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Why is the media ignoring Michael Gove’s school privatisation bonanza?


10:01 am - August 22nd 2012

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contribution by Thomas G. Clark

Michael Gove received a lot of negative media attention last week on three issues: he signed off on plans to concrete over thirty school playing fields and then lied about it; cancelled the two hours a week minimum sports requirements at the behest of Cameron; that just days before the Olympic games began he cancelled minimum outdoor playing space requirements for schools.

Despite all of this negative publicity it should be noted that the mainstream media are missing a much bigger story; the fact that Gove has privatised more than half of the secondary schools in England, playing fields and all.

According to the latest figures, almost 2,000 secondary schools have been transferred to private ownership under Gove’s Academies scheme.

It stipulates that in order to obtain Academy status a school must transfer their property deeds (including playing fields) to the new private sector education providers. This process has been a classic example of the privatisation by stealth strategy and the mainstream media has played right along with it.

Even Guardian reports on the “Academisation process” refer to the transference of state infrastructure to unaccountable private sector interests in terms of allowing schools to “enjoy the greater freedoms that result“.

One side effect of the “Academisation process” is that the School Playing Fields Advisory Panel will have absolutley no powers to advise against the sale of Academy playing fields, since the freeholds have been transferred to private ownership.

If we make a conservative estimate that the average value of these schools (as redevelopment land) could be somewhere in the region of £5million, the transference of over 1,900 schools would provide the eye watering figure of £9.5 billion worth of state infrastructure just given away.

It is also important to note who the beneficiaries of this Tory largesse have been. Some of the biggest players on the Academy scene include the Harris Federation, run by and named after Phil Harris, a Tory peer and the owner of Carpetright.

Another key player on the Academy scene is ARK Academies. The Ark board includes Paul Marshall, co-author of the Lib-Dem Orange Book and Stanley Fink, the current Tory party treasurer who previously donated £2.62 million to the Tory party.

The ink had barely dried on the deed transfer which passed Elliot school in Wandsworth from local council ownership to ARK Academies, when ARK began planning to sell off more than half of the property, which is described as “surplus land” on the school website. This “surplus land” contains several sports pitches, athletics facilities, a kids’ nature reserve, an outdoor performance stage, the school car park and even a memorial tree.

As the mainstream media debate the “Olympic legacy” and Gove’s strategy of approving the sale of sports fields against expert advice, it is hard not to feel that they are missing the bigger picture.

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A longer version of this article is here. His Facebook page is here.

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Reader comments


And the useless knob that is Stephen Twigg has sat blithely back and let it happen.

2. margin4error

You do have to wonder how this hasn’t been made a bigger deal out of. Labour’s education team should be enjoying a major corruption scandal right now – and yet, they just don’t seem quite capable of making it happen.

Everyone thinks that because they went to school, then they know all there is to know about education. Naturally, they know how to ‘teach’ better than teachers and, with bit of encouragement and misinformation from the press (mainly Tory-supporting) they know what schools are doing wrong; which is, namely, NOT be like the wonderful establishments they went to 30 or 40 years ago, which had, like, discipline, standards and competitive sport. Apparently. (I was at grammar school 30 years ago. It was shockingly bad.)
ALL governments offer the ‘magic bullet’ that will ‘radically transform’ schools after the ‘failures of the past’ etc. This government is trotting out the same old nostrums whilst getting away with what it really wants: disengaging government from its own responsibilities, handing them over to UNACCOUNTABLE corporations for fun and profit. Standards be blowed.
Chuck in some stuff about ‘academic rigour’ and ‘freedom from bureaucracy’ to please those who never read past page 3 or the footie pages, pander to the ‘rose-tinted’ nostalgia of 40 and 50-somethings who have forgotten how often they were beaten by incompetent psychos who couldn’t teach their way out of a paper bag (MORE kids left school functionally illiterate 40 years ago), but DON’T burden their tiny minds with all the neo-liberal Ayn Rand stuff and hey presto! – an educational policy that pleases nostalgia hounds, ‘outraged’ from Tunbridge Wells, the ill-informed and those cheeky chappie corporate Tory party donaters (‘A laugh, a smile, an anti-democratic hijacking of taxpayer-owned assets’). Job done. How’s that for a coup d’etat?

“It stipulates that in order to obtain Academy status a school must transfer their property deeds (including playing fields) to the new private sector education providers.”

And what exactly is wrong with that? Some things are best in the public sector; other things are best in the private or voluntary sector. Why should schools be nationalised and constrained by large local bureaucracies? Particularly when the educational establishment – in teacher training colleges, the civil service, local authority education departments and in schools – has conspicuously failed generations of children and the nation…

@Tone

As usual a lot of hot air and no facts from the far right when it comes to education.

Schools are publicly owned, they are public property, they belong to local authorities, giving them away to private companies for billions less than they are worth is theft, corruption etc.

Your laughable comment about teacher training, local authorities etc is, like everythingelse from the loony right, unsuppotrted with any evidence.

There is plenty of evidence that privatised schools are failing and fainling badly in the US, where they have existed for longer than here;

http://dianeravitch.net/2012/07/03/trouble-in-new-orleans-paradise/

http://credo.stanford.edu/reports/MULTIPLE_CHOICE_CREDO.pdf

and evidence that they are likely to fail here soon too.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/jul/02/speed-read-academies-teachers-meals?CMP=twt_gu

I doubt you can produce any EVIDENCE to support your hot air so I guess you will just have to continue spouting the usual rubbish we get from the far right about schools. We have heard it all before though, and is was no more convincing then.

All part of the ongoing political and economic coup by the top 1% against the rest of us!

7. Anti-Israel Racist

@Tone:

All Synagogues need to be privatized.

Time for Synagogue privatization and while we’re at it: churches.

And in another part of the forest, the hastily changed grade boundaries mean that more school will “fail” the quality standard – measured in exam results, of course – and so be forcibly privatised.

The point is that you are giving state assets for free to the companies running academies, who haven’t been chosen to run that school by any process involving the consent of parents at that school or the people of that area.

The companies running the academy can dispose of those assets, including pulling a Southern Cross where they sell all of the assets, take massive profits for a year (as they are allowed to) and then lease the school back (or move to an office block, as some free schools have). Eventually it all goes belly up and the taxpayer has to bail it all out, but those profits are sitting in bank accounts in tax havens and the taxpayers have paid to get their own assets back.

It’s a scam.

11. Sensimelia

Did they not learn from G4s?

What will parents say when their children turn up for school one day and find the operating company has gone bust and there are no teachers to teach their children.

I bet they will have regrets for doing NOTHING right now.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
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  29. Creative Corner Cafe

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  30. Anyone else get the feeling the gloves are now off? » 21stCenturyFix.org.uk

    […] Meanwhile, whilst two thousand schools have been shifted stealthily to the private sector under the hardly hawk-eyed gaze of the media outlets which we suppose are there to make representative democra… – and a cursory trawling through any number of social media streams will reveal horrifying […]

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  40. Michael Gove is impressed with Pacific Asia’s education system. But he should remember the need for creativity | Bedford Burrow

    […] Why is the media ignoring Michael Gove’s school privatisation bonanza? (liberalconspiracy.org) Share this:ShareFacebookTwitterLinkedInStumbleUponTumblrPinterestEmailLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged Gove, Guardian.co.uk. Bookmark the permalink. […]

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  44. Colin Talbot

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  45. Leon Cych

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  46. Lemmie

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  47. Lemmie

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  48. Thomas Wright

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  51. Jo Marsden

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  52. kevin savage

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  53. kevin savage

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  56. Andrew Thomas

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  57. McWard

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