Coffee House readers won’t be surprised by the Independent’s report that Michael Gove has been telling friends he has no objections to profit-making schools: he explained his position on the matter at length to Fraser in December. Then, the Education Secretary said he was keen for the one profit-seeking school in this country, IES in Suffolk, to make the case to the public for more profit-seeking schools:
‘What I said to them [IES] is the same argument that Andrew Adonis has made: we’ve created the opportunity for you to demonstrate what you can do and win the argument in the public square. You have an organisation that has been criticised, in some cases demonised, now running a state school. I am utterly confident they will achieve amazing things but the way in which the case will be made for that organisation to expand on whatever terms is through its success.’
The Indy’s story is clear that any discussion of the profit motive is for the 2015 manifesto, rather than now, by which time IES may have made further in roads in terms of challenging the instinctive suspicion of many voters to profit in the education system. Although Education Minister David Laws has said it would be ‘unwise to rule out the possibility of [profit-making] ever happening’, Nick Clegg is also keen to publicly boast that he has stopped Gove from going further in this respect. But funnily enough, one of the Lib Dems’ proudest achievements in government, the pupil premium, would become highly potent if used in conjunction with the profit motive. The additional payment of £600 per pupil would make it attractive for profit-making schools to set up and then expand in deprived areas as poor pupils would become profitable to teach. Even if the party maintains its official opposition to profit-making schools, it could find its policies help their spread in a later Conservative government.