U.K. to Privatize Failing Schools

Published February 1, 2000

Private companies could take over as many as 10 percent of Great Britain’s local school districts, according to remarks made at a conference late last year by Estelle Morris, School Standards Minister in the U.K.

Government inspectors have been issuing performance reports on the 150 or so school districts in the U.K. and have recommended privatization in cases where the districts were judged to be failing their students. Private companies or outside consultants already have been brought into five districts, and another 14 privatizations are expected.

Last November, a private company was, for the first time in the U.K., put in charge of running all of the school services provided by a local school district (called an “education authority” in the U.K.). Cambridge Education Associates, a small educational consulting group, was awarded a $167 million seven-year contract to operate 70 schools in the 25,000-student Islington district in north London, starting in April. In a report issued last May, government inspectors said that while many of the district’s schools were failing to provide an acceptable standard of education, local officials apparently had no idea what to do about it.

Similar to the decision made by President Bill Clinton for his daughter in Washington, DC, Prime Minister Tony Blair opted not to send his children to the district’s schools when he lived in Islington.