Tories getting there on education


It does not really matter what colour of government reforms our schools, but it must surely be the number two priority after putting the economy to rights. It begins to look as if it might be the blue party that does it. Having embraced the Swedish model, they seem to have quietly dropped the idea of excluding for-profit schools in the mix.

Now comes an announcement from Michael Gove, shadow Schools Secretary, that groups of teachers will also be allowed (and he suggested 'encouraged') to start their own schools. He has been looking at the successful US experience of the Knowledge Is Power Programme (KIPP), which has seen several new schools started by teachers.

We meet quite a few teachers in the Adam Smith Institute through the ASI's programme of school visits, 6th form ISOS seminars, and even our Power Lunches. There is practically a unanimity that talented teachers have their time wasted and their enthusiasm blunted by the acres of paperwork which flow across their desks, and by the need to comply in detail with minutiae set by civil servants who have not entered a classroom since they were children themselves.

It is reported that the recently-formed New Schools Network has already been contacted by significant numbers of teachers keen to take advantage of the new opportunities.

Education will be the key, and new schools are an essential part of its ability to open new doors of opportunity and quality education, especially for students in deprived areas. Some of the current failing schools might well reform and improve once parents can exercise choice of schools, and direct state funds to those they have chosen. Many, though, will fail and pass unmourned into oblivion. Their place will be taken by high quality new schools. Some will be started by entrepreneurs, some by parents, and now, we are told, some by teachers. They bring a knowledge and a commitment that are needed.

This is a very welcome move, and one that suggests that the Conservatives finally have the right policy on schools, and might just have the nous to implement it.

Madsen Pirie's new book "101 Great Philosophers" is now available.