According to The Guardian
a right-wing think tank, The Adam Smith Institute, has very conveniently advised the government to allow profit-making companies to open and run free schools, arguing that Michael Gove's plans for reform are otherwise doomed to failure. Just some days after the government admitted that their policy was financially unsustainable.
The reason to open up free schools to the private sector without the framework of a charity or trust is so that the government can reach its target to provide 222,000 extra school places. So far just 41 free schools have proceeded to business case stage, and only a handful will open in September 2011. The Institute doesn’t appear to have recommended that the government should abandon the policy and create more school places within the existing framework of community schools by expanding and renovating schools.
The report says there is no evidence to suggest that for-profit management compromises standards – claiming the opposite appears to be true. But there IS evidence and it is to be found in Charter Schools, so beloved of Gove, in America.
I commented about the very real problems when public funds become private once they enter the account of management companies in US Charter Schools here
on . Just one example out of many is a case filed last autumn against White Hat Management by the state of Ohio and 10 of it schools, asking the court to help the group of schools to “break free from the dominance by private interests”. The disputes arise from a suspicion that these companies put profit before education. They control essential schools services - management, operation, administration, accounting and curriculum with little transparency so that it is the school boards who get the blame when things go wrong and it is the students who carry the greatest risk when the schools fail.
The bottom line is that Charter Schools, in all respects, have not been the unqualified success that we have been led to believe. Charter Schools have had to learn very hard lessons from the privatisation of public schools. Only one of five charters has been successful, they have not been proven to improve the education or life opportunities for the poor and they are now engaged in complex breach of contract litigation with the for-profit organizations charged to improve standards. But apparently the thinktank haven’t considered this evidence - even though it is a few clicks away on the internet.