For-profit education providers are being encouraged to run free schools, said Co-op as long ago as June 2011

Janet Downs's picture
The Co-operative College found that the free schools approved up to June 2011 didn’t comply with David Cameron’s description of what free schools should be:

“I want to explore how we can create a new generation of co-operative schools in Britain, funded by the taxpayer, but owned by parents and the local community”.

However, the Co-operative College, which offers help to free school proposers providing their schemes have real support and they do not damage existing schools, said the New Schools Network, the organisation that promotes free schools on behalf of the Government, “actively encourages for profit providers.” The College believed that parent groups were effectively doing market research for these providers at no cost to the firms.

IES, a for-profit education provider recently acquired by private equity firm, TA Associates, already runs one free school in Breckland and Serco has been involved with a parent group in Birkenshaw to open a secondary school. Michael Gove admitted when he was Shadow Education Secretary that he would be happy for profit-making companies such as Serco to run schools. And schools minister, Lord Hill, soon to be replaced by unelected Tory donor John Nash who will be fast-tracked into the peerage to take Hill’s place in the Lords, was meeting for-profit educational providers as soon as the Coalition came to power.

The possibility that English state schools could be run by profit-making firms was not mentioned in the Conservative manifesto – it only referred to “any good provider” being able to open a new Academy. The word “profit” was missing.

In December 2011, a Telegraph blogger praised Michael Gove for “unobtrusively” paving the way for English state schools being run for profit. The tactic could have been devised by Sir Humphrey Appleby in Yes, Minister:

“The manifesto reference to new education providers does not rule out profit-making companies. However, it doesn’t do to make it obvious. The trick is to turn schools into charities but allow the charities to out-source the running of the schools to a profit-making company. It is unlikely the electorate will notice because we can truthfully say that schools are run by Charity Trustees. And if it becomes apparent that profit-making companies are running English schools, it will be too late. Government, Minister, is about doing what you want under the cloak of giving the electorate what they think they voted for.”

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