A privatised route to falling standards


Creeping privatisation and competition in state education has been a disaster across the globe almost everywhere it has been tried and yet the Coalition government seems hell-bent on pursuing it.

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, is repeatedly accused of putting the ideological maxim “private good; public bad” above all others. Department for Education details of plans, leaked recently to the Independent, to let firms run schools for profit served to reinforce this, in case anyone doubted it.

Gove’s plan for academies and free schools to become profit-making businesses using hedge funds and venture capitalists to raise money, were condemned by Stephen Twigg, Labour’s shadow education secretary, as a “triumph of dogma over evidence”. However, there’s little evidence Labour would reverse such measures, were they implemented before it was back in power.

Numerous recent reports suggest England has been heading in the wrong direction for decades. The most spectacular example is Finland, which rose form near bottom to top of international performance league tables since the 1970s through wholly state-funded measures to reduce inequality – abolishing fees, private education, the private tuition industry and streaming, among many radical reforms.

Far from promoting the competitive ethos of the market place, it ignored such measures entirely, Pasi Sahlberg, Finland’s former chief inspector of schools told the Guardian. “League tables are not a good measure of a school system. We never aimed to be the best in education, only to have good schools for all. Equity came before a ‘race to the top’ mentality.”

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