Teaching in the private sector may suddenly become the standard in England, as moves to force all public-sector schools into academies are to be revealed in the UK Budget today (Wednesday 16th March 2016). This effectively means that all funding for schools will go directly to each institution, who then can basically do what they want with the money….including making profits.
The change cuts out the ‘middle-man’ of the Local Authorities, who many schools (particularly smaller primary schools) rely on for back office support and services. Many local authorities are slowly adapting for this change, offering services publicly, of which schools can buy into, but other providers are now suddenly in the mix, therefore competition for price, quality and support is now within the free market.
So, education in England is now a privatised commodity, being traded on the open market. In these days of stringent accountability, are these moves going to have a positive impact on the education of pupils? Time will tell, but results and inspections in current academies are mixed and still inconclusive, and huge academy chains have grown potentially making vast sums for their directors and shareholders.
So where will this all lead? At the end of the day, all schools will be focused on the bottom line, and not necessarily the best educational outcomes of their pupils. Schools are operating as businesses, and they will be unscrupulous with how they make their business a success. Will this attract teachers into the profession? Will this help retain teachers in the profession? Do we need head-teachers who have an academic background? Surely, school will need business leaders more so, to ensure their survival. Governing bodies, and the experience they can offer, are going to be critical to this, but even in some academies, governors have been replaced by a Board of Directors. It all sounds a little too business-like, and there surely is going to be a lot of opposition.
Many secondary school have the resources to cope with this change, but for primary schools, the prospect will be a little more daunting. Their horizons need to feature collaboration with similar schools, so they can share back-end administration services equally. Local Authority departments can offer their services to schools outside of their original catchment area. But essentially, schools will have the choice of finding services (of which they were previously tied into) which offer better value and hopefully these savings will allow for more funds to go into education. Unless the budgets that schools receive start to drop.