100,000 pupils’ education overseen by a handful of rich men

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.

8 Responses to “100,000 pupils’ education overseen by a handful of rich men”

  1. John Pearson

    The problem has always been the Israeli government and its hard right attitude to the Palestinian people. One can hate the policies of Right wing politicians – but that’s clearly not the same as hating the people or nation that they claim to represent.
    Admittedly, some find that distinction difficult to grasp – and sadly that does include some on the Left. But to suggest that Corbyn is himself antisemitic is foolish and dishonest. He – like so many of us – is simply arguing in favour of a fair settlement for the Palestinians.

  2. Chester Draws

    Academies are controlled, in the end, by rich men. But rich men who are in competition with each other. Rich men who have a stake in what they control.

    LFF’s solution would be to put the schools under the control of the state. So fewer people would be in charge. And without any form of competition, and no-one really being held responsible for failure.

    Today’s research shows that the altruism and vocation of teachers is rarely reflected at the top of academy trusts.

    The board of the Department of Education isn’t all male, but it’s every bit as divorced from teachers as any academy — more so, since there’s a horde of bureaucrats in between the board and teachers.

    LFF needs to own up that academies are getting better results than traditional system schools. Parents want to send their children to them, as a result. But what the people of the country want ranks rather low down the list of priorities for the modern Left.

  3. Gary Brooke

    The so-called ‘state school system’ has never been a centrally controlled system. Firstly, each constituent part of the UK has its own education system. Secondly, schools in England were supported by local authorities and not run from Whitehall. I use the word ‘supported’ advisedly. Since the demise of LEAs and the introduction of what was known as Local Management of Schools (LMS) in the late 80s, responsibility for running schools was given to head teachers and governors. Local authorities provided services (such as legal services or SEND services) but did not run schools. A degree of democratic accountability was also present with the involvement of local councillors who could adjudicate in issues relating to parents, their children and local schools. Schools were autonomous, which is something that they can’t be said of many schools in the academies sector, run as they are by unaccountable centralised managements at the top of a pyramid of power. These managements cannot be inspected, too, only audited unlike LAs (Local Authorities) which can be inspected by Ofsted. Your comment that academies are getting better results is not born out by the evidence, as provided by the DFE – and certainly not in the primary sector.

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