Who owns your child’s school? The rise and rise of edu-business

April 5th, 2012

Published on openDemocracy, by Melissa Benn, April 3, 2012.

Faster than we recognise, schools are becoming profit centres. The buildings, the teaching, the cleaning, the exam results are all ways to make money. But who benefits? Not the poorest, argues Melissa Benn … //

… Philanthropy:  

However, the company’s website does not make reference to Amey’s ill-fated sponsorship of one of the early city academies, Unity City Academy in Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire, one of the poorest areas of England, which opened in 2002. By 2008, only 12 per cent of its pupils were getting five good GCSEs and the company eventually withdrew from the school.

Worldwide, the education market is estimated to be worth more than £100 billion. It has increasingly attracted the interest of philanthropic billionaires, such as Bill and Melinda Gates in the United States, and, here in the UK, Arpad Busson, the London-based French financier who founded ARK, one of the more successful educational chains in England.

Education has also attracted the interest of multinational corporations such as Pearsons, owners of the Financial Times and the Penguin Group, and of Rupert Murdoch’s global empire, News International. Pearson Education employs around 37,000 people and is based in more than 60 countries. This company recently bought up educational businesses in Brazil, India and the US. It has contracts with five English academies for textbooks, as well as providing pupil assessments, teacher training and software. Pearson has also expressed interest in the new boom area of English education – helping to run new free schools and academies.

Since coming to power in 2010, the Coalition has accelerated the break-up of state education, and encouraged a range of semi-private providers to enter the system. Free schools were initially presented by Tory ministers as a form of parent power, but most of the new schools are in fact being run by an eclectic mix of charitable and third-sector organisations, religious groups,  and, increasingly, private providers and the rapidly expanding academy chains.

Take Oasis ? , one of the largest academy chains, with 14 academies already open and more in development. As Henry Stewart reports on the Local Schools Network ? website, between 2006 and 2010, the revenue received from government by the Oasis chain grew from £3 million to £70 million. The revenue of  ARK ? , which runs 11 academies in London, Birmingham and Portsmouth, increased from £3 million to £117.5 million. In 2009-10,  the income of E-ACT ? , another academy sponsor, grew from £15.5 million to £60 million. Its head, Sir Bruce Liddington, former Schools Commissioner, was reportedly paid more than £280,000 a year, in the last year when accounts were available. (The finances of these chains are no longer published.) All these groups are highly regarded by government in policy debates and have considerable influence on the development of government thinking and practice in education. The views of local authorities, on the other hand, are largely ignored.

Profit centres: … (full text).

Comments are closed.