Monday, 10 June 2013

Coming to a Free School near you… Swedish school chain goes bust

While those supporting the four free schools who received the rubber stamp of approval from Michael Gove were still celebrating, news broke that one of the biggest chains of Swedish Free Schools was selling 19 of its schools and closing four more, leaving hundreds of pupils with no school. JB schools made the announcement after the private equity fund that backed it, Axcel, announced it was no longer prepared to cover the company’s losses and was pulling out. The Guardian covered this story here.
Why is this important to the people of Walthamstow?

1. The government’s Free Schools legislation was designed to create opportunities for people to set up schools on precisely the Swedish model and that of the Charter Schools movement in the USA.

2. Michael Gove is in favour of schools being able to run for a profit and this is likely to form part of the Conservatives’ manifesto in 2015.

3. Free Schools and Academies, being independent of local authorities and government, but being in receipt of taxpayers’ money, will be ripe for profit-seeking companies to take over.

4. This is precisely what happened in Sweden and the USA, where Free and Charter Schools were quickly bought up by these chains, particularly when they got into financial trouble.

5. Private equity funds (essentially, groups of super-rich people who have devised a clever way of sucking profits out of companies and public services by loading them with debt, cutting costs and selling assets) have many friends in the Coalition government and have been lobbying for opportunities to profit from the UK education ‘market’.

In the Guardian article above, a Swedish politician is quoted warning the UK about following their route:

"Before you do something like this you have to really, really think about how you set up the system," he said. "The system here is not working as it's supposed to work. Nobody could foresee that so many private equity companies would be in our school system as we have today."

Some might quarrel with the idea that no one could have foreseen the attractions of privatised schools for private equity funds, but the essential message is undisputable. We can’t say we weren’t warned.   


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