In education, the words ‘for-profit schooling’ send many into a head-spin. In spite of the fact that in nursery education, SEN and alternative provision, and school improvement services, private and for-profit companies already make a significant positive contribution in education, lifting the barriers to their having full ownership and corporate governing authority over schools continues to be regarded by many on the Left as a potentially catastrophic move.
After Nick Clegg categorically blocked it last year, Michael Gove’s recent declaration that he was open minded on the question provoked knee-jerk reactions from both Shadow Education Secretary Stephen Twigg and Former Education Secretary (and champion of ‘evidence-based policy’) Estelle Morris. In language reminiscent of the TES debates of the 1920s and 30s, and apparently ignorant of the long-term, low-yield nature of investment in schools, Stephen Twigg declared allowing for-profit providers into the sector would attract sharp operators wanting to make a ‘quick buck’ at children’s expense. Estelle Morris, meanwhile, argued that allowing the private sector to run schools for profit would undermine the ‘moral purpose’ of education, implying that business people cannot be morally purposed.
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