From Wolf to Bush: Gove's international blob -- check out the global web of educational profiteering that's forming...

Francis Gilbert's picture

To see a larger version of the diagram please click on it and view it in Flickr:

Michael Gove's international educational blob

The infographic is by Francis Gilbert, and this text is by Janet Downs:

Michael Gove was once employed by News International and has close ties with News Corporation boss Rupert Murdoch. Gove, who described Murdoch as “one of the most impressive and significant figures of the last 50 years”, has met with Murdoch many times since becoming Education Secretary. At one meeting, to discuss a plan to build a News International Academy, Murdoch described himself as the saviour of British education thanks to his company’s “adoption of new academies here in London”. The plan eventually fell through.

News Corp hired former New York schools chancellor, Joel Klein, to lead News Corp’s “aggressive push into the education market”. News Corp subsidiary, Wireless Generation, won a no-bid contract to build a data system for New York schools but this was cancelled following the UK phone hacking scandal. Klein was made head of News Corp’s internal committee set up to investigate allegations of bribery and phone hacking - he sat impassively behind Murdoch at the Leveson inquiry. Klein, who’s in favour of breaking “state monopoly” on education, is now head of another News Corp subsidiary Amplify which markets a “portfolio of products built by Wireless Generation”. Gove invited him to the Free Schools Conference in January 2011 which was also attended by Mike Feinberg, co-founder of KIPP schools, a chain of charter schools in the USA. KIPP offers education to disadvantaged pupils using a tough “no excuses” model which it claims raises results but KIPP schools have been accused of having high attrition rates. Gove praised both Klein and KIPP in a speech to the National College.

Amplify has just recruited Rachel Wolf, head of the New Schools Network (NSN), the organisation which advises free school start ups and which received a £500,000 grant from Gove, her former boss, to run NSN. The Daily Telegraph recently wrote that NSN was used by Gove as support – this would mean that NSN is in breach of its charity status. Wireless Generation is the technology chosen by the Foundation for Excellence in Education for its online education provision. This was set up by Jeb Bush, brother of George W, a possible Republican candidate for the Presidential election in 2016. The Foundation receives funding from, among others, Amplify and Connections Education, an online education provider bought by publishing giant Pearson in 2011 for £400 million. Bush lobbies for the removal of “obstacles” to the growth of online education such as state laws requiring pupils to be in a physical classroom. Gove praised Bush in his “How are the Children” speech.

Michael Gove was on the advisory board of Atlantic Bridge, a charity set up to further relations with the USA. However, the charity has been removed from the Charities Commission register following a critical report. In 2007, Atlantic Bridge signed a special partnership with the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) whose motto is “Limited government, free markets, federalism.” According to Media Matters for America, News Corp is a member of ALEC which is supposed to be a charity but has been accused of lobbying in breach of US charity rules. ALEC drafts model state legislation including statues which encourage online schooling, the privatization of public education and the removal of collective bargaining. The Wall Street Journal and Fox News, both owned by News Corp have defended ALEC from criticism. The Connections Academy, a division of Connections Education, co-chaired ALEC’s Education Task Force but has now cut its ties after ALEC was accused of supporting African-American voter suppression and the “Stand your Ground” law in Florida. Several other companies including Wal-Mart, Amazon and Procter & Gamble, have also distanced themselves from ALEC.

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Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 01/12/2012 - 22:52

You've missed the obvious one Francis...

Francis Gilbert's picture
Sun, 02/12/2012 - 19:22

Sorry, I can't work it out Rebecca! Who is it?

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 02/12/2012 - 19:44

It's Becta Francis.

Our source of expertise in generating good policy relating to technology in education.

We don't need any expertise in that area in this age when everything is changing so fast do we? It's really difficult to express quite how much we do. I've been working with the US government's initiatives to support online portals and collaboration for teachers. The world is moving on so fast and we are totally left behind. There's no-one at UK consultations who I can brief on what I've been up to so that that insight enters our knowledge base.

Becta used to supply expertise on emerging technologies in education to all the other consultations. It took a while to realise quite how much it was missed - some insight here:

The of course there was teachers TV which could have evolved to do so much......

All shut down fast and quietly at the time when Gove, according to his Leveson evidence, was spending all this time with the Murdochs and according to the later court judgement and the accounts of all involved was not consulting with anyone who had anything to do with state education.

Now why would he have been so convinced we needed to get rid of all our expertise in these areas? He claimed it was money. The billion pound overspend on academies puts paid to that lie.

Many had their eyes on the Murdoch's interest in academies. That was a decoy. They were interested in cleaning up in technology in education. Bye bye our national expertise, bye bye Teachers TV. SICK!!!!! We urgently need to fill this chasm. The Murdochs couldn't care less any more. Avoiding prison is higher up the agenda.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 05/12/2012 - 17:21

Rebecca- you are correct in highlighting the push into providing technology into schools, particularly via on-line schooling. This is marketed as individualised education, tailored to a pupil's needs that are discovered by individual pupils answering on-line questions. As I said in the text, there's pressure by big business in the States to remove "obstacles" to education being delivered on-line via purchased systems. One of these systems, as highlighted in Francis's blob, is sold by News Corp via its subsidiary Amplify (Wireless Generation).

But education is more than sitting in front of the computer following an individualised programme. I quoted Robin Alexander on another thread who stressed the importance of talk in probing understanding and deepening learning. IT is a powerful tool but needs using appropriately. I fail to see how a broad, balanced education can be delivered solely on-line using prepackaged materials however "individualised" it claims to be. But there's millions to be made from selling such stuff or why would global businesses like News Corp and Pearson be so interested in entering the market.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Wed, 05/12/2012 - 23:51

Thanks for this Janet.

I started writing about the future of technology in education after working on a British Council project in the Middle East (2000-2002) where we were deeply challenged to justify the benefits expected from investment in technology. At that time I realised we were at a pivot point between stand along technology and internet based technology and that the benefits of the latter were very different from what had gone before and I became fascinated by the latter. I took up a challenge to predict the next 20 years in technology in maths education and the article I wrote then was the lead article in the ATM's Micromath Journal. Within five years I'd put 90% of what I'd predicted into action and it was just so wonderful to be able to do that.

The next two major trends which are there for the taking in education are:

1. The support of the networking of teachers - as is happening in the US through the government funded connected educators project. We have absolutely nothing here and teachers TV, which could have been a hub, has been wiped out.

2. The sharing of information between teachers, parents and pupils. This is starting in patches - with some teachers sharing information about what children have been up to online and with schemes like 'accelerated reader' emailing parents when children have completed an online quiz on a book they've finished with details of their results.

But this second factor becomes deeply positively transformative for education when it also involves the combining of formative and summative assessment and giving potential employers access to the detail of what's been achieved within qualifications. To create these systems will require very substantial investment from our main education publishers. But they won't do that until there is a sane and relevant policy environment. We're going backwards rapidly.

Just having a bit of a rant. Grrr.. One day the cultural revolution will be over.

Alex Jones's picture
Tue, 04/02/2014 - 11:26

Diane Ravitch has been very vocal and energetic in opposing this 'blob' (or GERM as it has been described), in the USA. Her twitter feed is an excellent source of information on events on the other side of the pond.

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