As Workers went to press, it emerged that Devon has entered into a £125 million, seven-year contract with Babcock International to provide services to schools. The move will surely cause concern for teachers, parents and students in Devon, who will be wondering what price they will have to pay for the outsourcing of this service to a contractor seeking profit.
Evidence from elsewhere in the country suggests this kind of development has little to recommend it in terms of improved performance (the recently reversed 10 year experiment in Bradford with Serco springs to mind), and is more to do with a government drive to replace collective provision, local authorities, with fragmented, individualised provision via academies, free schools, and here, outright privatisation.
But there is a greater significance than the dissolution of education, and that is the destruction of manufacture. Babcocks, a name once synonymous with engineering and boiler making, now plies its trade in the “services” sector, selling its capacity to manage, rather than make.
• The Department of Education has announced that of the 600 proposed “free” schools, 155 are already extant, fee-paying schools. It has not explained how former selective schools are to adjust their admissions criteria or how their costs are to be altered. For example, average funding for state-maintained secondary schools in Bradford is approximately £6,000 per child. Bradford Girls’ Grammar School, which proposes to become a “free” school, currently charges fees of up to £11,000 per year. ■