Huge powers over the education of thousands are in the hands of just a few wealthy men.
Evidence released today by Education Uncovered, shows that nearly 200 state-funded schools in England are now controlled by rich philanthropists.
The use of academies – started under Tony Blair, but vastly expanded under the coalition – means that controlling sponsors have a vast array of powers and little to no oversight from parents, teachers, pupils or local government.
Analysis of ten trusts – who are all run by men and between them educate over 113,000 pupils – shows how these sponsors are ultimately in charge. Through scrutiny of their constitution and accounts, Education Uncovered revealed that they have a huge say over the appointment of trustees. These, in turn, set the overall strategy for a school – including the curriculum. They also hold the management to account.
Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “The academies project has always been in the interests of the few, not the many. It has resulted in a fractured and confusing schools landscape, and a Wild West for those who wish to exploit it. Today’s research shows that the altruism and vocation of teachers is rarely reflected at the top of academy trusts.
“There is a great deal at stake for education in this General Election. Voters must look at this research and ask themselves in whose interests schools should be run. At a critical time in our history, this is an opportunity for us to change course as a country and vote for education.”
Examples of these business leaders include Lord Harris of Peckham, whose family are in charge of 48 state-funded academies educating 32,500 pupil. The constitution of the trust gives him the right to appoint up to 32 trustees.
Also the co-founders of the hedge fund firm Marshall Wace, who, alongside former Conservative treasurer Lord Fink, form three-quarters of the directors of a charity which is in charge of another London-based chain, Ark Schools. This has 38 schools and 26,000 students.