The lobbying scandal has some worrying implications for state schools

Francis Gilbert's picture
The scandal of Peter Cruddas offering access to the Prime Minister in return for eye-watering sums of money has some very disturbing implications for the schools policy being implemented by the Coalition. As we are seeing, private firms, charities and other organisations are taking over the running of many of English schools or setting up their own "free schools". This latest lobbying scandal shows that it's those with the deepest pockets who have the ear of government. Does this mean that wealthy organisations, charities, religious groups and individuals are able to buy access to the top tier of government and, as a result, set up their own schools at the taxpayers' expense?

It makes me wonder just what has been going on behind closed doors with regards to free schools and academies. I still find it very puzzling that certain edu-chains have been given the go-ahead to set up free schools or run academies when they quite clearly don't seem fit to run schools. But one suspects that questionable outfits like Steiner schools, E-Act schools and Edison are just the tip of the iceberg. In the coming years, we are going to see well-funded fundamentalist organisations and nutty organisations like the Scientologists knocking at the governments' door to set up schools. Indeed in February, the British Humanist Association pointed out that there are as many as a hundred religious or pseudo-scientific groups planning to set up free schools. Some of these organisations have a great deal of money. I wonder if any of it has found its way into the coffers of the Tory Party?
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sarah dodds's picture
Mon, 26/03/2012 - 08:04

I agree Francis, but I don't think it is just your religious nuts we have to worry about. Whether it is AET, Harris or CfBT, how long before education policy itself is created on behalf of the private companies that are now the bed fellows of the DE civil service?
Give me a boring local authority any time.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 26/03/2012 - 17:55

Sarah is correct. It's the large chains with their trading arms which are the concern. In 2010, the National Audit Office warned about a possible conflict of interest where academy sponsors also provided services. It also warned that these services may not be the best value-for-money and prevented the academies from exploring other options.

Where sponsors, and education providers, provide the whole package (not just administrative back-up but recruits teachers, provides resources and so on) there is a real danger that these might not necessarily be the ones that the academy would have chosen for themselves.

And when stories break like "Cash for Coronets", "Donate thousands and eat with David" and "Cough Up Pounds for Policy Changes" then the electorate is right to be concerned.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Mon, 26/03/2012 - 08:42

The biggest and best funded lobbying group has for many years been the NUT. They have indeed had a pernicious effect on policy and outcomes. It is all to the good that other voices are at last being heard.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 27/03/2012 - 15:00

A Guardian article (link below) raised concern about whether funding of think tanks compromised their alleged independence. This has implications for education - how many of the think-tanks promoting profit-making schools, for example, receive donations from groups likely to benefit from such a policy?

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