Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mutualism and free schools

Let's be generous and welcome a couple of initiatives from the other parties.

In this morning's Guardian Tessa Jowell had an article trailing the Progress lecture she gave this evening:

on the supply side, we need to do more than hold up the model of the relentlessly managed plc. We should look instead at other successful ways of delivering goods and services. There are important lessons to be learned from studying how the Co-op and John Lewis work, companies owned, respectively, by their customers and their staff.

Public services exist to serve, and are paid for by, the public, so it is the public that has the right to influence how those services are delivered, to build shared responsibility for them, and improve them by harnessing the efforts of both professionals and those they serve.

Indeed, can we really expect citizens to take on greater responsibility for their own health, learning, and environmental impact, if public services fail to give them the right to shape the ways in which they deliver them? We can. By bringing users, employees, and others together as mutual members of the provider organisation we can successfully get to grips with the supply side of public service.

All good stuff, and let's not spoil it by asking why her government has done so little to further this agenda after 12 years in office. Note too that this is a Labour minister solemnly pointing out that "the relentlessly managed plc" is not the only possible model of organisation. Whatever happened to socialism.

On the Tory side, I take similar encouragement from the Guardian report that:
Hundreds of parent groups have come forward to set up schools under Conservative plans to overhaul the education system which could see new community-run primaries and secondaries given the go-ahead within months of a change of government, figures seen by the Guardian reveal.
If this policy is to have any point then the Tories are going to have to give up their plans to decide centrally how children should be taught and even what they should wear. But I am pleased it appears to proving popular.

Those who oppose it should beware of taking the John Prescott line:
"If you set up a school and it becomes a good school, the great danger is that everyone wants to go there."

1 comment:

Tristan said...

I can't see Labour or the Tories opening up the education supply - they would lose central control.

Unfortunately the LibDems probably wouldn't either, but more because it could be seen as unfair (although ensuring someone is not given a chance to attend a school more suited to them is also unfair, but its a less seen unfairness)