“…if CfBT, Serco or anyone else wants to set up a new school, that we will allow you,” said Mr Gove twenty-four minutes into his speech at the Policy Exchange on 17 March 2010 before the last election.
Serco is a profit-making company which was in charge of education in Bradford for ten years. Its contract was not renewed and control of education is now back with the council. In 2005 five of Serco's senior managers were found guilty of racial discrimination against the 42-year-old African Caribbean project manager in Bradford. Serco featured in the Dispatches programme, Britain’s Secret Fat Cats which accused outsourcing companies of profiting from the Big Society.
The speech was given at the launch of a Policy Exchange report co-authored by the New Schools Network (NSN). In answer to a question, one platform speaker sitting next to Rachel Wolf of the NSN said that the Conservatives weren’t “grabbing” the notion of profit-making schools at the moment because of the “emotion” around the issue. “Politically it’s incredibly sensitive,” she said before adding that Blair and his advisers saw no reason why academy providers shouldn’t make a profit but the “potato was a bit too hot to touch”.
“In the longer term, though,” the speaker continued, “I think that if we’re to achieve serious scale then profit is a big issue because a lot of chains who would like to come to this country, and people who would like to expand are very much waiting for that to happen… Policy Exchange would certainly nudge very strongly in this direction.”
So it’s now clear – if profit-making companies want to set up schools Mr Gove will allow them, and Policy Exchange, where Mr Gove was once chairman, will help him.