Coffee House

Michael Gove’s plans for profit-making schools

10 January 2013

Coffee House readers won’t be surprised by the Independent’s report that Michael Gove has been telling friends he has no objections to profit-making schools: he explained his position on the matter at length to Fraser in December. Then, the Education Secretary said he was keen for the one profit-seeking school in this country, IES in Suffolk, to make the case to the public for more profit-seeking schools:

‘What I said to them [IES] is the same argument that Andrew Adonis has made: we’ve created the opportunity for you to demonstrate what you can do and win the argument in the public square. You have an organisation that has been criticised, in some cases demonised, now running a state school. I am utterly confident they will achieve amazing things but the way in which the case will be made for that organisation to expand on whatever terms is through its success.’

The Indy’s story is clear that any discussion of the profit motive is for the 2015 manifesto, rather than now, by which time IES may have made further in roads in terms of challenging the instinctive suspicion of many voters to profit in the education system. Although Education Minister David Laws has said it would be ‘unwise to rule out the possibility of [profit-making] ever happening’, Nick Clegg is also keen to publicly boast that he has stopped Gove from going further in this respect. But funnily enough, one of the Lib Dems’ proudest achievements in government, the pupil premium, would become highly potent if used in conjunction with the profit motive. The additional payment of £600 per pupil would make it attractive for profit-making schools to set up and then expand in deprived areas as poor pupils would become profitable to teach. Even if the party maintains its official opposition to profit-making schools, it could find its policies help their spread in a later Conservative government.

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  • dalai guevara

    Here we go again. Only a few months after it was proven ad infinitum that privatisation of rail, prisoner tagging, security, our woodlands, energy and water and so on do not deliver measurable benefits to the taxpayer, we find yet ourselves discussing yet another initiative to boost private shareholders’ income. This time it’s on the back of our children’s education.

    What are all those taxes we supposedly collect (do we collect any?) actually spent on? How come the first world manages to offer all these tax payer funded services without having to fork out on private shareholders’ profits? Something just does not add up here…

  • Bluesman

    “Education Minister David Laws has said it would be ‘unwise to rule out the possibility of [profit-making] ever happening’”

    Perhaps the well known thief and liar could have his “landlord” run one.

    • Gary Wintle

      What’s the betting that Laws and Gove get cushy jobs on the boards of companies who get a bonanza of corporate welfare (paid for by the taxpayer)? Gove and his buddies will steal a ton of taxpayer’s money, get rich off the backs of the poor and middle classes, and do so without barely doing a day’s honest work.

  • Iain Herd

    Why education vouchers? Just give parents access to loans under the same terms as university student loans for nursery, primary, & secondary education. The financial responsibility shifting to the student for higher education – seems more consistent. Ideally, I’d like to see the government as only the underwriter and market regulator, with the actually loans being made to parents and students, by the educational establishments themselves. The underwriting would draw down over 30 years, leaving schools / new loans funded by repayments and trust funds. However – one can dream :)

  • Andy

    Bring it on ! And education vouchers.

    • Gary Wintle

      Why should money I pay in taxes go into making some fat profiteers rich? If schools want to be “profit-making” they should receive not a penny from the taxpayer.
      When corporate entitities control taxpayer money that is Fascism.

      • Andy

        The question you should be asking yourself is why should long suffering taxpayers have to pay to educate your brats ?

        • Gary Wintle

          Under the for-profit system you the taxpayer will still be paying for it, and you will not see a penny of that profit, because it will be siphoned off into tax havens. What Gove wants is a massive corporate welfare scam just like the railways to line the pockets of his rich friends.
          You want our education system to be moulded on our atrocious, third-world privately run public transport system?
          The British education system imposes conformity at the expense of creativity, it reflects a Victorian view of the population as serfs to be trained for slavery serving the ruling class, and above all it reflects the British disdain for creativity and original thinking. Schools in the UK teach pupils three things; do as you’re told, don’t think for yourself, and shut up and follow the crowd.
          Make Student Bank Accounts compulsory, make teachers, doctors, dentists the referees strip parents of that right and severely punish any parents who obstruct their children from having them. Make Work Experience compulsory and annual from age 13 to 15.
          Social Skills training and self-confidence should be prioritised; schools do nothing to help shy children due to their Victorian disdain for those who do not fit in to social hierarchy, that needs to change.

          • Andy

            What a lot of Marxist twaddle. I have no idea what ‘the British education system imposes’ – they certainly don’t teach children to read and write. Standards are a disgrace.

            As to your silly ‘rant’ there is no reason why the State should have a monopoly in education. There is nothing wrong in the ‘for-profit system’. I run a business and make a profit. You buy a cabbage at a shop – the shop keeper makes a profit. So does the farmer who grew the cabbage. Why are you anti profit ? Anti business ?

      • El_Sid

        Because we don’t live in Burma. Has it occurred to you that every aspirin used by the NHS, every computer in schools, every Spitfire in the Battle of Britain…was made by a “fat profiteer”.
        Your approach would see NHS surgeons reduced to doing a bit of massage and school lessons taught with bits of charcoal from the nearest bonfire. In German.

  • Earlshill

    There’s absolutely nothing wrong whatsoever in seeking to make a profit which can be used to expand the business as well as reward investors and staff.

    • telemachus

      Once the profit motive is put into education out goes the main purpose of education namely to mould eager young minds

      • Nick Devonald

        ”..private companies are already allowed to run state schools for profit and have been since Labour passed the 2002 Education Act. I get tired of repeating this, but the first Secretary of State to allow a for-profit company to run a state school was Ed Balls.” Toby Young on the Telegraph blogs website. Do read more, it’s an education.

        • Gary Wintle

          Why should the taxpayer line the pockets of fat cats? People should not be able to profit from my taxes. I will refuse to pay taxes if they go to enriching private companies.

        • telemachus

          And realised the mistake soon after

        • dalai guevara

          …which makes it the right or a wrong way to go? Are you perhaps saying you are a supporter of Labour policy?

          Please do explain your train of thought to me.

      • andagain

        to mould eager young minds

        I have always thought that sounded very much like brainwashing.

    • Mr Arthur Cook

      Yes indeed!! Since the railways were privatized I’ve noticed the dramatic market effects of lower prices and a comfortable and punctual service!!
      My bills for energy have dropped dramatically since privatization leading to lower bills and better customer services.
      Whilst the above might be two stunning successes supporting your position it doesn’t really work for schools. Schools are not competing coffee shops on the high street. There is little real choice in schools for parents and when a child is at a school parents might find it problematic to use a price comparison website each weekend looking for cut price maths for the coming Monday.
      Effectively this is exactly what the corporate giants want – a tied down market and an open channel for tax payers money directly into their overseas account.


    Though I am entirely in support of the Free School model it seems to me necessary to always ask why ‘poor children’ are failing rather than wondering about how to attract educational businesses to teach them. We already pay vast and unimaginable sums to have the state teach ‘poor children’ and it is reasonable to ask where all the money has gone and why it has provided a worse education than my father received 65 years ago in south east London before we throw even more money at such targets.

    • Andy

      Your question should be directed at the stupid Teaching Unions. Oh and the Labour Party.


        I was directing it to the Spectator and wondering why they are not researching and writing on the subject. I am not sure this blog says anything of substance, but education is an important topic and should not be reduced to what are essentially sound-bites and slogans in a publication that purports to be among the most intelligent.

        Why do we have stupid poor children, and what does that even mean, when we have thrown so much money at education? is surely more important than When will we start throwing even more money at education?

        • Gary Wintle

          Schools teach one thing; conformity. That is pretty much what they have always done. We have NEVER had a true education system in this country, its purpose has always, always been to crush creativity and make humans into servile slaves for the ruling class.
          This is why bullying has always been rampant in UK schools, as bullying is a symptom of the conformist, soulless mindset.

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