Posts Tagged ‘James O’Shaughnessy’

From 2012: Private Eye on Government Officials Joining Companies to Privatise Schools

April 11, 2014

Commend him for announcing the Savile investigation

Michael Gove considering which other schools to wreck through privatisation.

This is from Private Eye’s issue for the 30th November – 13 December 2012.

Revolving Doors

Back to School

The revolving door that propels education officials into the trusts and companies lobbying for government cash to run schools is hastening the move of education away from the control of local education authorities (LEAs) towards that of unelected private organisations.

Earlier this year John Coles, former director-general of the Department for Education’s Standards Directorate, became chief executive of the United Learning Trust, the UK’s largest academy chain with 31 schools. Though the rules say Coles cannot lobby government until December next year, there is no real mechanism to enforce the ban.

In September, Miriam Rosen, former chief inspector of schools, became a consultant to ARK Schools, which operates 18 academies and aims to bring hedge fund values to education. ARK stands for Absolute Return for Kids – “absolute return” being a hedge fund phrase about making returns (profits) even when an economy is going down the pan. ARK also employs Tony Blair’s former aide, Sally Morgan.

David Cameron’s former special adviser James O’Shaughnessy is in the academy business now too. In January he left the prime minister and became group strategy director of his old public school, Wellington College, which sponsors a state academy, Wiltshire’s Wellington Academy. O’Shaughnessy recently argued in a pamphlet for the policy Exchange thinktank that only academies can change the “scandal” of “coasting” schools which only achieve “satisfactory” grades rather than “good” or “excellent” marks. Wellington Academy’s most recent Ofsted grade was, er, “satisfactory”.

Currently only non-profit organisations like United Learning, Ark and Wellington can run chains of academy schools. But O’Shaughnessy’s pamphlet proposed bringing profit-making firms into state schools too. He argued that the charitable trusts can’t cope with the thousands of schools education secretary Michael Gove has “freed” from LEAs to become academies; and that academy chains in partnership with non-profit groups. This could be good news for O’Shaughnessy who has set up a firm, Mayforth Consulting, to act as an “educational entrepreneur”.

It could also help the biggest pro-academy voice of all, former Labour education minister Lo0rd Adonis, whose pro-academy stance is widely admired by the current government. Adonis is employed as an adviser by schools firm GEMS. Because GEMs is profit-making, it cannot run academies in the UK; and Adonis says his work for GEMS is “international only”. But under O’Shaughnessy’s plan, firms like GEMS could get into the British academy business after all.

This report shows the institutional corruption, which sees ministers, government officials and senior civil servants join the companies they are supposed to be supervising and regulating, to demand even more state functions should be privatised and handed over to those same companies. This was the ‘sleaze’ surrounding John Major’s administration, and it has continued through subsequent governments into David Cameron’s. The article clearly demonstrates how many ministers and education companies are actively campaigning for our schools to be privatised, just as David Cameron’s party is full of ministers, who stand to benefit from his desire to privatise the health service, including Iain Duncan Smith. As for the companies themselves, their record of providing education in schools is poor. A month ago the government issued a list of 30 academy chains which were banned from acquiring any more schools because of their poor performance. Education should not be in the hands of private companies, and should remain firmly part of the state sector.