I find this an immensely encouraging speech. The danger was that, having succeeded in securing his cherished Pupil Premium, Nick would find himself defending it in the language of Labourism: ring fencing, benchmarking, rolling out a programme and so on.
But today's he did away with that stultifying agenda altogether.
As Jonathan Jones notes on the Spectator's Coffee House blog:
While he used the terms ‘fair’, ‘fairness’ ‘social mobility’ and ‘socially mobile’ once each in his speech, the Deputy Prime Minister also used ‘freedom’ six times. ‘The coalition has no desire to micromanage schools,’ he said. ‘We all remember the worst excesses of that approach’. So the pupil premium cash won’t come with requirements on how it is spent: ‘Use it as you see fit’, Clegg tells schools.In short, it was a thoroughly Liberal speech, looking to local initiative and innovation rather than local control.
Nick has also been widely quoted as rubbishing plans to bring in regional differences in public-sector pay - see the Guardian for an example. This pleases me for reasons I explained in a post on this blog in March.
Finally, I cannot share Nick's enthusiasm for summer schools. If children are not being properly taught in primary schools then I am not convinced that a fortnight of extra schooling is going to put that right. The answer must lie in improving summer schools.
I also fear that holding summer schools for poor children will be stigmatising and fail to tackle the problem that Nick is so determined to tackle: the segregation of education along class lines.
As thinkers from Baden Powell to Lynne Featherstone have recognised, the progressive thing to do is to encourage the mixing of social classes.