Stories + Views
The current set up for Free Schools is a complete disaster – even an openly “for profit” system would be fairer
Allan Beavis’s last excellent post raised this issue. Janet Downs, a brilliant LSN blogger, said that she was deeply uncomfortable on the “for profit” idea for schools. I agree, I’m against it on “principle”: the moment you start making a profit out of children’s education, the pupils become secondary, and cost-cutting, erosion of genuine standards, “commodification” of children’s lives and, ultimately, corruption ensue — as Allan eloquently points out in his last post.
But let’s look at the current situation. My concern is that the current free school system is actually “for profit” without saying it on the tin: the “charities”/organisations running academies/free schools are paying their top people huge salaries at great expense to the taxpayer, but as private companies they are not taking the “risk” that private enterprises take on, because they’re being funded entirely by the taxpayer — who will pick up the tab if they fail. It’s win-win for companies like E-Act, Cognita, Ark etc at the moment (virtually a cartel) but actually a genuine “for profit” system would be fairer for the taxpayer than the current system. In a genuine “for profit” system, these companies would have to a) raise their own capital funds b) deal with the consequences if they make a loss. What we have at the moment is a deeply unfair set-up which benefits a privileged few private companies who are friendly with the powers-that-be (who take NO risks).
I realise what I am saying is a scary thought, but the deeply disingenuous programme we have in place at the moment satisfies NO ONE: it’s massively expensive, very bureaucratic and the taxpayer is shouldering ALL the risk.
I think this issue is one we have to address because the reality is that the free school system is here for the time being. Or is this argument a completely bogus one? I am happy to be corrected!