David Laws is interviewed in the current issue of Attain, a magazine focussed on the independent schools’ sector, where he has the following to say on the issue of whether free schools should be permitted to make profits:
I think it is important that the people who come in and deliver the education should be seen to be doing so for reasons relating to education and delivering an improved quality of education. And I think that the public would be far more suspicious of the free school development if they felt it was about people coming in to make profit out of state education. I think there would be the risk of a political backlash… So I think that we have got to demonstrate and prove that this is not about some sort of agenda of allowing people to make a profit for its own sake. It is driven by the need to improve the education system to allow a wider range of education modes to be tried out in the UK.
However, Laws doesn’t rule out profit-making being allowed in the future:
I think that we would be unwise to rule out the possibility of it ever happening, but I don’t think it should happen over the next few years. I think that we need to embed the existing new programme of Free Schools and demonstrate that it is about education performance and not about allowing people to ‘exploit’ the education system. And I think that we would have to show that we have got adequate controls in place to make sure that public money was not filtered of.
In the interview, Laws also rebuffs the suggestion by Michael Gove, the education secretary, that private schools should be more active in establishing new free schools:
I think that the primary responsibility for the governing bodies and headteachers in the independent sector is to deliver what they are being paid for by the parents - which is to deliver a good education to their children. Their job is not to deliver state education.
The full interview can be found in the current (Spring) issue of Attain magazine, which is available via the Attain website after a quick (and free) registration process.
* Nick Thornsby is Thursday Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs here.