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Privatisation is a word in which the last few decades has become more common in the political spectrum. With the privatization of Royal Mail (for the first time in its 500 year history), British Telecoms PLC, British Airways and Jaguar, one will analyze how one of the United kingdoms’ largest sectors is under-threat of becoming completely privatized and how privatization has influenced the education sector in recent decades.
The privatization of a sector often sees increased competition within a market as the government reduces the regulations of an industry in order to reduce the strain on the government. The privatization of the education industry began “under the New Right Government (1979-1997), and continued under New Labour (1997-2010) and under the Coalition/ Conservative Government (2010 – Present Day).” (Revise Sociology), this has led to the exogenous privatization of the market, i.e. the implementation of academy schools in England for all of which are run by companies with their primary targets all business related. This means their focus of the academies is to turn over a high profit rather than put the pupil at the forefront of company’s goal.
Concerningly H?l?ne Mulholland and Jessica Shepherd of The Guardian states- “Some 40% of secondary schools in England are now academies”(the Guardian 2013). The problem with this is initially Academies were set up to benefit deprived area schools or failing schools, however “it has changed radically to embrace all types of schools – successful or otherwise.” To further this priority is given to the “best performing schools”. This then leads to problems with the attainment gap. Marketization or endogenous privatization was a term created during the Thatcher era which is the application of market forces on education and reducing the state control over the education sector. Moreover, it increases the competition between schools.
Some of the factors that drove up marketization were “funding formula”, “exam league tables” The attainment gap has been affected drastically by recent reforms within the sector. All academies have their own admission policies as to what pupils can attend a given school as well as free school meals, a large argument with academies and free school meals are that as the free school meals are not provided by the authority the academy, therefore, has to fund them and with this leads to a lot of budgeting problems in an academy. For example, a study carried out by The Guardian states- “Canary Wharf college, in Tower Hamlets, London, has only 5.4% eligible for FSM compared with 30% deprivation in its community.” With the pupil to community ratio being somewhat offset this leads to questioning of the academy setup in England.
Furthermore, the extra-curricular activities a school provides is also a leading point in an academies bu8dget. Whilst in Scotland, South Ayrshire council provides a large majority of funding for secondary school pupils to take part in The Duke Of Edinburgh award, an award which looks great in any candidate’s CV looking for a job. However, many academics in England would never be able to compete with the funding that is involved with this as it would take a large proportion of the budget to fund this. Another major player in academies budget is teacher salaries. Performance related pay is one of the more recent agents to reach the headlines in recent months. Like in any private sector job, there is a chance for the commission, tips, bonuses, and incentives now this is starting to be implemented in academies.
The topic raises a lot of issues as how do you measure the performance of a school? I think the first thing that springs to mind is exam results. It is evident that exam results are higher in more privileged areas, this then leads to more privileged students being given more priority into being accepted into academies. Leading back to the problem of the attainment gap. Tackling the performance-related pay has proved a real issue for the government as it raises issues like a healthy work/life balance. It is evident that a performance-based pay will incline teachers to spend more time in a classroom or time at home assisting their pupils. “The personal targets set should be fit around teachers’ lives, says Birchall.” As the academy system encourages freedom of the school whos there to regulate all these teacher goals as there are a staggering “442, 000 teachers full-time classroom teachers working in England’s schools”. Such a substantial number would prove difficult to regulate by any means. However, it is a system that works well in other private sectors.
One of the more positive ways in which the privatization of education has been that it has undoubtedly increased the competition between schools and driven up standards due to the interest of attracting higher-performing pupils however thus contradicts the real reason as to which academy system schools were set up- to make under-performing schools or schools in more deprived areas to perform better. private companies do in fact have the power to cherry pick the best schools up and down the country.
Amongst this with having our schools in the hands of private companies, they aim to reduce costs as low as possible meaning theoretically it will be more efficient, but is our education quality being compromised? Building new schools and maintaining buildings is another issue under criticism due to privatization, new school buildings were financed through the Private Finance initiative another private organization leading the way in schooling. The PFI financed private companies to do the building and in return, the companies serviced the schools for a set period of time often 25-35 years. However, a recent report into building defects “led to the closure of 17 Edinburgh schools” and have “blamed poor-quality construction and a lack of supervision, rather than design issues or the PFI funding model” this led to a documentary being made by the BBC called “how safe is my school?” and asks the question how reliable are private contractors? They seek to “maximize profit like any given private sector organization and fast-track the build programme, lowering design specifications and design quality” stated well renowned Glasgow architect Alan Dunlop.
Therefore we are paying a higher sum for a lower standard of quality for many more decades to come. In addition to material deprivation ( the inability to afford basic resources and services) is under the magnifying glass from the government. As there is a growing conflict from pupils and students nowadays to choose between paid work and remaining in education, the cost of living is on the rise and without a doubt has an increasing strain upon lower-income families. Consequently, Conner et al (2001) and Forsyth and Furlong (2003) both found that the introduction of tuition fees in Higher Education puts working-class children off going to university because of fear of debt and the result is that children from private schools over-represented in universities in England and Wales.
The social capital gained from being at university is extremely beneficial as opposed to someone in a low-paid job or complete a low-grade qualification so it is said that privatization has lead to a larger gap between low and high-income pupils in terms of their social capital. With the increase in privatization within the education sector, it is the nursery segmentation that is taking a hit. It is definitely one of the hardest parts of the spectrum to measure” There are only 400 maintained nursery schools left in the country, offering high-quality early years education targeted at vulnerable children from difficult and deprived backgrounds.” this is a real cause for concern as nurseries reduce the gap in attainment throughout England as they aim to provide a high standard of education to those in deprived areas, however “research for an all-party parliamentary group has found that 45 of those believe they will be forced to close by July,” meaning that a further 10% of these nurseries will close due to further reforms within the sector.
Furthermore, the crisis is deepened as “almost 67%(of these nurseries) say they will be unsustainable once transitional funding provided by the government to ease the crisis finishes at the end of this parliament.” As low-income families cant comfortably pay for education in comparison to middle and upper-class parents, there is a real cause for concern as there are no organizations in place to support these crucial nurseries. The chief executives and other positions high in the trust hierarchies are taking the taxpayers funds and spending the tax-payers money on very unnecessary items.
The freedom of information act disclosed information relating to the expenses bought with tax-payers money and figures are substantial “The largest 40 academy trusts have spent more than 1m of public money on executive expenses since 2012.” This comes at a time when the government are trying to make further cutbacks in the sector and academies are underfunding the free school meal grants in deprived areas however chief executives can afford ” a meal with other staff at Marco Pierre White totaling 471, and the Bank restaurant in Birmingham, at a cost 703.45.” it is without a doubt that the privatization strategy has not had a positive outcome in this area. When the education reform act was introduced in 1988, now 30 years ago, the curriculum has been altered or changed a substantial 6 times and academy schools now have to freedom to change it to adapt to their pupils needs although beneficial as a school can provide equity to all pupils. Academies up and down the country will be teaching slightly different content to its pupils and certain areas of their core skills may be missing.
Moreover, areas such as mathematics and science-based subjects may be preferred to classical subjects as they are more lucrative in terms of future reward. It is evident that privatization within the education sector has had both positive and negative outcomes. However, some of the problems arising early on in the process are not being dealt with effectively and supported adequately by the government especially the early year’s spectrum of education. As a student looking to become a teacher, the industry looking attractive in terms of salary along with performance incentives and certainly the industry is inflating with more teachers than ever. Finally, with recent releases with the freedom of information act and findings in academy trusts’ expenses, will these organizations win over the trust of the public of today’s and tomorrow’s parents?
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