Serco’s been involved in plans to open secondary school since before last election. It’s due to open this September.

Janet Downs's picture
Serco, slated by the NHS watchdog in July 2012 for failures in its out-of-hours service in Cornwall and named in Channel 4’s Dispatches as one of the “fat cats” profiting from lucrative public sector outsourcing deals in March 2011, has been involved in plans to establish a secondary school in Kirklees since before the last election.

Proposals by the BBG Parents’ Alliance and Serco had been turned down by the previous Secretary of State, Ed Balls*. A report commissioned by Balls found that the school would have a negative effect on other schools in the area. Nevertheless, the present Government has given the school the go-ahead. BBG Academy Trust plans to convert an existing Birkenshaw middle school, BBG Academy, from a 3-form middle school to a 5-form secondary free school in September 2013.

Ethos, a website magazine published by Serco, gives details but doesn’t make it clear whether Serco will be involved in running the school. However, an article in the local press is clear: Serco will run the school on behalf of the Trust. Presumably, it will be like IES Breckland where the Trustees signed a ten-year contract worth £21 million for a Swedish profit-making education provider, IES, to run its free school.

IES has just been acquired by private equity firm, TA Associates. The Swedish Government is so concerned about the motivation and long-term commitment of the for-profit companies involved in Sweden’s free school that it has launched an investigation. Bertil Ostberg, State Secretary for Education in Sweden, told the BBC that he feared there was a conflict of interest between the needs of children for a good education and the needs of shareholders for a financial return.

BBG Academy’s website doesn’t mention Serco’s involvement which is strange considering the Trust running the school was called BBG-Serco Academy Trust until April 2012 according to Companies House. Why is the Trust being so coy? And how many more free schools are being promoted by for-profit firms such as Serco?

*pp111/12, Benn, M, 2011, School Wars: The Battle for Britain’s Education, Verso.


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