Charities are better placed than private providers to run schools, report argues

Rick Muir of the Institute for Public Policy Research says there is no evidence that schools run for profit raise standards

Rick Muir
Rick Muir

Charities and other not-for-profit providers are better placed to run schools than commercial businesses, according to report from the Institute for Public Policy Research.

Not for Profit: The Role of the Private Sector in England’s Schools examines the role of private providers in the education systems in the US, Sweden and Chile and concludes that not-for-profit providers generally prove more successful than  commercial alternatives.

The report cites a study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in 2010 that found education systems that encourage schools to compete for students do not produce better results, and that students perform better in schools that are given more freedom over how pupils are taught and assessed.

It says the government is encouraging the creation of ‘free schools’, new independent state schools operated on a not-for-profit basis, and that some think tanks are now arguing that the government should go further and allow profit-making private providers to set up free schools.

But the report says that in England not-for profit organisations such as churches have long been involved in the running of successful state-funded schools. Private fee-paying schools, many of which are operated by charities and charitable foundations, also make an important contribution, the report adds.

"In order to encourage innovation, there is a strong case for allowing new providers to set up or take over schools," the report says. "But we already have a flourishing not-for-profit school sector in England and there are no competition or innovation grounds for allowing for-profit schools."

Rick Muir, associate director for the IPPR, said: "The argument that the profit motive is needed for raising schools standards is simply ideological. It is not supported by the international evidence at all."

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