Tristram Hunt's new research assistant funded by firm which supports public services being run by private sector, Private Eye reveals

Janet Downs's picture
Tristram Hunt, Labour’s shadow education secretary, is being helped by a research assistant funded by accountancy firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC), Private Eye revealed today*. The donation, described in Hunt’s register of interest** as a ‘donation in kind’ and valued at £74,655, runs from June to December 2014.

Private Eye reminds its readers that PWC supports opening up public services to ‘a wider range of providers from the private, not-for-profit and social enterprise sectors’ and warns that a PWC-funded research assistant is in a favourable position to influence Hunt. This means, the Eye says, ‘he is likely to stick with the introduction of commercial providers into schools’.

Hunt told the Labour Conference ‘only a Labour Government will ensure our schools are not privatized for profit.’ But there are ways of privatising by the back door whereby public money can be diverted into shareholders’ pockets. Already, many academy trustees have awarded contracts to companies linked to trustees or their relatives, the Guardian found. One approved academy sponsor made no secret that its charitable trust was a ‘vehicle’ which would help the long-term profitability of the parent firm. And Private Eye wondered last year if Sabres Educational Trust was just a 'powerless conduit' for the Department for Education (DfE) to send taxpayers' money to IES, the Swedish for-profit education provider hired by Sabres to run the free school IES Breckland (since judged Inadequate).

Some high-ranking Labour politicians have already been named as being in favour of running schools for profit. Before the last election, Policy Exchange said ‘the most radical ministers (including Lord Adonis and John Hutton) knew that allowing profit would provide a significant boost to the [education] market, but considered the politics unworkable’. The think-tank made this claim in a document entitled, without irony, Blocking the Best. This advocated turning state schools into ‘independent’ ones which could circumvent rules which prevented schools running for a profit. Academies are technically ‘independent’ schools and they are able to outsource education provision. And PWC is set to profit from just such an outsourcing arrangement.

PWC hopes to set up a limited liability partnership with the Academies Enterprise Trust (AET), a fast-growing chain recently halted by the Department for Education (DfE) from taking on more schools amid concerns about poor performance. The contract would pay PWC to provide services, such as school business management, IT and secretarial staff, curriculum development and professional education, to AET academies. PWC would be paid £400m of taxpayers’ money over 10 years if the contract, currently being reviewed by the DfE, goes ahead. Alex Cunningham, MP, a member of the Education Select Committee, has described the AET outsourcing proposal as a 'huge step towards a huge privatization' over a range of school services.

It’s worrying, therefore, that PWC, which could profit from academies outsourcing services, should be funding an assistant to do research for the shadow SoS for education. It was unwise of Hunt to accept this ‘donation in kind’.

*Private Eye, number 1377, 17 October -30 October 2014

**available from
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Andy V's picture
Thu, 16/10/2014 - 15:41

Setting this alongside TH's recent comments, pronouncements from the Labour Party earlier in the year (e.g. no change to academies and free schools) and last but by no means least the party's published education policy document begs the question why on earth would anyone who cares about and values education in this country vote Labour.

EM and TH seem hell bent on persuading people that it's a case of better the devil you know than the one bearing miserable gifts that aren't worth a jot!

Political hubris and party political ideologues rule.

Won't be fun to watch and for some be part of TH's attempts at climbing the greasy bragging rights pole called PISA international league tables: and the wellbeing of our youngsters and education system be damned!

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 17/10/2014 - 06:59

Andy - TH's comment to Academies Week in 'exclusive interview' published today under heading 'More academy conversions given the green light'

“We want all schools to have the same kinds of freedoms that academies enjoy so there is a level playing field,”

But these academy freedoms don't amount to much which Hunt would know if he'd read the Academies Commission report (Jan 2013) and this site. Instead, they lead schools into the arms of academy chains who potentially exert more control over their academies than LAs ever did (even before LMS). And, of course, there's the potential to milk the academies for profit as we're already seeing.

Perhaps his new research assistant hasn't told him all this.

Of course, academies have the freedom to opt out of the national curriculum. If it's such a valued freedom, it could be given to all schools at nil cost. That said, Wilshaw's post Trojan Horse request for a definition of 'broad, balanced curriculum' which would apply to ALL state schools will dilute academy's 'freedom' to ignore a national curriculum.

Andy V's picture
Fri, 17/10/2014 - 07:56

Thanks Janet.

I also note the resilience of SMW in quietly exerting Ofsted's independence through his request for a definition of what a 'broad and balanced curriculum' should look like. The dichotomy between the NC for maintained schools and asserted curricular freedoms for academies and free schools creates a near impossible situation for his inspectors (HMIs and AIs alike).

As far as TH is concerned my - highly personal - perception of Labour and the SOS Educ in waiting is that their educational policy and credentials to lead education make them as effective and useful as a chocolate fire-guard.

agov's picture
Sat, 18/10/2014 - 13:03

What's the scope for failing politicians to get directorships with large accountancy firms?

Andy's picture
Sat, 18/10/2014 - 13:08

An interesting thought - better watch this space.

Bet he wont follow Blair. He set up his own religion and international movement.

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