A profit-making firm, Internationella Engelska Skolan (IES), was awarded a £21 million contract
last December to run Breckland Free School. This move was welcomed by the Daily Telegraph
who praised Mr Gove for acting “unobtrusively” in paving the way for state schools to make a profit.
on its website in October 2010 that the “UK Government has been actively seeking Internationella Engelska Skolan as a potential provider of the necessary vision and infrastructure to make the first wave of Free Schools a success.”
The DfE, however, says that it holds no copies of letters or emails to IES which invited the organisation to consider being a potential education provider. This information, revealed by a Freedom of Information
request, also said the DfE does not hold a list of organisations that have been approached as potential education providers for free schools.
This raises the question about how the UK Government was able, as IES claims, to pursue a profit-making firm as a potential provider if it neither wrote letters or sent emails. But contact was made. Lord Hill
met with IES to discuss its work in June 2010. He also had an introductory meeting with Kunskapsskolan, another Swedish profit-making provider the following month.
Proposers of two free schools, the Breckland Free School and the West London Free School, have visited IES schools in Sweden. Contact between IES and potential free schools is, therefore, encouraged, if not by the Government then certainly on its behalf. And this contact began before the Coalition came into power.
Among the comments following the Telegraph article was one from mikestallard, proposer of a free school in Wisbech (12.15, 12/16/2011) which said, “We tried to start up a free school with IES. In March 2010, I personally attended an initial meeting in London with Rachel Wolf [New Schools Network] and Michael Gove where the question of profit actually came up. I remember Michael Gove saying it was no problem, ’You simply subcontract’. The CEO of IES, Peter Fyles, gave a speech as an honoured expert”. Mike Stallard also left a comment on this site
about his proposed free school. He wrote, “we worked closely with a Swedish organisation which was recommended by Michael Gove before the election.”
This perhaps explains why the DfE has no record of correspondence between the Department and IES. Contact appears to have been made while Mr Gove was in opposition. He was recommending profit-making providers to potential free schools in March 2010 well before the legislation had been passed that made free schools a possibility. In the same month he said he would have no problems with allowing profit-making firms
like Serco from running English state schools.
None of this was mentioned in the Conservative manifesto – the only reference to providers was that “any good provider” would be able to set up a new Academy. This is not the same as any profit-making provider can run a school which other people have set up. I think it’s called sophistry