Teaching unions brand Michael Gove’s schools for profit idea ‘toxic’

Teaching unions have branded as “toxic” suggestions made by education secretary Michael Gove that state schools could be run for profit.

Giving evidence to the Leveson inquiry into phone hacking last Tuesday (May 29), Mr Gove was probed on whether he thought free schools would be allowed to make a profit if the Conservatives win a second term in office.

He said: “It is my belief that we could move to that situation but at the moment it’s important to recognise that the free schools movement is succeeding without that element and I think we should cross that bridge when we come to it.”

Attacking the suggestion, Haringey NUT (National Union of Teachers) secretary Julie Davies said: “Every penny of tax payer’s money earmarked for children must go to children.

“Not even independent schools make a profit, so why experiment on schools in the state sector?

“I think this policy will be toxic among the public.”

Echoing these concerns, Cllr Angela Mason, schools chief at Camden Council, said: “I would be horrified at the idea of private companies running schools for profits.”

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If it was pursued, the policy would represent a significant departure in education provision.

Some Charter schools in the United States and schools in Sweden, known as Educational Management Organisations (EMOs), are run on a for profit basis.

Commentators are split over whether the experiment in EMOs has improved school performance.

Critics have accused EMOs of employing staff on lower wages and without full teaching qualifications in a bid to drive down costs.

But supporters point to success stories like IES, the second biggest for profit EMO in Sweden, which has among the best exam results in the country and long waiting lists for pupils.

Camden Conservative leader and Frognal and Fitzjohns councillor Andrew Mennear said he is broadly supportive of the policy.

He said: “Parents care about the quality of the schools and how their child is actually going to benefit from being at that school.

“I don’t think they care if the school provision is provided by the state, a charity or by a company that is making some money out of it.”

“There is nothing wrong with making a profit.”