The Guardian reports here on the collapse of a privatization program in England supported by both the Labor and Conservative parties. The idea sounds very much like our corporate charter chains. If a school was scoring poorly, hand it over to a private “trust” that renames it an academy and takes control of the school.

“Multi-academy trusts” are government-funded, run by private entities, and the schools are no longer locally controlled.

Lots of potential for graft and scandal.

“Wakefield City Academies Trust was in 2015 named a “top-performing” academy sponsor by Nicky Morgan, then education secretary, and handed a £500,000 slice of a £5m fund to improve schools in the north of England. Since then, things have gone awry. The trust has sunk to the bottom of the league tables to become one of the lowest-performing academy chains in the country. And it has been plagued by question marks over its finances.

“In July 2016, the Education Funding Agency investigated the trust. Its draft report, leaked to the TES, found that its interim chief executive, the businessman Mike Ramsay, had paid himself £82,000 over a three-month period. It concluded that the trust was in an “extremely vulnerable position as a result of inadequate governance, leadership and overall financial management”. Later that year, it was reported that the trust had paid almost £440,000 to IT and admin companies owned by Ramsay and his daughter.

“The trust was nevertheless allowed to carry on. Then, in September last year, it suddenly announced it would be looking for new sponsors for all 21 of its schools – but not before it had transferred more than £1.5m of reserves from its schools to its central coffers, entirely permissible in the current system. Some of this was funds raised by parents. It’s not clear whether any of this money will be left when the trust winds up, or whether those schools will see it again.

“The collapse of Wakefield City Academies Trust has sent shockwaves through our area,” says the local Labour MP Jon Trickett, who has for months been seeking answers from the government. “For many parents, it has been disturbing to find that their children’s futures could be threatened by the recklessness of people with very limited educational experience.”

“Wakefield City is one in a series of high-profile failures of trusts forced to give up all their schools. The magazine Schools Week reported just last week that Bright Tribe, the trust with the lowest-performing secondary schools in the country, would also be closing and handing back its 10 schools.

“Are these failures the inevitable consequence of a quasi-market system, predicated on the idea of takeovers? Or a sign of something deeply rotten at the heart of the government’s flagship education policy?

“Academies have been a jewel in the education policy crown for both Labour and Conservative governments in the past 25 years. According to Professor Becky Francis, director of the Institute of Education at University College London, Labour’s academies programme was “focused on the revitalisation of schooling as an engine of social mobility in deprived areas”. She says the idea of bringing in business and philanthropic sponsors – including big names such as the London-based French financier Arpad Busson – “not just for money but for expertise” was controversial from the start.”

We and the Brits have this in common. Both nations have eagerly abandoned responsibility for the quality of education and thrown the schools to the vagaries of the marketplace.