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The marketisation of the school system in England Friday 13 August 2010 par Richard Hatcher http://www.skolo.org/spip.php?article1234&lang=fr Under the new British government, marketisation and privatisation in the school system takes two forms. First, all schools will be able to become Academies: they gain more freedom over the curriculum and admissions and more control over staff because, being under private school legislation, they are not bound by national or local union agreements on pay and conditions. Secondly alternative providers - private organisations and groups of parents and teachers – will be allowed to open up so-called ‘free schools’, again outside local authorities and funded by government. We will promote the reform of schools in order to ensure that new providers can enter the state school system in response to parental demand; that all schools have greater freedom over the curriculum; and that all schools are held properly to account. We will give parents, teachers, charities and local communities the chance to set up new schools, as part of our plans to allow new providers to enter the state school system in response to parental demand. (The Coalition: our programme for government. Cabinet Office 2010) The Conservative-Liberal Democrat extension of marketisation and privatisation in the school system takes two forms. First, all schools, primary as well as secondary, will be able to become Academies (starting with those graded ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, which can become Academies in September. Like Labour’s Academies, they are outside local authorities, funded directly by government. They gain more freedom over the curriculum and admissions and more control over staff because, being under private school legislation, they are not bound by national or local union agreements on pay and conditions. However the new government’s academies differ from Labour’s in that they will not have government-funded new buildings, they will not have sponsors, and there is no necessary change in the governing body. In that respect they are similar to an earlier Conservative policy: grantmaintained schools which opted out of local authority control (though today, after 12 years of the Labour government, local authorities exercise little control over schools). Importantly, the motivation for academies is different. Blair’s conception was that while the pressure of market relations resulting from ‘choice and diversity’ was a factor, the decisive driver of improvement was innovation driven by external sponsors. …an external sponsor […] brings not only a financial endowment but also vision, commitment, and a record of success from outside the state school system’ (Blair quoted in Shaw 2004, p. 1).
For the ConDems the decisive driver is market competition, with increased school autonomy enabling them to respond to parental choice; hence sponsors are not needed (and in any case the pool of suitable applicants was already drying up under Labour). The second form of marketisation and privatisation is that alternative providers - private organisations and groups of parents and teachers – will be allowed to open up so-called ‘free schools’, again outside local authorities and funded by government. Meanwhile, all schools are promised more autonomy through being freed from Labour’s bureaucratic prescription. ‘At the heart of this Government’s vision for education is a determination to give school leaders more power and control’ (Gove 2010). The national curriculum will be less detailed and school inspections eased. The intention is that these measures will radically boost quasi-market relations in the school system. More autonomy for providers, and an increase in their number, will promote competition as parents’ freedom to choose from a range of schools, or even to set up their own, is increased. The intended outcome is that parents will choose higher-performing schools and this will drive up standards throughout the system as schools become more innovative in responding to consumer demands. The Conservative governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major in the 1980s and 1990s had promoted market relations in the school system through parental choice and increased school autonomy, though within a prescriptive framework of a national curriculum and evaluation of performance. The Labour government of Tony Blair recognised that a limited element of parental choice of schools was not a powerful enough mechanism to drive reform, and relied instead on even more prescriptive state intervention. The new Conservative-Liberal Democrat agenda marks a return to the market model, re-engineered by expanding, diversifying and empowering the supply side in order to mobilise competitive demand. This is an ambitious and risky project with no certainty of success. The extent to which suppliers and consumers will enter into market relations cannot be predicted, nor can the extent to which it will result in improved standards, and there is the danger of opposition and resistance. So what is the motivation? What drives government thinking? It can’t be explained simply as an ideological commitment to an increased role for markets and a reduced role for the state in the public sector, though Conservatives and Liberal Democrats share that ideological commitment. Governments are driven ultimately by material class interests, not ideology, though they conceptualise and operationalise those interests in ideological terms. On that basis there are five drivers of the government’s school marketisation policy:
to raise standards of attainment in order to produce more effectively the ‘human capital’ which is deemed necessary for the competitiveness of the economy
particularly in its role in providing the training and skills associated with workforce innovations and economic growth. So there is a continual political challenge for government to try to keep the four drivers aligned as much as possible. At the European Council meeting held in March 2000 in Lisbon the Heads of State and Government set the Union a major strategic goal for 2010: ‘to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world. […] The new imperatives of the global economy require new skills. The education sector is often linked to innovation. so school must innovate to find ways of meeting these demands. (Lubienski 2009. In 2009 it published a report by Christopher Lubienski called Do quasi-markets foster innovation in education? A comparative perspective. is debatable. while promoting equality of opportunity.• • • • to promote social inclusion through ‘equality of opportunity’.) Marketisation of school systems is a global agenda which the OECD has been actively promoting. Under Labour. 3) The European Union has also been a key agent in promoting the economic importance of education. reducing inequality was always subordinate to maintaining middle class advantage. which depends on maintaining their privileged position in education as a positional good. in this period of economic recession. The report begins by stating the economic imperative behind global education reform. (I say ‘think’ because exactly what those future labour requirements might be. and indeed the relationship between educational levels and economic competitiveness. capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion’ (European Council 2000). attempting to drastically reduce spending. putting both economic needs and electoral support at risk. as Labour found with Serco operating Bradford local education authority provision. while also. . The Council emphasised that investment in education and training was of crucial importance in the European knowledge-based economy. for both social and economic reasons to consolidate electoral support to provide profitable opportunities for ‘edubusiness’ to promote a right-wing cultural agenda in education These five purposes do not necessarily go harmoniously together. For example. p. Particularly problematic is harmonising electoral support from the middle class. the need to protect middle class advantage in the system for electoral reasons has to be juggled with the need for an element of equity both to both retain working class electoral support based on the belief that the system is sufficiently fair and to meet ‘human capital’ needs by raising the attainment of working-class pupils. ‘Edubusiness’ may not deliver in terms of pupil attainment. Nor are the five drivers equivalent in weight: the dominant purpose of marketisation is economic: to raise ‘standards’ to produce the future workforce that government and employers think the economy needs.
unlike the rest of the 30 OECD countries except France. Employers were struggling to recruit people with the right skills. made a similar analysis of Labour’s education policies. (Blair 2005). Employers’ representatives draw an overall negative balance-sheet of thirteen years of the Labour government’s education policy. In July 2008 the European Commission produced a new document entitled Improving competences for the 21st Century: An Agenda for European Cooperation on Schools (Council of the European Union 2008) which proposed an agenda for cooperation between member states to step up the modernisation of school systems. Richard Lambert. even in the recession. particularly in terms of the level of education of those destined for middle. 4) In England it has become evident that the limits of Labour’s strategy of top-down mandated reform in the school system were reached some years ago. while in the case of the vital benchmark on literacy performance is in fact deteriorating. recently complained that the education system is failing pupils from poorer homes and producing exam results which "we ought to be ashamed of". based on knowledge. 38). which have among the most generous government funding in the world but exam results that are beginning to trail behind competitor countries. headed ‘An unacceptable term’s work’. the number of pupils leaving . It drew a balance-sheet of progress towards meeting the Lisbon targets for education and training. also speaking on behalf of capital. The Economist also noted that in the SATs tests at the end of primary school ‘the number of schools where all pupils achieved the minimum standard expected has slumped by a fifth. compared to 71% in Britain.This country will succeed or fail on the basis of how it changes itself and gears up to this new economy. For the first time since the tests began in 1995. …the majority of the benchmarks set for 2010 will not be reached in time. But the process of neo-liberal education reform in Europe has failed to meet its economic objectives. ‘Some marks for effort but academic attainment is shockingly poor’. Improvement in pupil performance as a result of the ‘standards agenda’ has plateaued (and in any case was over-estimated). The Economist (5 December 2009. director-general of the Confederation of British Industry.and lower-level jobs. while the equality gap remains as wide as ever. Education is now the centre of economic policy making for the future. which still has 86% in education. It noted that Britain educates a smaller proportion of its 15 to 19-year-olds than it did in 1995. (p.In England Tony Blair established this as the master narrative of Labour’s education policy: Education is our best economic policy…. but business leaders also have concerns about social ills such as illiteracy (Guardian 31 December 2009). Attaining these benchmarks will require more effective national initiatives. He said that money is being wasted in English schools. p.
sets the agenda for Labour’s successor: Over two thirds of employers (70%) want to see the new government making the employability skills of young people its top education priority. the demand-side is based on the expansion of an industrial reserve army of youth. It is a unique sadness of our times that we have one of the most stratified and segregated school systems in the developed world. 1948-2009). This trend will be driven by an expansion of employment in sectors and occupations where the incidence of low pay is currently high – such as retail and catering. We have to overcome the deep. are actually predicted to increase: Without significant changes in policy. allowing them to lay claim to the traditional Labour terrain of tackling social inequality in education. p. The focus is particularly on those students destined for the middle and lower levels of the workforce. Ready to grow: business priorities for education and skills. While employers complain about the school supply-side. which claims that 20% of 16 to 19-year-olds lack basic skills (Times Educational Supplement 7 May 2010). The Con-Dem government offers a radical solution to meeting the needs of capital.’ Further evidence in support of the employers’ concerns is provided by a new governmentfunded report by researchers at Sheffield university (The levels of attainment in literacy and numeracy of 13. (CBI 2010. which deprive so many of the chance to shape their own destiny. (Lawton 2009. p.primary school with an acceptable grasp of English fell. 5). As Michael Gove said in his first major speech as secretary of state for education: …the ethical imperative of our education policy is quite simple . The CBI’s education and skills survey 2010. This prediction needs to be qualified: as Allen and Ainley (2010) show in their book Lost Generation?. there is a shortage of jobs for young people. and lower level service sector occupations. which have made us the sick man of Europe when it comes to social mobility. which has enabled the Con-Dems to construct a discourse which harmonises the social and economic functions of schooling. factors which keep so many in poverty.we have to make opportunity more equal. if the . Unemployment among 16-24 year olds is edging towards 1 million and is likely to remain high as a consequence of the financial crash. there will be a relatively similar number of low paying jobs in 2020 as in 2004.to 19-year-olds in England. in spite of the rhetoric of the knowledge economy. (Gove 2010) The government’s marketisation policy will offer the opportunity for companies to run schools for profit. on management contracts and. while 63% want to see a focus on improving basic standards of literacy and numeracy in schools and colleges. historically entrenched. 10) The focus here is on basic skills and interpersonal skills for employment in the middle and lower level jobs which.
to increase the number of lessons rated good and outstanding. Some are run on a for-profit basis by private companies. aim. Regarding teaching and learning in Academies. including sixth form. Charter schools in the US and ‘free schools’ in Sweden has been summarised recently by the New Schools Network (2010). The case for the success of Academies in the UK. Swedish independent or ‘free schools’ are non-feepaying public schools owned and run by a variety of educational providers. Germany and Sweden allow such schools to be run on a for-profit basis (Hatcher 2005a). which now represent about 75% of free schools. It cites Ofsted inspection reports which indicate that the quality of teaching continues to be variable across Academies and that there is an ongoing challenge at all levels.091. Inexperienced middle . not the profitability of the small sector of the economy represented by school edubusiness companies – that is also a desirable. the final evaluation of the Academies programme commissioned by the Labour government and carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers (2008) found a ‘mixed picture’. Ireland. and funded by government on a parental voucher basis. Public schools funded by the state but run by private providers Public schools funded by the state but run by private providers are a feature of many national school systems. mainly historically by religious organisations. but secondary and subordinate. as in England with denominational schools. Denmark. There are different types of charter schools. The ConDems draws on two models in addition to Labour’s academies: US charter schools and Swedish ‘free schools’. including some in the EU: the Netherlands. despite this being an explicit policy objective for quasi-markets…’ (Lubienski 2009. Spain.law changes. 27). I want to look at those claims in the light of research evidence. Some are run by community or charitable organisations on a non-profit basis. Since the mid-90s the number of free schools has risen to 1.000 schools. The biggest growth sector is private companies running chains of schools for profit. But the government’s overriding educational goal is the profitability of the future workforce for capital as a whole. ranging from non-profit co-operatives and faith groups to for-profit corporations. either operated under management contracts from the school district or state. or owned by the companies themselves. Does marketisation lead to innovation? The OECD report I referred to above concludes that ‘exhaustive studies in the UK quasi-market find little evidence of academic innovations. which was set up some months before the election to promote the Conservatives’ plans. France. Flanders in Belgium. In 2008 there were 4556 charter schools in a school system of 125. some regions of Italy. p. by owning as well as running schools.
(Times 6 March 2010) . 17) The report notes that the strategies for improvement are the same as those used by local authority schools and that ‘Over the course of the evaluation. modern foreign languages. or to be more accurate regressive innovations. However. That’s the best training of the mind and that’s how children will be able to compete. Michael Gove has stated: I’m an unashamed traditionalist when it comes to the curriculum.’ (p. David Cameron has argued that ‘discipline. there has been some pulling back on some of the earlier curricular innovations and a stronger focus on getting the basics right. the other is standardisation. (Guardian 9 October 2009). setting by ability and regular sport’ prevalent in the private sector would flourish in state schools once they were freed from government controls.’ (TES 25 September 2009). p. Back to the future? The Conservatives claim that increased parental choice will result in a return to traditional methods in schools. 17) Reviewing research into US charter schools. 6). algebra by the age of 11. In England there is much less scope for innovation by private providers simply through transferring existing practices to new areas. and therefore much greater local variation at state and school district levels. …it appears that charter schools are markedly more successful in disseminating than generating innovations in classroom practice (Lubienski. 2009. ‘We will ensure that the primary curriculum is organised around subjects like Maths. (p.management and a relatively high percentage of teachers without qualified teacher status may be factors. the great works of literature. proper mental arithmetic. One is traditional methods. p. often ones developed in publiclyrun schools. This is significant in the US where there is no federal system imposing a level of homogeneity comparable to England. They introduce practices to new areas. We will encourage setting’ (Conservative Party 2010. learning the kings and queens of England. A Conservative spokesperson stated that ‘We have always argued that we think that a genuine choice system would lead to more tried and tested teaching methods because that is more popular with parents. Most parents would rather their children had a traditional education. 33). contradictorily. Science and History. with children sitting in rows. But Lubienski finds that the market does tend to generate two sorts of what might be called innovations. Lubienski (2009) notes that their purpose is innovation but there is little evidence of it. the Conservatives do not rely solely on market pressure: they intend also to intervene directly. forcing headteachers to respond to parental demands.
and often to ensure curriculum delivery by less qualified staff. This leads to economies of scale and a ‘delivery’ model for teachers. sometimes cast as a reaction to the trendiness and faddishness in a sector that is too focused on education […].He believed that history lessons should celebrate rather than denigrate Britain’s role through the ages. a study of the curricular and pedagogical approach of 80 charter schools in several states found that 54% reported a ‘basics’ emphasis. while critics claim that the hated “one-size-fits-all” approach to education is inherent in public control. (Lubienski 2009. Thus. but featured familiar educational models. pp. Another survey found that over 40% of the 261 charter schools surveyed reported a “back to-basics” or core-knowledge approach. Everything is provided for the schools through information technology – goals. instructions. Charter schools and Swedish free schools both employ a higher proportion of non-qualified staff as teachers (Lubienski 2009. researchers examining quasi-markets in the UK and the US have indicated that the autonomy and incentives of the quasimarket may encourage schools and parents to embrace proven methods…’ (Lubienski 2009. In these cases. such standardisation is also possible through the private cost-savings in the “cookie-cutter” approach. p. a vocational focus. He claims to offer personalised learning. or a ‘general’ approach. a traditional subject orientation. p. another 36% were ‘alternative’. There is a standardised curriculum. (Lubienski 2009. All his schools also have the . but in reality this means pupils following at different paces a 35 step ladder common to all his schools. textbooks. Standardisation Private for-profit companies running chains of state-funded schools tend to impose a standardised model in order to maximise profits through economies of scale. In an interview (Emilsson 2005) he described his model of standardised teaching. including the Empire. In the US. 34) I return to this issue later to consider the extent to which this might be the case in England. ‘Guilt about Britain’s past is misplaced’. Kunskapsskolan (The Knowledge School). 39) There is evidence from Sweden too of standardisation. these standardising tendencies in large-scale operations are becoming more evident with the growing presence of corporations which try to increase their share of the market — all of which have a set approach to educating children. Is the government correct in assuming that parental choice favours traditional approaches? According to Lubienski: Researchers in a number of countries have reported trends toward more traditionalist approaches to education. p. 32-3). 25) For example. Peje Emilsson is the founder and Chairman of the Board of the largest chain of private schools.
’ (p. He identifies the mechanisms: ‘many independent schools now require parent or student contracts. ‘Several previous studies. He describes it as a ‘comprehensive grammar school’. 24). 41) Socially-patterned self-selection was commented on in an OECD report in 2007 which stated that ‘it is not clear that pupils and parents in the lowest socio-economic classes are able to take advantage of school choice . . the governance arrangements were primarily collective. 23). but the basis is there in their management structure. which has nearly half as much space per pupil as state schools. the West London Free School.. which tended to be responsible for day-to-day decisions. The evidence from Sweden is that one consequence of the advent of ‘free schools’ is greater social segregation between schools. has been initiated by Toby Young. There is no research into the existence of a standardised model operated by Academy sponsors running chains of schools.. (PricewaterhouseCoopers 2006. pp. associate editor of the Conservative-supporting journal The Spectator (TES 29 January 2010). Children from lower socio-economic backgrounds are much less likely to make the move to a better school than children from wealthier backgrounds. In these Academies. 37). p. p. p. if not the. or other means that encourage self-segregation by parents that obscure selection of students by schools. (Skolverket 2006. for which a.’ (p.same standardised building design.’ (Barton 2010). which means social selection resulting from a combination of selection by school and self-selection by parents and pupils. with strategic decisions being taken on behalf of the group of Academies by a central governing board. key strategy is selecting their intake. Will this apply to free schools in England? The first proposed free school. show that choice in the school system has led to a tendency to segregate in terms of pupils’ sociocultural background. By marketing is meant schools positioning themselves in the market. 24). He gives the example of US charter schools ‘locating in more affluent neighborhoods or using admissions policies to dissuade or exclude more difficult-to-educate students’ (p.’ (Lubienski 2009. performance and ethnic background. This confirms Ball’s conclusion from a survey of international research that ‘school choice policies are taken advantage of and primarily work in the interests of middle-class families’ (Ball 2003.51). adherence to mission statements. each individual Academy had a local governing body. and statistics. 25-6) Social selection The OECD report says ‘the area where competitive incentives generated by these reforms appear to have sparked the most innovation is in terms of marketing. In addition. Lubienski says that ‘when schools have greater autonomy in quasimarkets competitive incentives cause schools to develop marketing innovations that may effectively exclude segments of the population. volunteer hours.
schools are unlikely to actively recruit more disadvantaged pupils as a result of the pupil premium: the premium would need to be very high to sufficiently reduce the disincentive for many schools to attract such pupils. Similarly. especially the Home Counties. Furthermore. and classical civilisation.a reduction in the power of the national unions and the probable worsening of the pay and conditions of teachers and other school workers. are prevented from becoming Academies. would the premium provide sufficient incentive for profit-driven providers to open ‘free schools’ aimed at poorer working class families rather than a middle class clientele? The Conservatives have not yet given a figure. often in middle-class areas. We can see this with Charter schools and Swedish . or whether a tier of schools regarded as lowerperforming. p. since these schools take 40% fewer poor pupils than the national average (Observer 6 June 2010). Whether they ultimately create a socially segregated two-tier system depends on whether they are simply the first tranche of Academies and all schools can subsequently follow suit. would be – and this is the intention .2) conclude that ‘The pupil premium may lead to a small reduction in covert selection by schools but is unlikely to significantly reduce social segregation. Chowdry et al (2010. as measured by the reduction in the number of pupils eligible for FSM (Gorard 2009). and in fact local authority funding formulas already positively discriminate in favour of socially deprived schools so it would need to be significantly higher. The new government’s invitation to ‘outstanding’ schools to immediately become Academies is also socially selective. if they spread widely. Schools’ ability to select pupils is also limited to some extent by the School Admissions Code. The consequence. Academies in England have become increasingly socially selective compared to their predecessor schools. According to an analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (Chowdry et al 2010). putting at risk their academic attainment and public image. with every student learning Latin up to age 16. are much more likely to have expressed an interest in becoming an Academy than schools in the poorest areas (TES 2 July 2010). in reality it would be likely to attract mainly children from professional middle-class families.specialising in music. humanities. likely to be disproportionately serving socially deprived areas. The government proposes to introduce a ‘pupil premium’ with the aim of narrowing the educational achievement gap between rich and poor students by attaching greater school funding to those from disadvantaged backgrounds as an incentive for higher-performing schools. Although the school would be formally non-selective. schools in well-off areas of the country.’ The employment of teachers in privatised schools Academies and ‘free schools’ employ their own staff and are free to ignore national and local agreements on the pay and conditions of teachers and other school workers. to admit more students from poorer families. for whom the school offers the kind of cultural capital which is the passport to Oxbridge and high-ranking professional careers.
In municipal schools it is 20 hours. founded by two teachers in 1994. or funding. If quasi-markets offered some type of elixir for educational performance. In Sweden Peje Emilsson is the founder and Chairman of the Board of the largest chain of private schools. according to Knights (TES 26 February 2010) is teacher burn-out. over time. all non-profit. the market model emphasises the importance of a strong local school leadership. professional efforts. Consequently. In England the Sutton Trust is currently planning an academy on the KIPP model (The Times 21 December 2009). In an interview Emilson said We are telling the headmasters in our school that the overriding goal is to make sure that the student learns as much as possible. (Emilsson 2005) In practice this means much longer hours for teachers. policy alignments. Firstly. we might. Teachers work with pupils 30 hours a week (8am-5pm 5 days a week). Evidence of improved academic outcomes is mixed. Kunskapsskolan (The Knowledge School). and improvements in academic performance may result from factors other than quasi-market incentives — for example. which would indicate that educational innovations are occurring. 300-1) The market-oriented teacher primarily perceives students and parents as customers rather than citizens or clients. both of which require much longer working hours (Lubienski 2009. competition and choice have led to improved outcomes. market orientation involves teachers recognising and paying attention to the school management leadership. which now runs the largest chain of charter schools: 82 middle schools in 19 cities in the US.’ (p. (p. 32-3). 299). Fredriksson (2009) has argued that in Sweden ‘for-profit school ownership led to the emergence of the ‘market-oriented teacher’. but they should not spend more than 95 cents out of every dollar.g. Under the slogan ‘let the manager manage’. Does marketisation raise standards ? The conclusion of the OECD review of research by Lubienski is as follows: …it is far from clear that quasi-market forces such as increased autonomy. technocratic knowledge. pp.free schools. the local management is to lead the teachers of the individual school in the same way as managers in the private sector control the employees of private firms… (pp. Gove 2010) is the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP). 301) One type of charter school which finds particular favour with Conservative politicians (e. resulting from a working week of 65 hours and the expectation that teachers are in contact with students 24/7. expect to see nations with . A feature of KIPP schools.
First. 45) What is the evidence for Academies. than the average public school. charters and free schools? There is now sufficient evidence about Academies to show that on average they are no more successful than other schools with comparable intakes. these changes in GCSE performance in academies relative to matched schools are statistically indistinguishable from one another. p. who are statistically more likely to succeed academically.’ The most recent large-scale study was published in 2009 by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University: Multiple Choice: Charter school performance in 16 states. p. rather than market forces. pp. It concluded that 17 percent provide superior education opportunities for their students. 2 July 2010). p. 37 percent. has often led to pedagogical and curricular innovation. (PricewaterhouseCoopers 2008.14). p. 220) The picture for charter schools is similar. allowing their progress to be monitored. But it is hardly clear that this is the case. ‘numerous studies have shown that the average charter school performs no better. Some Academies have registered above-average levels of improvement. Second. Of these. they have admitted a higher proportion of children from betteroff families. The percentage of FSM pupils in Academies has fallen from 45% in 2003 to 29% in 2008.more market-like systems outperforming countries where the state plays a more direct role in educational provision. deliver learning results that are significantly worse than their student . 27-8) Based on evidence reviewed in this analysis. and in some cases performs slightly worse. but the principal factors are twofold.’ (Machin and Wilson 2009. which count as equivalent to GCSEs – in some cases as equivalent to four GCSE passes . the very causal direction is in question in view of the fact that government intervention. Nearly half of the charter schools nationwide have results that are no different from the local public school options and over a third. 24 Academies (32%) saw their results fall between 2008 and 2009. at a time when most schools’ results improved. it appears that there is no direct causal relationship between leveraging quasi-market mechanisms of choice and competition in education and inducing educational innovation in the classroom. In fact. (Lubienski 2009. The most recent research study of their performance in GCSE examinations taken at age 16 notes that attainment has risen but that ‘Overall. 74 Academies have now taken at least 2 sets of GCSEs.and have a higher pass rate (TES 25 June. The conclusion of PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Academies evaluation 5th annual report 2008 is that: The evaluation suggests that there is insufficient evidence to make a definitive judgement about the Academies as a model for school improvement.8). (Lubienski 2009. they have relied on non-GCSE examinations. According to Bendor et al (2007.
p. The most study recent is by Bohlmark and Lindahl (2008).) This analysis is confirmed by Per Thulberg.185).1) A study of reading found that students in free schools had on average better reading results. Social selection hence characterises independent schools’ (Myrberg and Rosen 2006. p. 5. who found evidence of only small positive effects.would have realized had they remained in traditional public schools. Furthermore. especially for those students entering the schools with the lowest test scores (Woodworth et al 2008). university attainment or years of schooling. predominantly from poorer backgrounds. director general of the Swedish National Agency for Education: ‘The students in the new schools. constrained by the school district.’ (Allen 2010. Potential parents are rigorously interviewed.1) A study of Philadelphia in 2008 found that ‘students’ average gains attending charter schools are statistically indistinguishable from the gains they experience while at traditional public schools. the impact on low educated families and immigrants is close to zero. 80% of the students are from low-income families but 85% go on to university (TES 19 February 2010).’ (Guardian Education 9 February 2010). However. A summary of Bohlmark and Lindahl’s research concludes that ‘The biggest beneficiaries are children from highly educated families. They come from well-educated families. which enables principals to control the budget and the curriculum. select and appoint staff and operate an extended timetable: ten-hour school days with sessions on Saturdays and in the summer holiday. Richardson (2009) makes the point that advocates claim that KIPP’s success is due to KIPP schools’ freedom from state control. iii). Independent schools have ‘a larger proportion of pupils with parents who . (Bohlmark and Lindahl 2008. achieving significantly higher than their peers in other schools (Educational Policy Institute 2005). (Zimmer et al 2008. p. p. The Knowledge is Power Program undoubtedly results in students. but not a relevant factor in the UK where schools already have this autonomy. p. some KIPP schools show a high dropout rate. which is 60% more time than other US middle schools. (CREDO 2009. they have in general better standards. their backgrounds. but that the explanation was that they had ‘a more advantageous socio-economic background than have students in public schools. There have been a number of studies of attainment in Swedish free schools. we do not find any impact on medium or long-term educational outcomes such as high school GPA. This is a radical departure for US schools. We find that an increase in the private school share moderately improves short-term educational outcomes such as 9th grade GPA and the fraction of students who choose an academic high school track. We conclude that the first-order short-term effect is too small to yield lasting positive effects. but it has to do with their parents. But the principal explanation may be that KIPP’s admission process selects for likely high achievers.
ConDem economic and fiscal policies will greatly increase social inequality. It requires a combination of the following elements of supply and demand: • Consumers (parents and their children) choosing schools for reasons which correspond to the government’s agenda .000 public sector jobs. Will competition between schools raise standards in the whole system? One argument used by supporters of allowing new schools in order to provide more market competition between schools is that it raises the performance of other schools. 48). including. Will the Conservative programme be implemented ? Leaving aside for the moment the question of what campaigns of opposition and resistance the ConDems’ policies might provoke. In a survey carried out by Skolverket. p.have continued in education after upper secondary school. However. including the loss of 750.17). p. heads of education consider that competition between schools has contributed to improved education. 79% disagreed with the statement ‘competition with independent compulsory schools in your municipality has contributed to school improvement in compulsory schools in your municipality’ (p. The biggest determinant of educational inequality is economic inequality. unemployment is predicted to rise to 3 million. the ConDems’ reforms take place in a new and very different context: a massive government austerity programme. 32). iii) found ‘no evidence that the district schools located in neighborhoods with the greatest charter competition are performing any better or any worse as a result of the competition. p. ‘The majority of municipalities with a high proportion of pupils in independent schools consider that relations between independent and municipal schools are largely characterised by competition. 26). and particularly. For example.’ (p. I first want to consider what other obstacles there may be to their implementation stemming from the difficulties in constructing a sufficiently powerful quasi-market to achieve their goals. (Skolverket 2006. Furthermore. According to Per Thulberg ‘This competition between schools that was one of the reasons for introducing the new schools has not led to better results. In the US Zimmer et al (2008.’ The evidence from these forerunners of the ConDems’ policy does not support the claim that the combination of parental choice and new providers will raise standards of attainment.’ (Skolverket 2006. in socially deprived areas (Conservative Party 2010). although ‘In municipalities with a high proportion of pupils in independent compulsory schools. the Swedish National Agency for Education.’ (Guardian Education 9 February 2010). And the widely predicted deep cuts in education itself will further increase social inequality in the school system.
This will open up a lucrative market for the private sector (and perhaps some entrepreneurial local authorities). The question is. Some heads and governing bodies may be attracted by the opportunity for the school to be free of national and local employment agreements. Will schools want to become Academies? Why would headteachers and governing bodies want their schools to become Academies now that the main attraction of Academies under Labour. Second. Will there be enough free schools to drive market forces ? . but schools already have substantial freedom (especially Foundation schools). not solely based on standards of attainment or other elements of the government’s agenda.• Parental choice generating sufficient pressure on providers (schools) to force them to provide a service which corresponds to the government’s agenda First. problems of supply. For a large comprehensive school this could amount to a million pounds a year. the question of demand. and to be its own admissions authority. no longer applies? Academies offer some greater freedom from local authorities. and in any case all schools will benefit from the ConDems’ promise of greater autonomy and freedom from bureaucracy. There are two problems. on top of the usual funding which new Academies will continue to get (from government rather than the local authority). human resource services. payroll. Demand only becomes effective when there is sufficient local choice of providers to exert competitive pressure on them. 1. will enough surplus be left to the school after paying for those services to provide a sufficient incentive to become an Academy. asset management and emergency protection. p. But many schools would prefer to remain part of a local authority because of the support service benefits they provide. bearing in mind that if serious cuts in school budgets are imposed by government next year then that surplus could be decisive in leading schools to reluctantly optout. They will be entitled. 41). the school would then have to pay for essential services no longer supplied by the local authority. such as legal and financial services. to an extra 10% or so funding as their share of the education budget which local authorities retain for central services. preferring the lesser evil of becoming academies than losing staff. and especially making staff redundant? 2. And parents choose schools for a variety of reasons. Of course. In the case of over-subscribed schools it is in reality the school that chooses the child (Lubienski 2009. There is however one major incentive to become an Academy which might prove irresistible to schools which would otherwise chose to remain with local authorities. a new building.
the Education Secretary. The most contentious category of providers is for-profit companies (see below). 3. are likely to want to seize the opportunity. p. which would require a significant presence of free schools in each local circuit of schooling. (The Conservatives initially spoke of 220.The New Schools Network claims that 191 groups have expressed an interest in starting schools. A hard-pressed Treasury is likely to be reluctant to fund large numbers of unnecessary extra school places. a programme to rebuild or renovate all state secondary schools. but the provision of a large number of surplus places would be very expensive. that programme is certain to be wholly or completely scrapped. But for parental choice to drive market forces most effectively there has to be sufficient spare capacity in the system for choice to matter to suppliers. independent “mom-and-pop” providers that were to generate innovation and diversity of options […]. In Michigan. 21). This potential for corporate involvement is most apparent in the growth of for-profit management companies in the US. including teaching. The government’s proposals have not been publicly costed. EMOs run about three-fourths of all charter schools. groups . including those holding fundamentalist views. and if it were sufficiently profitable they could enter the market in substantial numbers. Furthermore. recently advised Conservative politicians that ‘Only the profit motive will drive the level of expansion and innovation that education services require’ (Guardian 4 March 2010). to a private company for a management fee. said recently that the government has no "ideological objection" to firms making profits from new academies and free schools (Daily Telegraph 1 June 2010). There are two ways to make a profit from running state schools. Governing bodies could contract out the operation of the school. which would mean that existing schools would be left in an increasingly unsatisfactory condition while ‘free schools’ flourish at their expense. Anders Hultin. which amounts to an increase of about 20%). Will private providers run state schools for profit ? One potential provider of free schools is private companies. Corporate EMOs now manage a substantial proportion of the charter schools in states that market advocates favour for their “stronger” legislation. the director of Kunskapsskolan. Michael Gove.000 extra places. on the model of education management organisations in the US. 85 of them since the general election (Guardian 25 May 2010). as they have by sponsoring Labour’s Academies. But in the context of an ongoing recession and a huge budget deficit. which tend to be larger than the remaining small-scale. The government has stated that it will be paid for by taking money (perhaps £4. Religious bodies and individuals.5 billion) from the Building Schools for the Future budget. There would be the additional running costs of both the new schools and existing schools (Holmlund and McNally 2009. One is to manage them under contract without owning them.
A recent report commissioned by the 157 Group of leading FE colleges has argued that colleges should be allowed to convert to companies running a range of business operations including running schools and Academies (TES FE Focus 5 February 2010). VT Group. Will that model be attractive to parents in England. Where there is a profit motive the extended tendering processes of the EU’s public procurement regime may apply. architect of Kunskapsskolan.’ (Education Guardian 25 May 2010).like Edison hope to expand worldwide. accustomed to schools with a relatively high level of funding and facilities? What effect would the spread of Academies and ‘free schools’ have on local school systems? 1. 4. Parents too could hire a private firm to run a free school on their behalf. which started as a defence contractor. which runs some 75 private international schools. an elected officer of the National Union of Teachers in England. The question is. supporting groups of parents. That’s a natural starting point’. It remains to be seen whether the government will allow it. after a visit to Sweden in 2009. and now runs the education departments of two local authorities. (Guardian 1 June 2010). taking advantage of opportunities such as the UK Labour government’s plan to bring private managers in to run failing schools […]. regards running 1000 schools on management contracts is ‘not unrealistic. and standardising provision (Danson 2009). Will it result in schools declining and closing? . has been running Turin Grove school in London on that basis since 2007. 39) It is important to recognise that this is already permitted in England. opening up the application process both to competitors and to public scrutiny. Young is currently in negotiation with Edison. building and operating ships for the Royal Navy. p. He says ‘We are exploring possibilities right now. to run the West London Free School. according to a report by Hazel Danson. cutting the cost of facilities. would operating state schools be sufficiently profitable to attract them? Kunskapsskolan makes a profit. an American schools-for-profit company. The other way to make a profit is to for companies to actually own as well as run Academies or ‘free schools’. is now CEO of GEMS-UK (Global Education Management Systems). Further Education colleges have also expressed an interest in running schools. (Lubienski 2009. A change in legislation would be required. by employing fewer qualified teachers. Kunskapsskolan itself has recently opened an office in London and become the sponsor of two Academies. There is a possible legal obstacle to both forms of privatisation. and in fact Edison Learning. Anders Hultin. positioning itself to move into the for-profit market. Will the funding for ‘free schools’ make them sufficiently attractive for providers seeking to own or manage them for profit? Companies can make substantial profits from supplying services to schools. and a similar British company.
Will market competition prevent schools collaborating to share knowledge and practice for improvement? The dominant discourse of school improvement in the last few years. albeit attenuated. but schools which are ‘reluctant opters-out’ of local authorities will be anxious to retain their networks with the schools both in and outside the local authority. 2. resulting in some becoming unviable. has been collaboration between schools to transfer and jointly develop knowledge and practice. with the declining credibility of the ‘standards agenda’. maybe many. p. Local empowerment. When the ConDems speak of ‘accountability’ they refer to accountability to Ofsted and government. 3. local provision would be unplanned. which may see each other as ‘competition’. elements of local democracy. not to local stakeholders through school governing bodies and elected local government. would send some. The generalisation of Academies and ‘free schools’ would be outside the local authority system of schools. But apart from this will the spread of Academies and free schools lead to less collaboration? Perhaps so with commercial providers. under which local elected town and county councils have some powers to arrange and manage coherent provision in their areas. Will market competition undermine collaboration (apart from within chains of schools? The evidence from charter schools is that while autonomy and competition were meant to lead to innovations. (Lubienski 2009. all chasing the same pupils. in particular pupil places. takes the form of choice not voice: the opportunity to influence provision through consumer choice. the demise of central bureaucracies and the rise of adversarial relationships down-grades the capacity for schools to share innovations with each other […]. responsible only for the rump of schools which chose not to become Academies or failed to gain government approval. often schools undermined by loss of pupils and middle class flight and needing support . a largely rhetorical theme of Labour now taken up by the new government. not participation in policy-making. Nor is there much incentive to share an innovation with a competitor. What effect will marketisation have on local democracy in the school system? The market agenda represents a major threat to the existing.The creation of new schools. fragmented and chaotic. 9) found that ‘there has been little collaboration between most academies and neighbouring secondary schools. If Academies and free schools spread. 40) Regarding Academies. existing schools into a spiral of decline as their pupil numbers diminished.’ Gove has said that each new academy will ‘be asked and expected to take under their wing an underperforming school’ (Daily Telegraph 1 June 2010 ). p. ranging from networks of schools to federations. Local authorities would be reduced to a residual role. a National Audit Office report (2007.
(Gove 2010) Schools will value greater freedom to decide on curriculum and pedagogy after the years of Labour’s top-down prescription. But autonomy brings with it the risk for government that schools will use it not to return to Gove’s ‘traditional methods’ but to reintroduce progressive practices which the Thatcher government sought to drive out of the system. performance tables and parental choice ensure that heads and teachers don’t use their increased autonomy to depart from the government agenda? Has the culture of ‘progressive education’ which developed during the 60s. in particular. resources and accountability. through the National Curriculum and Ofsted and an ideological offensive led by the Black Papers and Chris Woodhead. How will schools use increased autonomy? Increased autonomy is the promise for all schools.from local authorities whose capacity to provide it was being reduced by declining funding.school governing bodies and local authorities. p172) Brian Caldwell (2006) goes further in anticipating in advance the Con-Dem agenda by questioning whether there is a need at all for local authorities in education. informed by the best international practice. and in some cases represent moves towards surrogate local authorities. envisaging just autonomous schools operating within a government framework of standards. but he is insistent that schools should be free from accountability to local elected government: the move towards networking should be developed and groups of secondary schools must. Will the combined pressure of Ofsted. which can act as a benchmark against which schools can measure themselves and parents ask meaningful and informed questions about progress. should be encouraged to form collaborative arrangements outside local control. David Hopkins claims that ‘Moral purpose in school reform […] is also about empowering communities’ (2007. Instead I want to arrive at a simple core. They have in common a desire to insulate schools from forms of elected and representative local democracy . 179). I want to remove everything unnecessary from a curriculum that has been bent out of shape by the weight of material dumped there for political purposes. I want to prune the curriculum of over-prescriptive notions of how to teach and how to timetable. system leaders and some prominent academic leadership experts. Their owners and managers’ interests overlap with those of an emerging technocratic elite of headteachers. p. not just in the form of governance as academies and free schools but over the curriculum. 70s and 80s now been safely eradicated from the schools as a result of the neo-liberal reforms since the 1988 Act and the work of time: the departure of a generation of ‘progressive’ teachers and the training of a new generation with no memory of it? . Chains of Academies and free schools are unelected and locally unaccountable. For example. (Hopkins 2007.
Gove made clear in his speech to school leaders at the National College conference (Gove 2010) that the use of autonomy was the responsibility of headteachers. Since it was published in October 2009 the Review team has been holding events across the country and is now setting up a support network for teachers who want to take advantage of the promised autonomy to develop a new progressive primary school curriculum from the bottom up before the government completes its own primary curriculum review. But many teachers approve of the Rose review’s approach and the somewhat more radical one of the Cambridge Primary Review (Alexander 2009). . but without mounting a serious challenge to the boundaries they set. The one exception. right at the end of the Labour government. which aims to promote progressive education as the alternative to what they see as the danger of a back to basics approach. in alliance with the National Union of Teachers. (Another recent initiative is the Whole Education network. supported by 14 organisations including the RSA. The limitations of the standards agenda and top-down micro-management of teaching have been revealed.) The question then is what will government do if schools depart from the ‘traditional methods’ agenda? If they don’t raise standards then Ofsted can recommend sanctions. There is an important opportunity here for the left not only to oppose cuts and marketisation but to also engage in and encourage a national debate about the curriculum and pedagogy. As Nigel Wright said. but in my view many parents fully approve of current progressive primary practice and would support the Cambridge Review approach. built around phonics and ‘maths. The Conservatives argue that parents prefer ‘traditional methods’. During the election the Conservatives talked about wanting a simplified primary curriculum. and many headteachers as well as teachers will want to use it not to return to ‘traditional’ methods but to develop further the creative and progressive teaching they were attempting to practise under Labour. The situation now is different. Michael Gove has rejected the Rose review (Rose 2009) and scrapped Labour’s new primary curriculum. p. 142. promising a new review of the curriculum which will take up to two years. See also Hatcher 2005b). ‘heads know that their schools have to succeed in a target-based culture and in the end this will drive what is allowed and what is proscribed’ (2003.Under Labour many headteachers attempted to mediate and mitigate the negative elements of government policies. science and history’. with social justice. but surprisingly radical. emancipatory learning and raising standards for all at its heart. was the boycott of SATs in May 2010 by many members of the National Association of Head Teachers. A new government is promising professional autonomy over curriculum and pedagogy within the framework of a forthcoming new national curriculum of minimum entitlements. But if they do it is difficult to see what government can do apart from either tolerate them or abandon its promise of autonomy and intervene in the curriculum to try to enforce its own agenda. But there is a sense now in schools that there is a window of opportunity to exercise greater professional judgement.
with the first one opening soon in Birmingham. We will improve the quality of vocational education. take second place to – much more interventionist state regulation? This dilemma risks reviving earlier internal tensions within the Conservative party between different ideological strands of Conservative thinking which emerged over three decades ago during the education reforms of the Thatcher government.What will the government do if marketisation fails to improve standards? I began by saying that the government’s marketisation project for the school system is a high-risk strategy. including increasing flexibility for 14–19 year olds and creating new Technical Academies as part of our plans to diversify schools provision. Opposition and resistance . sponsored by Aston University. (Cabinet Office 2010) This is a re-badging of a policy adopted recently by the Labour government and initiated by Kenneth Baker. They are intended to engage young people from age 14 who are attracted to a more vocationally-oriented education. The two relevant strands can be characterised as the ‘free marketeers’ and the ‘industrial modernisers’ (Jones 1989. that market mechanisms in the school system are too weak and need to be supplemented by – in fact. Does it respond by ratcheting up competition in the schools market even more in the hope that it drives up standards? Or does it draw the conclusion which New Labour drew from the Thatcher-Major era. modelled in part on German technical schools and in part on the technical schools initiated in the 1944 Act. What will the government do if the market doesn’t raise standards? And here. The question is whether the spread of Technical Academies can be left to the market (one obvious candidate would be FE colleges. which are anticipating being able to take students fulltime from age 14) or whether it will require active government intervention to engender them. in contradiction to the market ethos. a previous and influential Conservative secretary of state for education. sponsored by universities. But there is a strand in Conservative thinking which aims to offer a direct and specific solution to the complaints of employers and the needs of the economy for technically qualified workers. Clearly in David Cameron’s programme today the ‘free marketeers’ are in the ascendancy. 2003). in accordance with employers’ requirements. It is represented in the Coalition programme by the proposal for Technical Academies. as with the previous issue of schools going off-message. there is a fundamental strategic problem for the government. If it fails to improve standards sufficiently it risks losing both electoral support and the confidence of employers. under the name of University Technical College academies. who look to this government to ensure that the school system produces the future workforce more efficiently than its predecessor. 12 UTCs are already planned.
to enter the market as a provider – offers more genuine democracy in the school system at the local level than that afforded by membership of school governing bodies and the procedures of elected local government. The stakes are highest in Academy and free schools. There are also difficult questions posed if there are local moves for free schools by working class and oppressed groups with legitimate demands for schools which more effectively meet their needs. as for example the Cambridge Primary Review and the Nuffield 14-19 Review have done. a narrative which grounds curriculum and pedagogy in a coherent progressive statement of aims and principles. in the case of free schools. including for parents and teachers. control is in the hands of parents shaping through their market choices how headteachers exercise professional autonomy and what private providers offer. Content is a return to traditional methods. where not only pay and conditions but the existence of unions will be threatened by the determined attempts of some managers to disregard national and local agreements. in other words how power is distributed within the system. and therefore disproportionately middle-class. schools.In addition to the problems I have mentioned which could impede the government’s marketisation project there is the question of opposition and resistance. that they are depriving existing schools of money taken from the Building Schools for the Future budget). only a handful of local campaigns succeeded in stopping Labour’s Academies. in spite of Labour’s rhetoric about local empowerment and democratic renewal. However. It has to be admitted that this argument has some purchase. Market choice and participatory democracy The Conservative-Liberal Democrat government offers a vision of school education which answers the two fundamental issues of content and control. either because they were regarded as the price to pay for BSF funding or because they were claimed to address the needs of socially disadvantaged areas. Or simply because they are Conservative and not Labour academies. There is likely to be widespread opposition to the spread of Academies and the creation of free schools on the basis that they represent forms of privatisation and that schools should be accountable to local authorities (and. exclude any meaningful role for participatory . Labour’s Academies provoked campaigns of opposition and the new government’s ones are likely to draw in wider support from those who found Labour’s academies more tolerable. The challenge for its opponents is to offer a credible alternative vision. In terms of content. which. it means filling out the slogan of ‘a good local school for every child’ with a narrative capable of winning popular support. How effective is union resistance to attacks to teachers’ pay and conditions remains to be seen. In terms of control. One issue is the expected programme of cuts in every school’s budget. and the opportunity. there is a noticeable absence of an alternative to the government’s claim that the market – a choice of providers. especially with regard to local councils. unlike the first tranche of the new academies which comprise ‘outstanding’.
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