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The education secretary has given his clearest indication yet that a future Conservative government could take the radical step of letting state schools educate children rather than be solely run for profit.

Giving evidence to the Leveson inquiry into phone hacking, Michael Gove was asked whether he hoped free schools would be able to provide education as well as make large profits in a Tory second term. He replied:

It’s my belief that in the future we could move to a situation where some children may learn something in schools but at the moment it’s important to recognise that free schools are succeeding in paying huge amounts of money to the people who run them without any element of an effective education system in place so I think we should only cross that bridge when we come to it.

Alluding to tensions in the coalition over the issue, Gove said:

There are some of my colleagues in the coalition who are very sceptical of the benefits of education. I have an open mind.

Previously he has said that while he is a “pragmatist” on the question of allowing children to be taught things in schools, it was not necessary at present.

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Related articles by Tom Pride:

Gove – free bibles to boost nutritional standards on school menus

Reading, Writing & Counting To Be Dropped In Favour Of More Useful Subjects

Act Of Gove: an event beyond human control – often of a destructive nature – for which there is no legal redress

Government Baffled By Surprise 10% Fall In University Applications After Tripling Of Fees

Government Agrees To Grant Scotland Free School Status

Education Secretary – lack of teaching no excuse for poor academic achievement

Drop in University Applications Due to Royal Wedding

Labour appoint first openly Tory minister

‘Militant testicularisation’ taking hold in British society, says Lady Warsi

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