Thursday, January 10, 2008

Nick Clegg should have made his education speech during the leadership contest

This morning's Guardian told us breathlessly:

Nick Clegg will unveil plans to end state interference in schools this week as he moves to bury the Liberal Democrats' traditional approach to public services.
In his first keynote speech since becoming party leader, Clegg will challenge many of the party's supporters in teaching and local government by issuing proposals which will "effectively take schools out of state control", according to one official.

David Laws, the Lib Dems' schools spokesman, paved the way for changes to the party's approach at its annual conference in September, pledging to inject more choice into the system by making it easier for parents and community groups to set up new schools. The plans won the backing of the conference, although some activists and MPs are uneasy about the approach - which chimes with many of the policies proposed by the Conservatives.

The more you read this, the more you realise that Clegg may not be intending to do much more than reaffirm existing party policy.

I am all in favour of people being able to set up new schools. The present regulations make it hard to do this in area with vacant places in existing schools. But that can often be a sign that those schools are not very good and that this is just the sort of area where new schools are needed most. New schools can be desirable for other reasons - see this posting about Northern Ireland.

I am all in favour of getting the state out of education. I am not convinced that two decades of league tables, initiatives and the national curriculum have achieved very much at all beyond the demoralisation and infantilisation of the teaching profession.

As David Laws is no fool, I will do him the credit of assuming that he does not intend to end the role of local government in education. I will settle for a recognition that some councils do not do a good job of running their schools and allowing people to do something about their children's education in those areas.

It is a great shame that Nick Clegg did not put forward his ideas during the leadership campaign. When challenged on the Politics Show his reaction was to throw up his hands and then make an official complaint. He will not be able to do that in the Commons or during a general election campaign.

If he had been a bit braver, I might well have voted for him.

Finally, like James Graham, I suspect that the way the Guardian presented this story is that it has been spun to them by the leader's office as "Clegg takes on Lib Dem activists".

Stop it, boys and girls. Now.


Anonymous said...

I think that he mentioned somewhere, that he would bring the party out from its comfort zone, and that he intended to review the education policy. Anyway, I'm glad that Clegg's policy on education is more than just telling that he is happy with the policy of the current government.

Anonymous said...

But Jonathan he did spell this out during the leadership. See here:

And is not more likely that the Guardian decide to add that spin themselves, rather than were briefed on it. There is no quote, direct or attributed and it is not the focus of the piece - which had they been briefed that this was a leader vs activists event it surely would have been.