process of this sort, and would therefore ask if you could tell me the name of the company. As you will probably acknowledge, any real or apparent conflict of interests on the steering group should be addressed, if only to dispel suspicion. During the meeting I also raised the issue of transparency and freedom of information. The meeting was assured that Waveney High School would conform to the highest standards of openness, and I therefore assume my request will be answered at the earliest opportunity.The reply comes from Aidan McHugh, Chair of the free school proposers:
Whilst mtm Consulting is the organization founded by Melanie Tucker her involvement with the project has been on an individual basis. I am prepared to confirm that there are no funds available for the submission of Free School applications and no individual or company has received expenses or remuneration in this process.
Aidan McHughWaveney High School Project Group
This is challenged by the local resident who phones the company and cites the website as evidence for the involvement of her company rather than the "individual" involvement suggested.
Regarding Ms Tucker's involvement, there seems to be a contradiction between your assertion that she is engaged only 'on an individual basis', and her own statement on her company's website. Here she clearly flags up her firm's involvement:Aidan McHugh replies:
In free school projects with which mtm is involved we have seen growing support from parents. This was endorsed by Rachel Wolf director of the New Schools Network who said that she sees “a massive pent up demand for free schools.” This has certainly been the case with the Waveney High School project in Beccles where there has been a strong response from parents who want a first class school that will enable their children to achieve more in rural Suffolk where there is a history of pupil underachievement. [My emphasis]
When I phoned MTM myself and asked to be put through to someone who could answer some questions on the Beccles free school project, I was told that Ms Tucker was out of the office, but would be the best person to speak with. If MTM Consulting has no formal relationship with your campaign, why does it advertise its involvement on its website? When I worked as a Creative Director in a London communications agency I would certainly not have been allowed to publicise my freelance work, or my hobbies, on the company website.
Melanie Tucker joined our project as an individual and not in a company capacity. Our involvement has remained on this individual basis. The fact that the experience and insight into Free Schools with our project presents opportunities for her educational consultancy does not cause any conflict for us. We are grateful for the considerable contribution that she has made and continues to make.The resident goes back with;
I find this rather confusing. You assert that Ms Tucker is involved in a purely personal capacity, yet (as you admit) a company of which she is a director is, as a result of her involvement in the free school project, presented with (to use your word) "opportunities". Ms Tucker's company is keen to publicise its — not Ms Tucker's — involvement in the Waveney High School project. Assuming that MTM Consulting is being open and honest about its involvement in the project, doesn't the role of one of its directors on the steering group raise obvious questions regarding possible 'competition of interest'?
Please note that the suggestion that 'competition of interest' may exist is not equivalent to a suggestion of impropriety. I merely suggest that possible conflicts need to be avoided in a campaign aimed at securing public support for a project that will involve spending considerable sums of public money.
The page says:
Beccles Free School sought a catchment in the region of a half hour drive time, in order that parents across a rural area have a choice of school in Beccles with a more academic ethos that focuses on the English Baccalaureate.A large map of the Beccles cachment is shown on the page and visitors invited:
For more information about MANDARIN catchment analysis and our consultancy services for Academies and Free Schools please contact ********MTM name and number******The starting price for a catchment area report is £1,850.