New research shows that for-profit schools must be an integral part of Michael Gove’s education reforms if they are to work. Schooling for Money: Swedish Education Reform and the Role of the Profit Motive, looks at the role of for-profit schools in Sweden and for the first time provides quantitative evidence regarding how these schools perform. The competition that drove improvements in the Swedish system was only possible because of the high number of for-profit schools that were established.
This research clearly shows that:
- Under a system where profit is allowed more children have access to schools that will improve their educational achievement.
- For-profit schools make the competition that drives up standards possible by increasing the supply of new schools.
- Importantly the impact of for-profit schools tends to be greatest on those from low socio-economic backgrounds.
The educational outcomes of children going to for-profit and not-for-profit schools were significantly better than those of children going to state schools (measured in terms of average school GPA, which measures pupil achievement across a broad range of subjects).
Not-for-profit schools did marginally better on average than for-profit schools (raising the GPA by 5.7 points compared with the for-profit schools’ impact of 4.5 points), but among schools with pupils from lower socio-economic backgrounds, for-profit schools performed better (increasing the GPA by 11.6 points).
In the English education system there are around 24,600 schools; back in August this year only 62 free school applications had been made. This highlights the desperate need to encourage new schools to start up. The case of Sweden shows that increasing the supply of new schools to create sufficient competition in the system to raise standards requires encouraging schools to start up with a profit motive, yet at present this is bein