Exclusive: Revealed - Tory plan for firms to run schools for profit

Controversial proposal blocked by Lib Dems but is expected to appear in 2015 Conservative manifesto

Private companies would be able to run state schools for profit under a plan to be published by Conservative modernisers which could be introduced if the party wins the next general election.

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has told friends he has no objections to "for profit" firms setting up the free schools independent of local authority control he has pioneered since 2010. The controversial idea has been vetoed by the Liberal Democrats, who fear it would be seen as back-door privatisation of the education system. It will not be implemented before the 2015 election, but is now seen as a front-runner for inclusion in the Tory manifesto.

Bright Blue, a modernising pressure group regarded as David Cameron's natural ally, will propose the move in a book to be published next week calling for the Coalition's public service reforms to be extended through an injection of market forces.

Although Mr Gove hopes that almost 200 free schools will be opened by September, the book argues that his revolution needs a boost to create more places in good schools. "The rhetoric does not match the reality," it says, adding that only 24 free schools were set up in the last academic year.

"Relying on not-for-profit organisations and parent groups, which have limited funds, when Government's capital spending is constrained, is not enough," Bright Blue says. "The for-profit sector can play a role here, providing the money to get new schools set up."

The book admits: "It will be important, of course, to convince the public that this does not stem from an ideological position: that somehow private is better than public and Tories are pursuing privatisation in awe of money-making. This is not true. This is a sensible, hard-headed policy which provides alternative funding sources to boost diversity and ultimately quality of education in this country, while – and this should be said time and time again – ensuring state education remains free at the point of use."

According to Bright Blue, some profit-making schools in the US, Chile and Sweden have improved attainment. "The idea that commercial activity rots children's souls, regurgitated by the anti-capitalist political left, belongs in the Dark Ages," it argues.

"For-profit state schools are an example of applying Conservative means – faith in markets and competition – to deliver progressive ends – better free education for children with parents who lack the resources to give their children the best education."

However, the book acknowledges the political risks. "Our motives need to be trusted," it says. "We have to show why our ideas are more compassionate: that we are motivated by our hearts as well as our heads. That we're looking out for the less fortunate, not just the gifted and talented. Our opponents demonise us: we have to prove them wrong."

Bright Blue says that "bolder" use of market forces is not "privatisation" because it does not involve selling assets. Public services would still be state funded and free at the point of use. It insists that payment-by-results for private firms could prevent "cherry-picking" and ensure people with the most severe needs are helped most.

To raise school standards, the modernisers propose more "mixed-age classrooms, where children are taught by ability rather than age". Pupils would not move up a year unless they attained basic standards. Other ideas include localised pay throughout the public sector; this has also been blocked by the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, who believes it would widen the North-South divide.

The book warns that childcare is "too expensive" for "a significant minority of parents" who should be offered loans to be repaid only if their income reached a certain level. "Many Tories need to drop the ideological baggage about working women and start applying Conservative, market-based solutions to this vital period of education," it says.

Ryan Shorthouse, director of Bright Blue and co-editor of the book, Tory Modernisation 2.0: the Future of the Conservative Party, told The Independent: "To secure a second term in government, the Conservative Party has to now relaunch the modernisation project. Deficit reduction and partnership with the Liberal Democrats has blown modernisation further off course, refuelling unfair stereotypes about Tories.

"Historically, Conservatism has been at its best when it is open-minded and big-hearted, providing ladders of opportunity for people from ordinary backgrounds. So the focus from now on needs to be helping these families with the cost of living and better public services."

Bright Blue is a 2,000-strong group whose advisory board includes Theresa May, the Home Secretary; Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary; and David Willetts, the Universities minister.

Future is bright blue: Think tank's plans

Tory modernisers' blueprints for public-service reforms include:

* Allowing profit-making companies to run state schools, which would still be free at the point of use

* More state-school pupils to be taught in mixed-age classes and not allowed to move up a year until they attain certain standards

* Localised pay introduced throughout the public sector, and made performance related

* Moving more government bodies out of London to Northern cities

* Enabling private companies to hire and pay prisoners

* Ending the cap on student places so that universities can recruit as many undergraduates as they want

* Giving all homeowners the right to extend their home by one storey without planning permission

* Extending the student loans scheme to postgraduates

Suggested Topics
News
Shoppers at Selfridges department store in central London
news

News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleFormer Newsnight presenter is being touted for a brand new role
News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
Voices
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
News
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
News
i100(More than you think)
Sport
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
News
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Sport
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
FOOTBALL
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML, CSS, SQL

£39000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML,...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game