State-employed primary and secondary teachers could in future find that their schools are being run as for-profit organisations, an academic has forecast.
In the latest edition of his book 'The Education Debate', first published in 2008, Professor Stephen Ball from the Institute of Education has warned that education has become increasingly "commodified" under the past two governments.
He argued that education policy has been subsumed within an overall strategy of public services reform and as a result has moved away from "professional-ethical regimes" based around collaboration and community spirit.
According to Professor Ball, control of education has become both more centralised, with power concentrated in the hands of the secretary of state, but also more dispersed to a range of bodies and individuals.
These include parent groups, academy chains, charities, faith groups, contractors and consultants, with the result - in Professor Ball's opinion - that there is a "democratic deficit", as these stakeholders are less accountable than the local authorities that they have largely replaced.
He argued: "The state is increasingly proactive in promoting competitiveness, enterprise and entrepreneurism…in education and elsewhere, through focused funding, setting performance benchmarks and strategic interventions where individuals or organisations are 'failing' to meet their 'responsibilities'."
Looking forward, The Education Debate has predicted that the next step will be businesses running chains of schools on government contracts and thereby making profits for shareholders and owners, as is already the case in the US, Sweden and Chile.
Professor Ball noted that much education provision is already for-profit, as in the case of private companies offering in-service training for those in teacher jobs, as well as learning schemes for children.
He warned that the government was moving back towards the patchwork system of schooling that existed before 1870 and that the "freedoms" and diversities being introduced in the new education system will revive longstanding social differentiations.
In January, a book published by the Conservative Party pressure group Bright Blue did advocate that the for-profit sector could provide vital funding for the establishment of free schools.
The Independent reported at the time that education secretary Michael Gove is not opposed to these proposals and that they could form part of the Conservative Party's 2015 election manifesto.
Posted by Theo Foulds