Former Education Department special adviser Stuart Sexton says that parents should be empowered to seek out the most appropriate school for their children, and schools should be incentivized to meet their demand. But how, when many people cannot afford to become active ‘customers' in the education market?
Give parents an Education Cheque to cover the cost of their children's education. Let them choose the school they want. Let schools strive to satisfy parents, as customers. And let them use the parents' education cheques however they want in running and developing their schools. In other words, let the funding for schools come bottom-up from parents, not top-down through layers of Whitehall and local government.
When the Conservatives took office in 1979 we had an instruction from Prime Minister Thatcher that we, at the Department of Education, as it was then known, should issue no more that one Circular (to educational establishments) per year. I was the Special Advisor to the Secretary of State, having formulated much of the education policy of the previous years in Opposition. We pursued such policies as the Assisted Places Scheme, Local Management of Schools, and latterly, Grant Maintained Schools.