Even before the coalition was announced the rainbows had been binned. Minutes into the new government being formed, the ludicrously named ‘Department for Children Families and Schools’ signs went the way of the rainbows and the ‘Department for Education’ was reborn. Despite the conservative name and lettering it spells out an era of radical education reform, one that should lead to the renewal of education in the country.
Today Michael Gove has written to the 20,000 or so state school head teachers offering them the opportunity to be unburdened from local authority control. Ofsted schools rated excellent are free to become academies straight away, giving them the freedoms from local authority control that this allows. It will be fascinating to see how many heads choose to take up the offer. Other schools not rated outstanding will have to apply to become academies.
After the summer recess parents, teachers and community groups will be free to set up new schools. Stopping local authorities vetoing new schools will enable this to happen and the New Schools Network is ready to strike. The NASUWT teachers' union is not happy with any of this, which should raise no eyebrows.
Gove’s reforms rightly go beyond the national vs. local arguments that are popular currency in contemporary political debate. Localism, Hannan and Carswell style, has a lot going for it; but better to simply take politics out of the equation entirely, leaving parents and schools to work out the details for themselves.
The next stage is, as the Adam Smith Institute has been arguing for a while, to allow private companies to set up and run new schools for a profit. This has been the key to success in Sweden and will be vital if the new government really wants to ensure that every parent has the choice to send their child to a school that is worthy of the money they put in through taxation.