Thursday 10 January 2013

Academies: Stop the profiteers wrecking education

Most people understand that:

a)   Privatisation doesn’t improve services
b)   Privatised firms act in their own interests, not our interests
c)   Privatisation allows big business to profit out of public assets

Two articles in the Independent this week show that those truths apply to academies as much as they do to railways, the NHS – and (another attack on its way) the Royal Mail.

Academies don’t improve education

Consistent research over years has always concluded that there is no evidence that Academies do better than Local Authority schools and that, where some individual Academies do ‘succeed’, their ‘improvements’ are often gained by changing their pupil intake.

The Independent article ( ) reports on the findings of a report by the Academies Commission, headed by the former chief schools inspector Christine Gilbert.

It finds that evidence “suggests that many previously poorly performing schools in disadvantaged areas (that stayed with their local authorities) have done just as well as those which embarked on the academy route”.

Academies undermine comprehensive education

The article, titled, 'Academies flout admissions rules to select privileged pupils' provides further evidence of how they are using their control over admissions procedures to undermine comprehensive education. 

The Independent reports that “Academy schools are flouting admission rules to select pupils from more privileged families ... and that the Academies Commission, says that it has received “numerous submissions” stating that academies are finding methods to “select covertly” and warns this could lead to increased social segregation”.

Instead of a democratic Local Authority being able to oversee admissions in the interests of the community as a whole, Academies can – and will – use their own ‘independence’ to look after their own interests. They will select pupils at the expense of other neighbouring schools - and at the expense of students who need more support - to meet the exam targets imposed on education by Gove.

Academies are about allowing big business profit from education

Up to now, Academy chains have not been allowed to declare a profit directly out of the school budget – although there’s always been the chance to pay Academy leaders handsome sums and to make money from the various support and premises contracts too. 

The Independent reports that Gove wants to go the next step and allow for-profit schools: ( ).

It reports that “Private companies would be able to run state schools for profit under a plan to be published by Conservative modernisers which could be introduced if the party wins the next general election ... Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has told friends he has no objections to "for profit" firms setting up the free schools independent of local authority control he has pioneered since 2010”

The neo-liberal ideologists behind the proposal, “Bright Blue”, will, according to the Independent, “propose the move in a book to be published next week calling for the Coalition's public service reforms to be extended through an injection of market forces”. 

According to Bright Blue, "For-profit state schools are an example of applying Conservative means – faith in markets and competition – to deliver progressive ends – better free education for children with parents who lack the resources to give their children the best education” and proposes "mixed-age classrooms, where children are taught by ability rather than age".

This is nothing to do with improving education; it’s about profiteering at our expense and handing over public services to big business. Of course, if you can also select the pupils that will cost you less to educate, then profit margins can be increased too.

‘Bright Blue’ points to Sweden as an example of a success of this approach. But teachers in Sweden report a very different reality. According to the socialist organisation Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna “In Sweden this has led to a catastrophic drop in the quality of education. A handful of companies in Sweden - some of them hedge funds - have raked off record profits of over $20 million from running private schools funded by the state”. (See: ).

These reports give further evidence about Gove and the ConDems' plans to wreck education. It’s time to take national action to stop them.

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