Brian Cape, Chief Executive of SIPS Education, explains why the organisation is so much more than the sum of its parts

The current debate over the future status and funding of Channel 4 has really struck a chord (pardon the shameless musical-pun) with me, and as the leader of a co-operative and self-sufficient public-service it’s a timely reminder for all of us connected to SIPS Education, of our own values and ethos.

Since its creation 40 years ago, free-to-air public-service television network Channel 4 has provided innovative, independent content, developed opportunities for a thriving independent British creative-sector, and prides itself on its corporate responsibility, community support and independence.

The apparent drive for privatisation to allow C4 to become more competitive misses a significant beat – there’s room for all shapes and sizes of organisations, be they local, national or global, niche or broad, private, public or third sector. As long as they’re well-run good corporate-citizens, innovative, give their customers what they want and need, and treat their people well, then diversity in approach trumps a homogenous ‘private is best’ ideology. If it’s not broken…..don’t fix it.   

Whilst we don’t make cutting edge TV, there are some parallels with the SIPS co-operative model. 

We’re owned and governed by schools; we operate a truly modern and unique stakeholder-led service; the unremunerated SIPS board comprises representative community headteachers, local authority colleagues and staff.

We truly want our schools to play an important role in our present and future – each can feed back through its area representative, so we can be confident that we are giving them (and their children) the best possible service.

Our colleagues are also ‘stakeholders’ and we believe in One-SIPS – a connected organisation and first choice-employer, with constantly evolving and harmonised processes; our leadership team focus is simple: People, Culture & Strategy; ‘What more can we do to enrich the lives of children and young people?’ is the benevolent and philanthropic question which is always at the heart of our business.

Principally – we aren’t ideologically driven to make profits, which means we can help schools spend more money on direct education. 

Our model inspires and drives us to be much more than a provider of education services; we also consider ourselves to be a local ‘anchor-institution’ as an extension of schools; a respected employer, community champion and good corporate-citizen. We spend locally as much as possible on goods and services (66% of our procurement spend is in the West Midlands), employ locally (82% of our people live within five miles of our HQ) and are committed to the environment.

So, in the context of both SIPS and Channel 4, the operative question is: would a conglomerate or private organisation have the freedom, drive or moral-compass and constitutional and societal imperative or obligation to do the same? 

Not unlike C4, SIPS was established by (local) government, to provide a valuable and unique public service; We compete very well with the private-sector and collaborate with the public sector without the need for complex borrowing and the drive to extract profits to satisfy shareholders or rich-owners. ‘People over profit’ is our mantra, and it’s something we’re very proud of. 

As champions of diversity – there’s room for us all and our differences should be embraced….Big, isn’t always better.