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State schools and the private sector revolution

Education reforms spearheaded by Michael Gove are set to open the floodgates to an unprecedented level of commercial involvement in British learning after a Swedish company was given the go-ahead last week to run a Suffolk school.

Michael Gove

Education reforms spearheaded by Michael Gove are set to open the floodgates to an unprecedented level of commercial involvement in British learning after a Swedish company was given the go-ahead last week to run a Suffolk school.

The education secretary gave the green light to Breckland Middle School in Suffolk to be renamed IES Breckland and run under a £21m, 10-year contract by Swedish for-profit firm Internationella Engelska Skolan (IES). The introduction of a profit-seeking company into the management of the school is allowed because of a technicality - the founder of the school is a charitable trust that has decided to outsource the entirety of the management to a fee-charging company – whose global business has a turnover of £60m a year, earning profits of £5m, according to analysis by the Adam Smith Institute.
The development is set to open the floodgates for-profit firms, encouraged by what is happening at Breckland, to get involved in running more schools.
The private sector has long been a part of the fabric of the state school system through investing in schools, taking over the provision of local authority services and building and managing buildings through the controversial private finance initiative.
However, this time there is a difference in scale thanks to the extent of Mr Gove's reforms, 45% of all state maintained secondary schools are now academies or about to convert and there are now 1,529 academies in England, compared with just 200 when the coalition came to power. In these changed circumstances, the involvement of the for-profit sector, taking advantage of the breaking down of local authority control, supervision and services – is set to explode.

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