Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Businesses Queue Up as Gove Moves towards For-Profit Schools: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Businesses Queue Up as Gove Moves towards For-Profit Schools: News

Article excerpt

But unions fear the profit motive will adversely affect standards.

Education providers have thrown their weight behind Michael Gove after he announced that free schools could be run for profit if the Conservatives secure a second term in office.

The education secretary made his first public admission that he felt schools could "move toward" being run for profit when giving evidence at the Leveson inquiry into press ethics.

While it is unlikely that the move could happen under the coalition, Mr Gove said that the quality of state education would be "augmented by extending the range of people involved in its provision".

His comments provoked outrage from teaching unions, but were supported by Sir David Bell, who until this year was education's highest-ranking civil servant. He said that the profit motive should be trialled in some of the country's most underperforming schools before it was rolled out elsewhere.

"A good place to start would be where all other state interventions have failed, where you have had a successive round of failures and you have tried everything else," he told TES. "In those circumstances it is quite hard to make a moral argument against profit. If you want to make a case for this, start where it's toughest and let's see whether the profit motive generates an improvement that otherwise has not been created."

Teaching unions have long claimed that the free school policy would lead to the "privatisation" of state education, with an influx of for-profit companies. NUT deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney said that free school providers in Sweden had made profits by employing unqualified teachers and feared that schools here would follow suit.

But Mr Gove's comments have been seized on by education providers, which claim the for-profit route is the next logical step to boost performance in state schools.

Trevor Averre-Beeson, founder of Lilac Sky Schools - an approved academy sponsor that runs the management of two schools for profit and is to take over two more from September - said that numerous organisations would be interested in establishing for-profit schools. "It seems completely appropriate that if we do something successful, such as raising pupil attainment or getting a school out of special measures, we would get a bonus on a performance-related contract," Mr Averre-Beeson said. "And if we don't, we would get a fine. I think it makes the running of schools more accountable."

A leading private school provider, which did not want to be named, said that there needs to be more flexibility in education to allow schools to raise money. …

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