Why we should oppose making profit out of schools

It perhaps says something about how worried the Tories are about what’s coming out of Leverson that Michael Gove should want to try and divert attention from his own performance by floating again the idea of profit making schools. Maybe he thought that, as a result, no one would notice his hymn of praise to Rupert Murdoch and all his works. Obviously there was no hint of a vested interest in this just because this is a company he used to, and that his wife still does, work for.

Talk of profit making has brought out the usual suspects to tell us that this is the next logical step and why wouldn’t everyone want to do this. One anonymous source told the TES “when you buy a product you don’t ask where the profits go, you ask if the product is any good”. And continued “the consensus is that parents are so fed up with bad quality education they would like to see something different.”

In many ways these quotes tell us all we need to know about people who propagate this stuff:

  1. Education is a product you buy – schools are just things plonked down somewhere by some anonymous company. Then as parents you go to Sainsbury or Tesco – assuming they’re prepared to have you. No notion that a school should actually belong to the community it serves and should promote the values and interests of that community. Some people say it doesn’t matter who provides schools as long as they’re good – actually, it does if we think that people in a democracy have any right at all to influence what kind of schools their children go to.
  2.  Don’t ask where the profits go – someone is taking money out of the school – but we’re not to know who or how much. After all there is such a thing as commercial confidentiality. Intriguingly, on the opposite page of the TES, it reports that the Schools Network – previously the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust and the cheerleader for marketization right back to the days of grant maintained schools – has gone bust. One reason, it reports is the cost of its £1.4 million a year offices in Millbank Tower.  So no, we don’t need to ask where the profits are going – we know it’ll be fat management salaries, expenses and offices.
  3. Parents are fed up – are they really? Every survey I’ve ever seen says parents are very happy with the school their children go to.  And in many places they’ve sent a very clear message that they don’t want their schools handed over to private companies. Only this February, Populus recorded 79% opposition to private companies making a profit out of state schools. 
  4. Something different – what we know will be different is, if there is money to be made, the private sector will ignore quality in pursuit of a fast buck. That’s why Free Schools don’t have to employ qualified teachers – the first step in a dangerous road. Or to take another current example, it’s why SERCO think its ok for 1 out of hours GP to cover the whole of Cornwall. We don’t want the cheapest schools – we want the best.

There is of course one reason for us not worrying too much about all this. Nick Clegg has said it won’t happen. So that’s all right then … isn’t it…….?? Rather more importantly, Stephen Twigg has rapidly come out firmly against profit making from state schools. It’s urgent now that the case is made as to why this has to be stopped in its tracks or its going to be one of those things that creeps up on us before the argument has been had. As Mark Twain said “a lie is halfway round the world before the truth has got its boots on”. We need to get our boots on for this one before it’s too late.




One Comment on “Why we should oppose making profit out of schools”

  1. trevor fisher says:

    It is true that the populus survey showed little support for profit making schools, but a close analysis shows that opposition is not overwhelming, and there was a soft centre not that bothered. WHich is why Gove and his supporters think they can turn the scale of opinion. It would be sensible to consider how the right get away with eroding the public service ethos.

    He has already started for profit in the FE sector. through the 2011 ed bill. because it was FE, an educational world besotted with schools did not notice.

    If we are to make progress, stopping the FE for profit campaign is the first place to start

    trevor fisher