More secret plans – PM wants academies to attract foreign pupils as part of "Education Exports" strategy

Janet Downs's picture
It was only yesterday when the DfE strenuously denied there were plans to allow schools to be run for profit. But The Times today has published a “restricted” letter dated 1 July 2013 from Simon Case, the PM’s Private Secretary, which discusses the “export potential” of the academies/free Schools programme. The letter says:

“This is meant to be a long-term strategy and while the Academies/Free Schools programme should focus on consolidating domestic progress over the next couple of years, we should look at export potential too. This should include consideration of allowing international students to access places at academies.”

It’s unclear how allowing foreign, presumably fee-paying, students to attend academies/free schools will address the shortage of school places in areas where demand exceeds supply. But the proposed policy raises further questions:

1 Would academies/free schools be able to prioritise such pupils?

2 How will the Government explain to parents who are denied a place that places have been taken by such pupils?

3 What thought, if any, has been given to the welfare of these pupils? Where would they live and who would be responsible for them?

The letter also shows that the “Education Exports Industrial Strategy” should suggest routes to open up “procurement opportunities” in the “large domestic market for education business”.

Thanks to the Times and the Schools Improvement Net for publicising this policy which reveals the PM’s thinking:

1 Education is a business. But when market forces are introduced into education, equity is at risk. The 2012 International Summit on the Teaching Profession* heard from one delegation: “Commercialization of education is a serious threat to equity, equality and democracy.”

2 Education is a “market” and this should be opened up.

So, the academies/free schools programme is not just a policy whereby schools can be classified as “independent” and potentially allow them to be run for profit but is part of an “export drive” intended to attract fee-paying foreign pupils.

UPDATE 5 JULY 2013 07.56:  The Guardian reports that the Lib Dems have rejected this proposal: "they would fight any attempt to sell state school places at a time when rapid population growth is triggering a national shortage of primary and secondary school places."  The paper also said "Stephen Twigg, the shadow education secretary, said the letter raised the prospect of overseas pupils bypassing admissions procedures faced by local families at popular schools" (see my points 1 and 2 above).


*Powerpoint presentation of each delegation to the Summit can be downloaded here.

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