• Oct 172012

For-profit schools : a comment

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Haven’t read the article yet, but it seems The Independent are on the case…


Before reading this post (and even if you have no intention of reading it!), it might help if you’ve seen this article from the BBC and this one from CITY AM.

Both articles are about the direction our education system may well be headed. The Policy Exchange think tank are suggesting that private firms should be allowed to run persistently failing schools for profit, which at the moment they are unable to do.

We came across the second article first via Ian Gilbert’s tweet and left a long-winded rant on the CITY AM website as a comment. We’re not confident their readership will appreciate it (“CITY AM — Business with personality”), so we’re recycling it here in the form of a letter…

To Whom It May Concern,

We were interested to hear of your for-profit schools suggestion. If we may say so, it paints a depressing picture of the future and it neglects to answer the question “What is a school?”

If it’s a place where students come in one end and leave the other with (all being well!) more knowledge than when they started, regurgitating the facts at the end of the conveyor belt, then for-profit schools would make a lot of sense. In fact, why haven’t they been encouraged until now? We’d happily run a for-profit school in a big chicken shed somewhere.

If, however, it’s a place where the value-added is more than regurgitated knowledge… If it’s a place where time and resources are allocated according to student needs, not just the balance sheet… If it’s a place where students are motivated, prepared and nurtured to become independent, collaborative, resilient, personable, social and considerate… then, we would humbly suggest, that the profit/loss model might not be the best one to use.

We don’t have the answers to the questions that the challenges of 21st century education throws up, but we think we’ve just recognised a dud one.

Thankfully, teachers and educationalists throughout the UK are resilient people. Despite this Government’s out-dated plans for the new curriculum and examinations, the education community are still challenging one another, pushing forward and (no matter what rigid curriculum comes their way) they will continue to teach problem-solving, critical thinking and creative skills and how to adapt them because that’s what this rapidly changing world needs.

What, we suggest, it doesn’t really need are schools run by decision-makers who have profit as their main incentive. It just seems a dangerous road to go down. Decisions will inevitably be made to maximise profit (rather than maximise pupil enrichment) and the people who make those decisions would not necessarily have the student at heart.

We’re trying hard not to be cynical here — we fully appreciate the part that market forces play in keeping businesses competitive. We just don’t think that trying to keep costs as low as possible whilst increasing revenue as much as possible is a particularly sensible way to run a school. Schools should be like greenhouses, not battery farms. We’re not churning out chickens for profit here — we believe that we’re giving kids opportunities and space to grow as individuals.

Idealistic? Maybe. But if you really want to introduce profit as an incentive, let’s talk about the profit a child gets from a nurturing school and a sparky teacher. Ultimately, that’s the only profit that matters.

And that’s what we’ll continue to promote.

Yours hopefully (still),
Sparky Teaching

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