Policy Matters

Market driven school system in Britain, a possibility

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The Conservative-Liberal government has started processing fast tracking of an Academies Bill through Parliament. Together with an Education and Children's Bill in the autumn, the new arrangements will lay the basis for a market-driven, competitive system of schools, free from Local Authority control and increasingly run by the private sector. This kind of system fore-communicates a severe deterioration in teachers' pay and conditions and the creation of profoundly unequal education for Britain's children.

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The Bill, which will turn into law this summer, is to allow a planned 500 secondary and 1,700 primary schools to apply for academy status for September and leave Local Authority control. For the first time, primary schools will be able to apply to become academies. Also, allowed would be all all schools judged 'outstanding' by Ofsted, the government inspectorate, to apply directly to the Education Secretary for 'academy status'. They will also be free from routine Ofsted inspections. Exempted from normal rules of public procurement and operating as private concerns, the academies outsourcing contracts must be advertised and subject to competitive bidding. They are also exempt from freedom of information legislation.

The Academies Bill, additionally, is to allow schools to become 'Free Schools' to be run by outside providers, along the lines of the growing private school network in Sweden. This step of turning schools in to academies and introducing Free Schools will lead to a network of elite institutions in which access to a good education will be based on selection, overwhelmingly using the criteria of social class and the ability to pay. The academies are required to be specifically tailored to the requirements of business and their sponsors.

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