Gove's plan to privatise academies and free schools

(141 Posts)
muminlondon Tue 12-Feb-13 23:37:33
muminlondon Thu 28-Feb-13 00:37:44

The new academies were, mostly, already outstanding schools. Or selective, with a concentration of high attainers where it is easy to provide the full range of academic subjects - so 80% of grammar schools have converted. It will take some years to see any evidence simply in terms of results that, independent of the local authority, converter academies will be less effective. By which time there may be other undesirable consequences.

I believe profit-making is being demanded by those who have a vested interest in making profit, and ideas are being drip-fed by right-wing thinktanks. In the long-term the real test for academies (sponsored or not) is to see whether the divide narrows not just between individuals on free school meals and the rest, but between the most deprived areas and the least deprived. Some of the best performing school systems in the world are also the fairest but the UK is already very segregated. Another concern is that profit-making chains will take over more vulnerable converter academies or free schools - as they are doing already with forced academisation of LA primaries - and there is not only less accountability to parents but also less choice as they amalgamate or close down schools. Ultimately, only big schools or big chains will be economic to run. We may end up with even less choice but a more expensive system that is no more effective.

prh47bridge Wed 27-Feb-13 23:47:30

riddlesgalore - I agree that, whilst the evidence shows that in general the academies set up under the last government performed better than the schools they replaced, that is not universally the case. Some schools have failed to improve following conversion and a few have gone backwards. In any case, as I pointed out, those academies are significantly different from most of the new academies being created so any conclusions based on the old academies may not apply to the new ones.

The sponsors do not make profits from academies. That would require a change in the law. And the most of the new academies do not have sponsors.

Elibean Wed 27-Feb-13 17:30:27

Re the OP - I don't like this either.

I'm with rabbitstew on this.

riddlesgalore Wed 27-Feb-13 17:08:26

prh47bridge Wed 13-Feb-13 16:02:09

The academies that you appear to refer to that you maintain have been successful are mark 2 sponsored. In my area which has several mark 2 academies, they are, even after a number of years, still according to the ofsted data dashboard under performing. Even though they have followed a policy of replacing GCSE's with equivalents they still haven't achieved the same as other 'similar' schools let alone nationally in all reports.

Not a good recommendation I would say but we appear to be stuck with them. Still the sponsors are finding the whole business lucrative.

muminlondon Wed 20-Feb-13 07:54:02

Nasty individuals, nasty agenda. There was a letter in the Guardian today with a list of for-profit companies already involved in schools, including two Swedish companies planning to take over chains.

Well, the ICO ruled over a month ago that the public should be able to see a list of all bids for free schools so we shouldn't have to wait too long to know who these companies are.

rabbitstew Tue 19-Feb-13 21:30:49

What a lot of nasty individuals.

muminlondon Tue 19-Feb-13 19:32:46

Dominic Cummings was also reported to be firmly against answering freedom of information requests and parliamentary questions (in the context of free schools):

'NSN is not giving out to you, the media or anybody else any figure on 'expressions of interest' for PQs, FOIs or anything else. Further, NSN has not, is not, and will never answer a single FOI request made to us concerning anything at all'

www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/sep/20/emails-blocked-gove-adviser

This may explain the special monitoring of the DfE by the Information Commissioner for its poor record on FOI requests. And why Michael Gove was questioned on the DfE's poor record on answering parliamentary questions.

muminlondon Tue 19-Feb-13 19:04:30

I very much agree with the FOI on this one. I see that the DfE adviser who worked at the New Schools Network in 2009, Dominic Cummings, deliberately advised all his contacts to email him via his personal account:

www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/sep/20/michael-gove-department-private-email

He's the foul-mouthed one:

www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/dump-fing-everyone-the-inside-story-of-how-michael-goves-vicious-attack-dogs-are-terrorising-the-dfe-8497626.html

prh47bridge Tue 19-Feb-13 10:14:14

For what it is worth, this was down to a disagreement between the ICO and the civil service. It affected many government departments and goes back to the last government.

The civil service was of the view that emails to and from private accounts belonging to ministers and their advisers were not subject to FoI requests and that there was therefore no requirement to keep such emails. According to the advice ministers and advisers could delete such emails without keeping any records in the same way that most of us delete emails after we have dealt with them. This was the guidance the civil service gave to ministers and advisers under both this government and the last government.

The ICO was of the view that any such emails are subject to FoI requests if they deal with departmental business, although emails discussing party policy are exempt. The ICO chose to use the DfE as a test case and won.

Personally I am with the ICO one, although the dividing line between departmental business and party policy can be very difficult to determine. But I think any criticism should be directed primarily at the civil service for the incorrect advice it was giving ministers and their advisers.

muminlondon Tue 19-Feb-13 07:59:30

Talking of young advisers, one of the @ToryEducation team Henry de Zoute has been described as one of the 'most powerful posh people under 30' and 'media savvy' - he is reported to have destroyed the emails Michael Gove had been ordered to disclose under freedom of information.

muminlondon Mon 18-Feb-13 21:25:44

So efficient, too. Just look at G4S security at the Olympics - how well that turned out.

rabbitstew Mon 18-Feb-13 19:15:15

Oh, poor old Michael. How can he possibly withstand it? Still - excellent idea to allow profit making, really. It has made a huge difference in Sweden. And we all know how efficient and reliable it has allowed our railway system to be, and our water companies. They do a superb job with taxpayers' money and it's so easy and cheap to get rid of the companies that don't do a good job with our essential services and bring in other providers - keeps them on their toes and doesn't let them think they are too big and essential to fail. And the NHS has gone from strength to strength since private competition and provision have increased there, too. You don't get half so much corruption and waste in the private sector as you do in the bloated state sector. It's all so obvious and not ideological at all, just plain old common sense. Private sector institutions never put profit above absolutely everything else and never, ever start to abuse their power once they think they are big and powerful enough. And obviously there is no tendency whatsoever for small organisations to be swallowed up by the increasingly big ones. grin

muminlondon Mon 18-Feb-13 18:44:24

One of the DfE directors is also trustee of the NSN, Theodore Agnew. And also of the Policy Exchange, and a Conservative party donor. The present NSN director, Natalie Evans, was also at the Policy Exchange. Which was co-founded by Michael Gove. Which is putting so much pressure on, blimey, Michael Gove again, to allow profit-making in schools.

rabbitstew Mon 18-Feb-13 17:59:51

... before the shit hits the fan.

rabbitstew Mon 18-Feb-13 17:46:27

Rachel Wolf - only 24 when she set NSN up and has already left it to work in New York. So loads of experience of education, then - she only recently left it, herself. And already on to the next project. Why see anything through when you don't have to? Much better to have lots of bright ideas, make use of your contacts and then b*gger off to something more interesting.

muminlondon Mon 18-Feb-13 16:52:05

The New Schools Network is funded directly by the government:

www.education.gov.uk/inthenews/inthenews/a00199422/new-schools-network-awarded-grant-to-support-free-schools
www.education.gov.uk/a00199451/nsn

I found an older Guardian article which refers to special advisers involved including, interestingly, one of the @ToryEducation advisers implicated in the recent bullying stories.

prh47bridge Mon 18-Feb-13 16:23:11

Who will these governors [and founders] now turn to if Serco turns out to be useless?

I have no inside information so I don't know if they have any plans in place for this contingency. There are other companies offering similar services or they could run the school without the use of a third party's services in the normal way.

The founders of a free school are the initial governors, so this is the governors' decision.

New Schools Network is a charity which was set up in 2009, before the current government came to power. The founder, Rachel Wolf, did indeed work as an adviser to Gove before setting up NSN.

rabbitstew Mon 18-Feb-13 16:04:22

Other outraged taxpayers could go and sit outside the governors' front doors and protest against them for doing a bad job unpaid. We could name and shame them in the national press for being worse than the LA. Nothing to have sleepless nights over, though.

rabbitstew Mon 18-Feb-13 16:02:14

Well, they don't need to turn to anyone, do they, they can just blame themselves and implode - they are the governors, after all, so it's all their fault according to prh47bridge if anything goes wrong. Not the problem or fault of the LA or government...

muminlondon Mon 18-Feb-13 15:03:14

So the question asked was: 'Who will these governors [and founders] now turn to if Serco turns out to be useless?'

muminlondon Mon 18-Feb-13 14:58:56

In fact I've found the answer to my particular question: the New Schools Network.

www.ethosjournal.com/topics/education/item/262-school-for-all

'This campaigning and protesting was taking place over the course of 2009 ... In the same year, at a conference in Westminster, we met Elaine Simpson, Serco’s Global Director for Children’s Services, and Rachel Wolf of the New Schools Network (NSN). With advice from both Serco and the NSN we began to develop a curriculum for our proposed new school.'

So this wasn't a governors decision anyway, it was the 'founders' with advice from the NSN which was set up by advisers of Michael Gove.

muminlondon Mon 18-Feb-13 12:37:22

So the question asked was: 'Who will these governors now turn to if Serco turns out to be useless?'

And my question s: who put the trust in touch with Serco in the first place? The DfE? The New Schools Network?

prh47bridge Mon 18-Feb-13 11:44:25

Ofsted do evaluate how effectively the governors ensure financial stability. They also conduct surveys to monitor how the pupil premium is being spent. A school may be asked to complete the survey during an inspection. Ofsted also survey some schools by telephone. However, this survey simply contributes to an annual report produced by Ofsted summarising their findings. It does not affect the outcome of any inspection nor does it lead to any action against the school based on how it spends the money.

Yes, the governors of any school have huge responsibilities - VA schools even more so than community schools. That may cause them sleepless nights although most of the ones I've met don't seem to have any problems. However, the additional responsibilities taken on by the governors of an academy are relatively minor.

muminlondon Mon 18-Feb-13 11:30:51

If tiredaftertwo is still following this, statistics with regard to pupils on school meals: for converter academies (average FSM 10%) and sponsored academies (average FSM 30%).

In case there is any doubt which sort of academy Michael Gove and David Cameron will be considering sending their children. I believe the Oratory is a converter academy and Nick Clegg has considered this, but not Ark Putney, which is part of a chain. But there's another thread on that.

muminlondon Mon 18-Feb-13 11:05:38

duchesse, I think choice always was and certainly will be an illusion because choice can only exist as long as there is spare capacity in schools - which is not economic to the taxpayer. A half empty school will never be able to compete with a full school in being able to offer a wide range of subjects and also be able to set pupils in different ability groups, and certainly not if there are other complex special needs to be met. It would have to shut, or be handed over e.g. to the Harris chain and parents have even less of a say in how the school is run.

Secondly, LEAs do not decide where pupils go - over a third of schools are now converter academies and where they inherited a favourable catchment or admissions policy they will retain it - this does not give parents any more choice either.

The divide between converter academies - including schools with middle class catchment areas, as well as grammars (80% of which have converted) and sponsored academies is already wide and sponsored academies have three times as many on free school meals. This government is not about to allow chains to fail and weaken the case for profit-making by giving poorer children the option to avoid academy schools. Neither does it seem to want to even out choice - 20% of secondary pupils continue to select faith schools (which not all can access) and 6% continue to go to selective grammars, now converter academies.

Neither the profit motive nor over-capacity would be good value to the taxpayer - they would not improve choice or save money overall, just redistribute it.

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