Capitalism becomes ever more blatant in its direction of education towards its own advantage. When, in the late nineteenth and into the twentieth centuries, the requirement for an educated workforce became urgent, the state was charged with meeting that need.
The organisation of schools largely reflected industrial arrangements of the day, with reforms enacted as capitalism altered its working practices. This remained the case up to the latter end of the last century.
Then, under Labour, Coalition and Conservative governments, the state began to be incrementally withdrawn in favour of edu-businesses, capitalism realising the possibility of directly profiting from education.
Testing students is promoted as a clear way to promote ever improving standards in schools. Behind this dissembling veneer is the reduction of education to quantifiable data. The tests and subsequent data analysis has become big business in its own right.
Increasingly, this testing is becoming computerised, opening schools as markets for IT hard and soft ware. Recent estimates suggest this worldwide market is worth around 9 billion dollars, and growing.
Therefore, the appointment of Amanda Spielman as Ofsted chief executive and Chief Inspector of Schools makes perfect sense. That she has no educational background other than her own – she’s never worked in schools or any other related area coming under the aegis of Ofsted – does not disqualify her it seems.
She is an accountant by profession and associated with Ark (Absolute return for kids), an academy chain. Spielman worked in investment strategy for Kleinwort Benson, KPMG and Nomura, before becoming research and development director for Ark.
Whilst advisor to Ark’s international division she also chaired Ofqual, the qualification body that was cited for its failings during her time. It’s hardly surprising the House of Commons Education Select Committee found itself unable to support her appointment.
So, raising standards or raising profits? To which does the evidence point?