Free education


It is rare that one can agree with any views of the modern trade union movement. So when they talk a semblance of sense it is worth mentioning. This rare concurrence of views comes in the teaching union's response to news that schools in England are to be held to account on a wide range of measures of pupil 'well-being'.

Schools will have to provide information on how well they promote healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle, how well they give good guidance on sex and relationships and discourage smoking, alcohol consumption and drug use. This will be taken in the form of surveys of parent and pupil opinion.

Children's minister Baroness Delyth Morgan said: "School-level indicators will help schools to assess how well they are promoting the well-being of their pupils. They will build on data about pupils' attainment and progress, so that wider aspects of children's lives can be benchmarked nationally."

Head of education at the NUT, John Bangs, rightly responded saying: "The danger is we get into a mechanistic evaluation but with highly subjective information on pupils' perceptions"; going on to call the plans "the height of absurdity - the logical end of an absurd evaluation structure." Quite right, but let's not forget that the teaching unions are just trying to cover their teacher’s backs, their primary concern is not for pupils and parents.

More centralization, more standardization and more testing have not rescued (nor ever will) state run education. The much-publicized Conservative policy to 'free' education goes some of the way, but in truth the poisonous ties politics holds over education will need to be further cut. And it is not enough to devolve power to local politicians as some demand; freedom requires that parents are free to set up and send their children to schools completely outside of the state system, with no interference from the politicians.