We are opposed to the proposed Free Schools in Lambeth


January 19th, 2012 at 10:18 am

Free-school licence advertised on Swedish ‘eBay’

in: Article

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Row erupts after permit to run Malmö primary school advertised on Blocket auction site, with starting price of £47,000

A permit to run one of Sweden’s free schools – which inspired the flagship Tory policy of letting parents and teachers set up their own schools in Britain – has been advertised on the country’s equivalent of eBay.

The permit, which was put up for sale on the Blocket auction website on 4 January, would allow the buyer to run a primary school in the city of Malmö for up to 180 students.

The advertisement, which suggested a starting price of 500,000 Swedish kronor (£47,000), said more than a year’s work had gone into obtaining the licence for the Malmö Enskilda Grundskola, which any potential buyer would be able to open this autumn.

EUCommerce, a brokerage firm representing the seller, told prospective buyers: “If you want to avoid all the red tape for the ambitious and serious project of starting a school, this is a fantastic opportunity.

“The only remaining work to do is to find a suitable location for the school, new staff, etc.”

The ad was removed from the site yesterday after the Guardian contacted EUCommerce.

Free schools, which were pioneered in Sweden, are funded by the state but run independently. Free schools in England can contract out their management to private companies in exchange for a fee, but this is subject to a legally watertight procurement process.

Jan Björkland, the Swedish education minister, said the auction was totally unacceptable.

“I am extremely alarmed that someone who sought and received permission to operate a school is acting like this.”

Sweden’s schools inspectorate said, however, that it could not prevent those to whom it awarded licences from selling them on.

“There is no obligation to report to us if the shares in a company which has a permit to run a free school are sold,” Anna Sundberg, division head for permit assessment with the inspectorate, told Svenska Dagbladet, a Swedish newspaper.

The case has been seized on by critics of the policy in England.

Alasdair Smith, the national secretary of the Anti Academies Alliance, which campaigns against free schools in England, said: “If you start trading schools as profitable units to be bought and sold in the market, inevitably you see the shift in focus from teaching and learning to securing profit margins. That’s just the nature of the market, that’s just inevitable.”

Sweden’s decision to open up education to private providers in the 1990s has come under question since December 2010, when the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development published the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment.

This showed that Swedish students had dropped to 19th place out of 57 countries for literacy, 24th in maths, and 28th in science. This compared with 9th, 17th and 16th in studies done in 2000, 2003 and 2006 respectively.

Björkland has launched a parliamentary inquiry into the rules regarding free schools in Sweden, seeking to strengthen central control over those operating them, and increase the power of the state to close down those failing to provide education of sufficient quality.

He said this week that the inquiry would also lead to tighter rules over who could buy and sell schools.

“The question of who is serious enough to run a school and therefore receive the permits will be decided by the Swedish schools inspectorate, not by a company broker or by those who have already got a permit,” he said.



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