State education suffers from too much control from the centre. Teachers are snowed under by paperwork, and dismayed at being told how to do their jobs by ministers and officials. All of the major - and many of the minor - operational and spending decisions are made by county and national bureaucrats who are distant from life in the classroom and the real needs of children and parents.
Bad schools reinforce a spiral of decline in too many localities. Disadvantaged by low levels of literacy and numeracy, communities suffer under high levels of disaffection, unemployment, and crime. The middle classes can escape by going private or moving house. But the poorest remain trapped inside a near-monopoly system that is too centralized to respond to their needs.