During questioning at the Leveson Inquiry today, Michael Gove gave the strongest indication yet that a Tory government would let schools be run for profit. It is unclear whether this has not yet been rolled out because public opinion is opposed to it, as shown by this Populus
poll or whether Nick Clegg had inconveniently broken ranks and reassured the nation last September - “no to running schools for a profit, not in our state-funded education sector." Perhaps Gove is planning to hand out the contracts for profit when the Tories manage to get the Lib Dem millstone off their neck at the next general election, if they manage to win it outright?
Or perhaps he will continue to talk up the Free School success in the hope that bombast and rhetoric will convince a sceptical electorate that privatising state schools will contribute to raising standards. The Guardian
quotes him at the Inquiry saying that “it's important to recognise that the free schools movement is succeeding without that element”. Some might say this claim is premature, since no results have been published. Perhaps Gove’s definition of school success is one that abides by his ideology and little else? Free Schools are certainly unsuccessful if dividing communities and polarising opinion are the benchmark.
Gove defends his ex-employer Rupert Murdoch and this discredited empire, saying that his failed bid to set up Free Schools and Academies in London was driven for purely philanthropic reasons but I wonder how many people – even those well outside the Westminster Village – reconcile Murdoch and his thirst for profit, political control and destroying the reputation and lives of many innocent people – celebrity or ordinary – with the notion of charity and doing good for no benefit whatsoever?
It is quite well documented that philanthropists in the United States have used their dollars to influence education policy decisions and that their opinion has been taken far more seriously than that of educators. Charter Schools and “Philanthropy” go hand in hand and this union has created a new set of problems for publicly funded education, not least the failure of Charter Schools to raise standards across the board or for the poorest. The pro Reform lobby cite the example of New Orleans, which is, allegedly, doing well but the state of education in the rest of Mississipi remains poor.
We have recently heard so much of the benefits of highly trained teachers in Finland as being one of the components of Finland’s remarkable success but here is our Education Secretary welcoming non qualified teachers into his new schools for which he is already claiming “success”.
Is Murdoch’s interests in publicly funded schools merely “philanthropic”? Can a leopard change its spots? It’s a good job for Gove that the Murdoch Free School and the Murdoch Academy didn’t materialise or the Levenson Inquiry might have been questioning him about impartiality as well as financial and political paybacks to the Conservative coffers a few days before they challenge Jeremy Hunt and his alleged backing of the BSkyB bid.