Tories plan to run state schools for a profit, says Labour
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Monday 23 June 2014
The Conservatives would allow state-funded schools to be run for profit if they retain power at next year’s election, Labour will warn today.
Tristram Hunt, the shadow Education Secretary, will claim that “privatisation” and applying “the profit motive” to schools “could easily happen” if the Tories win another term.
In a speech to the Fabian Society, he will argue that allowing private firms to run schools for profit would be a logical extension of the Government’s academies and introduction of free schools.
“Beyond 2015, whether it admits it or not, the Conservative Party intends to introduce the profit motive into English education,” he will say.
Mr Hunt will attack “the aggressively competitive, fly-or-fail ethos that the Conservative Party aspires to bring to our school system”.
He will add: “For all its administrative anarchy, the free-school programme is only the beginning.”
The Labour frontbencher will say that Sweden suffered a “catastrophic collapse in standards” after allowing for-profit schools, which had been “an unmitigated disaster”.
He will warn: “There is almost no public policy… with more capacity to damage the fabric of our society – let alone the educational values we cherish.”
Labour plans to debate the issue in Parliament and highlight it in the run-up to the election.
Some Tory ministers privately support allowing firms to run schools for profit. But Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has denied that there are any such plans, saying he does not ever expect to see tax-funded schools run for profit.
The Liberal Democrats claim they stopped Mr Gove introducing such a scheme. But Tories insist that Nick Clegg created a “fake row” and say the idea was suggested by Julian Astle, a Liberal Democrat adviser, when he ran the CentreForum think-tank.
A Tory source said yesterday: “If Labour is going to campaign against profit-making schools, it’s the Lib Dems they should be campaigning against, not us.”
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