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July 5, 2013 / politicsbitesize

Gove pushes for profit-making schools

GoveandMoneyBankIt will come as no surprise to regular readers of Politics:bitesize that the Education Secretary  is pushing for academies to become profit-making entities.  This week Michael Gove’s private plans to allow academies and free schools to have access to more funding streams was leaked to the Independent by insiders at the Department for Education (DfE).

According to these plans, Gove is considering letting companies run schools for profit using hedge funds and venture capitalists to raise money.  The leak has come about because workers at the DfE are concerned that the conversion of schools to academy and free school status is moving too quickly.  They have also expressed disquiet over the fact that profit-making schools could ‘divert funding from other schools, limit the availability of potentially more expensive subjects, such as music and science, and end teaching as a public service career’.

Nick Clegg has vowed to veto any policy that would allow for-profit businesses into the classroom.  A spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats made it clear that, ‘[while they]are in government there will be no profit-making whatever in our schools’.  Christine Blowers, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, also expressed her alarm at the plans, calling them, ‘a scandal waiting to happen’.  Even the public disapproves of academies making a profit: a survey conducted by Populus last year revealed that three quarters of respondents rejected such a move.

But why does this plan, which is denied by some at the DfE, meet with such vehement opposition?  In a capitalist system, the making of profit is upheld as a sacred pursuit and one that is to be defended at all costs.   Whilst there is nothing inherently wrong with the basic capitalist principle of making a product that costs X and selling it for a price well above X, this model doesn’t fit well with the education system.

As Politics:bitesize has highlighted before, the purpose of a school is to educate children, not to turn a profit.  Schools have nothing to sell; they have no product that can be manufactured and sold for a nice little return.   Furthermore, the notion that an institution whose primary focus is on the education of children should instead be run in such a way that it makes a profit for hedge fund managers and venture capitalists is, quite frankly, unethical.

The idea that money made out of the education system should line the pockets of investors is scandalous and such a move does not reflect the calls for a more responsible brand of capitalism.  By moving away from the state-run method of education we are losing the safeguard that any money a school receives or makes is, without doubt, ploughed back into that school in order to raise standards and to maintain the site.  So far the evidence has suggested that Michael Gove’s pet academies project is not raising academic standards in schools, and it is doubtful that his new plans will do anything to help him achieve this.



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