Education Notes: Gove may have gone but the market marches on

New Education Minister Morgan is qualified to oversee privatisation as a corporate lawyer

The replacement of sacked Education Minister Michael Gove with Nicky Morgan, Education Secretary and Minister for women and equalities means more of the same – a constant stream of educational ‘reforms’. The process of transferring state education to the private sector is the real agenda being carried out behind a smokescreen of teaching and learning initiatives. The banking and private equity sectors have been waiting on the sidelines for the opportunity to take over state provision and buy up the education sector. Morgan is well qualified to oversee this buy-out being a corporate lawyer.

Education as an emerging market

In the past ten years education has become Britain’s seventh largest export. This now extends beyond further and higher education to buying schools and institutions primarily in the underdeveloped economies. Now the vulture funds are turning to the home market. The ‘free’ schools and academies, which now account for over 50% of the total, are the target of corporate buy-up; secondary markets in management, curriculum design and educational publications will be created.

Investment opportunities

The sustained attack on state education by Labour and ConDem governments deliberately undermines local authority (LA) control of schools. Duties of care and the statutory rights of children are under threat; even the right to a school place for every child is no longer guaranteed. A recent report from Catalyst Corporate Finance confirms that there is chaos in education provision as it is auctioned off and as the state surrenders its responsibilities to market forces.

The report describes this as a ‘golden moment’ for private equity to buy into educational provision because deregulation of the state system is government policy. It says:

‘The Coalition government’s abolition of procurement “quangos”, LA budget cuts and the erosion of control over school decision-making is influencing how businesses are selling to schools and attracting new strategic players looking to exploit this much larger and more fragmented market.’

The competitive climate generated by government policies offers market opportunities:

‘As competition in schools and university places rises, there has been a corresponding rise in school and parent spending on services. Tutoring services alone are worth over £1bn per annum in the UK and we are seeing some brands gaining a foothold in this sector such as Explore Learning, backed by Graphite Capital. The company has grown its turnover from £8.6m in 2009 to £19.7m in 2012 and is seeking to expand in the UK and potentially overseas.’

Another area of future market opportunities comes with the rise of digital learning:

‘The e-learning sector is the fastest growing market in education. Worth an estimated $91bn globally, it is forecast to grow at an annual rate of 23% up to 2017. Both strategic corporates and private equity investors have recognised the potential in this sector, evidenced by Capita’s recent acquisition of Creating Careers ...’

Government collusion

This accelerating financial interest in the education market has been made possible with the collusion of the Department of Business, Education and Skills. Every government cut becomes a potential investment opportunity for the private sector, every change in legislation delivers rights to the private sector, as Catalyst Corporate Finance notes, ‘Caps to Further Education funding and the sector’s reclassification to the private sector mean more institutions are reassessing their operating models. In the independent sixth form college market, private equity is developing a scalable offering by using established private colleges to set up new schools, expand into primary and secondary provision and target the international market. An example of this is Sovereign Capital’s acquisition of three London-based independent sixth form colleges, the Astrum Education Group.’

Does it matter?

Does it really matter that services from pre-school care to postgraduate studies, are becoming commodified? After all, educational provision in capitalist Britain has always been under-resourced and rationed out on the basis of class and race. It has also been reactionary, dull and ineffective historically, never achieving more than 75% functional literacy. Generations of pupils have no happy memories of school. When splendid new academy buildings designed by world renowned architects are on offer, or cosy little ‘free’ schools run by loving parents are opened, does this not mean that the private sector (or public/private finance) can offer better opportunities than the state? But it does matter, because the success of private investment is dependent on the continued expansion of capital and there are limits to the underwriting of state finances for businesses. When education companies go bust, the services go bust. What is lost is not just a concern for shareholders but impacts on the very conditions of life for the working class.

‘Easier to start a free school than a fish and chip shop’

These words of one teaching union leader indicate the extent of Sweden’s for-profit friskola disaster. The then centre-right governing party brought the private sector into schools, hospitals and care homes. The results are disastrous. In the words of The Economist, ‘The streets of Stockholm are awash with the blood of sacred cows’. Sweden has plummeted down international educational rankings. Last year JB Education, owned by private equity company Axcel, declared itself bankrupt, causing panic among its 10,000 students. The Halsans company chain of pre-schools cut its food budget to $1.30 per child per day and toddlers were given only crispbread and water.

Socialism is a necessity

Social relations under capitalism are unstable and generate and perpetuate inequalities. Private ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange cannot deliver continued progress and rising standards of living for all because it is a crisis- ridden system. The investment funds, cartels and private equity banks are ‘instruments of anarchy’. In the words of Rosa Luxemburg, ‘they encourage the further development of the internal contradictions of capitalism. They accelerate the coming of a general decline of capitalism’ (Reform or Revolution). Only socialism offers the possibility of a future for us all.

Susan Davidson

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 241 October/November 2014

Guilty verdict for Education Secretary Michael Gove

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 240 August/September 2014

In a deliberate attempt to protect the government from charges of ministerial incompetence, Prime Minister Cameron removed Michael Gove from his job as Education Secretary just days before the publication of two reports into schools. One investigation, headed by Peter Clark, former head of the Metropolitan Police counter-terrorism unit,* concludes that Muslim extremists set out to radicalise the schools of Park View education trust. Teachers at the schools are now being threatened with misconduct inquiries for taking part in their own social media group which included ‘a constant undercurrent of anti-western, anti-American and anti-Israeli sentiment’. The other report, commissioned by Birmingham Council and headed by former headteacher Ian Kershaw, found ‘unacceptable practices but no evidence of a conspiracy to promote violence or an anti-British agenda’. Both reports however have accused the Department for Education (DfE) of ‘benign neglect’ and ‘failure to identify potential risks associated with conversion to academy status’.

Read more ...

From book to letter: the Trojan Horse of Michael Gove

Education Secretary Michael Gove is a neo-conservative and Zionist who shares the views of Samuel P Huntington that a ‘clash of civilisations’ along cultural and religious lines is threatening Britain. In 2006 he published Celsius 7/7 with a chapter entitled ‘The Trojan Horse’. Gove writes that, ‘if we believe in the superiority of our way of life’ then ‘we should be working to spread democracy around the world’. This was his motivation in voting for the bombing of Syria in the House of Commons. For Gove, ‘a sizeable minority’ of Britain’s 1.8 million Muslims hold ‘rejectionist Islamist views’ which he compares to Nazism in Germany. He describes fundamentalists as both violent and secretive as they smuggle their views into British society. The original Trojan Horse of the ancient war between Greeks and Trojans was left as a Greek gift inside the gates of Troy but was filled with soldiers who leapt out at night and destroyed the city. The most recent Trojan Horse plot was exposed by an anonymous letter, widely believed to be a fake, describing a supposed plot by Islamic fundamentalists to take over schools in Birmingham. Gove has used this letter to attack, not only the entire Muslim population of Britain, but also Theresa May, the Home Secretary.

Read more ...

Muslim schools targeted by Islamophobia

Both the academies project started by Labour and the Coalition’s so-called ‘free school’ scheme have the goal of breaking up the state education system under Local Authority control. In this they have been successful, with the inevitable result that the £4 billion budget for ‘free’ schools is draining money away from Local Education Authorities, which are now forbidden to build or open new schools. Most recently, Education minister Michael Gove has been accused of raiding £400 million from a fund intended to safeguard local authority primary school provision to prop up his pet free school project.

Read more ...

Education: Mr Gove exposes himself

Education Secretary Michael Gove has hit the headlines non-stop this year as he raises the banner of neo-conservatism over the heads of the coalition government to show that he stands for the interests of the right bloc.

Eton

In a bid to spike old Etonian Boris Johnson’s Tory leadership pretensions, Gove said that the number of Etonians (fees £33,000 a year) in government circles is ‘ridiculous’ and ‘I don’t know where you can find some such similar situation in a developed economy’. Gove’s usual cant is that the education system must be changed so that each child can be ‘the author of their own life story’. Lies and sentimentality hide the deep purposes of Gove, which are to dismantle and privatise state education, selling it off to profit-making businesses or giving it away to ideological friends. This is the real project behind his academy and ‘free’ schools programmes.

Read more ...

More Articles ...

  1. Education notes - Eton College on Benefits Street
  2. Education notes: Department for Education pimps for private business / FRFI 236 Dec 2013/Jan 2014
  3. Students protest against cuts and privatisation, and in solidarity with university workers – December 2013
  4. Outsourcing yields very tasty profits/FRFI 235 Oct/Nov 2013
  5. Education notes: The neoliberal blame game/FRFI 234 Aug/Sep 2013
  6. Student loans for sale – everything must go
  7. Privatisation of higher education
  8. Education notes: Education for sale/ FRFI 233 Jun/Jul 2013
  9. The rights of the disabled child – March 2013
  10. Education Note: The ‘bad man’ theory of history / FRFI 231 Feb/Mar 2013
  11. Education notes: Gove shrinks state education /FRFI 229 Oct/Nov 2012
  12. No armed forces in our schools / FRFI 228 Aug/Sep 2012
  13. Academy schools: bribes and false promises / FRFI 227 June/July 2012
  14. Plunder of the public purse /FRFI 226 April/May 2012
  15. Education Notes - The Academies swindle /FRFI 225 Feb/Mar 2012
  16. Education notes: Mr Gove and his box of magic tricks/ FRFI 224 December 2011/January 2012
  17. There is no such thing as a free lunch ... or a free school / FRFI 223 Oct/Nov 2011
  18. Education notes - How not to spend the money / FRFI 222 Aug/Sep 2011
  19. Bribery and corruption in the school system / FRFI 221 Jun/Jul 2011
  20. Not ‘dream’ schools but nightmares /FRFI 220 April/May 2011
  21. English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) – target of the cuts! - 26 Feb 2011
  22. Students mobilise against attacks on education / FRFI 219 Feb/Mar 2011
  23. Class privilege: still the driving force of the education system in Britain / FRFI 219 Feb/Mar 2011
  24. Stop the cuts! Defend the protesters! / FRFI 219 Feb/Mar 2011
  25. Higher education under threat /FRFI 218 Dec 2010 / Jan 2011