Education Apr 18 2010

Prepare to take your placards to Dubai and Stockholm

The debate in today’s Observer about the Conservative’s ‘free schools’ policy, and the privatisation of education,¬† raised more questions than it answered.

But now that the real motive has been established – which is not to empower ordinary citizens but to remove control from the public sphere altogether and hand it over to private sector companies – we need to keep pushing for answers.

Anders Hultin, formerly of Kunskapsskolan ( a profit making Swedish education provider) and now Chief Executive of GEMS which runs ‘for profit’ schools in ten countries, admitted during the discussion that the ‘for profit’ sector in Sweden hadn’t been all good.

This chimes with some of the evidence from the US about charter schools which suggests that the majority  have results which are the same as, or worse, than American public schools, and suggests that it is too hard to get rid of poor providers.

Why then should we believe that the simple introduction of profit making schools will improve the English school system overall?

The disadvantages are clear. At a time of real term decreases in public spending, money that could go into schools and benefit the pupils, would be siphoned off into the businesses that are running them.

Schools also do many things that don’t lend themselves easily to a profit/loss account; inclusion, community cohesion, the well-being of children to name a few. It is easy to see how quickly children who don’t help the school’s league table performance might be discarded, or refused entry, given that free schools will have control over their admissions.

There is already evidence from Sweden that their free schools tend to educate the children of more motivated, affluent families, while the public schools take in the rest.

But the real unanswered question is how the schools will be governed. Who will employ the head teacher and the staff? The parents may form the governing body but once the day to day management of the school has been outsourced to a private company, the power will quickly shift from parents and other members of the local community to private sector providers with corportate headquarters in other parts of the country or even the world?

Prepare to take your placards to Dubai or Stockholm rather than the local town hall and ask yourself how that squares with the notion of a ‘big society’ where ordinary citizens enjoy the driving seat with government?

2 Responses to “Prepare to take your placards to Dubai and Stockholm”

  1. Cassandra says:

    Two questions that Young – now elevated by The Observer to the status of “education expert” – consistently fails to address are:

    1. Why is Acton High School – highly rated by OFSTED – not good enough for his children?
    2. Why, after 17 years of “free schools”, has Swedish education failed to improve its PISA ranking?

  2. fmillar says:

    Toby Young started by saying Acton High School wasn’t good enough for his children, then changed his story and said they wouldn’t get in because there was a shortage of places in that area.

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