Should Schools Make Profits?

23rd August 2011


Well – I have had the… pleasure of visiting a profit making school in Sweden and attending an … enlightening talk by the Head.

It included him showing us a slide of wads of cash saying “our goal is to MAKE MONEY” whilst rubbing his fingers. This sounds like a comic caricature but it wasn’t. It was true.

In fact, it showed in the school. Everything was geared towards getting lots of students to attend to increase the profits regardless of the impact on their education. Disturbing.


Of course, Graeme you’re right that this can be avoided if income is linked to the right outcomes as part of a well designed accountability framework (although coming up with that is hardly easy.) The crux of this though is that we know that all different types of schools can and do succeed with the right support and leadership, so why, of all the models go for a one which takes one of our most important social institutions (schools) out of the hands of the society?


I’m not someone who is so dogmatic as to believe there can never be a case for bringing in other providers. I’m pleased to see effective providers like Ark who have a strong record of taking over failing schools do so (where other attempts have failed), that’s fine. I’d prefer it to be done without taking the schools out of society’s hands but hey, the priority here is the pupils so let’s do what gets the job done quickest and most effectively. This needs to be decided on a case by case basis and we should recognise that social enterprises and charities are generally run by people with exactly the right aims and methods to provide a great solution in many cases.


However, going towards profit making is one step too far. If we can improve schools without taking public money out of the system and putting it into the hands of shareholders as well as keeping a system which is run by people with the right motives- which we know that we can, then that has to be the preferred option.


I cringed all the way through the talk by the Swedish head.

I don’t want to find myself doing that in our schools.


There’s more on this in my blog “Evidence Ping-Pong and the 3 Pillars of School Reform” (although my views have developed a bit since then)