No case for profit-making schools, says IPPR
By Richard Johnstone | 7 August 2012
There is no evidence that allowing schools to be run for a profit would boost education standards in England, the Institute for Public Policy Research think-tank said today.
In a report examining education reforms such as ‘free schools’ and academies, the institute urged ministers to ensure that running schools remained not-for-profit.
It acknowledged that there was a ‘strong innovation case’ for allowing new providers to set up schools but said this must be within ‘a managed framework’.
The Not for profit report comes in the wake of calls from Right-wing think-tanks for profit-making providers to be allowed to run ‘free schools’. The Institute of Economic Affairs argued that ‘without the profit motive, the UK’s reforms may fail’, while the Policy Exchange said ‘effectively harnessing the profit motive could really enhance capability and lead to the emergence of new free schools at a faster rate’.
However, the IPPR found no grounds for introducing profit-making schools, saying there was ‘no international evidence’ to support the claim that profit-making providers would improve standards. In both Chile and Sweden, not-for-profit independent schools have generally out-performed for-profit providers.
Countries that introduce extensive market reforms in education do not sit at the top of the international performance league tables, the report concluded following an analysis of figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
The institute also highlighted what it called ‘strong reasons’ why schools should remain public institutions. The trusting relationship required between parents, schools and children could be undermined by the profit motive.
Associate director Rick Muir added: ‘The argument that the profit motive is needed for raising schools standards is simply ideological. It is not supported by the international evidence at all.
‘There is a good case for allowing new providers into the system to foster innovation. But given the strength of the not-for-profit sector in this country, there are no compelling reasons for thinking that commercial providers would add any value.’
He added that the financial case for private sector involvement was ‘particularly weak’, as the government was best placed to be able to find additional funding to meet challenges, such as a rising demand for new school places.
‘In the long term, it is much cheaper for the government to raise this capital funding than for the private sector to do so at the taxpayer’s expense,’ Muir added.