Saturday, September 18, 2010

In defence of Michael Gove's free schools

Last year I wrote:
Calder’s First Law of Politics is that if all the parties agree on a new law it is bound to turn out to be a disaster. My Second Law is that the more power the government takes for itself, the more arbitrary the exercise of that power becomes.
I have since formulated my Third Law:
The worth of a letter to the Guardian is in inverse proportion to the square of its number of signatories.
Which is why I was not overimpressed by Michael Bassey's article for Liberal Democrat Voice today. In it he argues that the Liberal Democrats should oppose Michael Gove's plans for free schools.

His arguments are that it will lead to a "two-tier system" - a cliche I have done my best to satirise over the years - and because of a letter written to the Guardian by 12 professors of education ("myself included").

I have read that letter and I am struggling to see where Professor Bassey's views differ from those of John Prescott:
"If you set up a school and it becomes a good school, the great danger is that everyone wants to go there."
As someone says in the comments on Lib Dem Voice, we already have a two-tier education system: it is divided between good and bad schools. And the reason that I feel more sympathetic towards Gove's ideas than many Liberal Democrats is because I believe that we desperately need more good schools.

There is another divide in British education: that between private and state schools. The left has largely given up talking about this, but it still worries me.

If a new tranche of free schools can do something to blur this distinction (as the old direct grant schools did), at least in terms of their ethos, I shall not be sorry.


Nich Starling said...

Couldn't disagree more.

Should I be able to start up my own hospital with taxpayers money ?

Could I start up my own local police force with taxpapyers money ?

So why should I be allowed to set up a school ?

The longer we spend in coaltion, the more Lib Dems start making excuses for the Tories.

Anonymous said...

Oh fuck off and join Labour, Nich Starling, if you think the state should force every child to go to whatever shitty comprehensive school that's nearby. God forbid parents try to do only what's best for their own kids: no, individualism and diversity are wrong.

Anonymous said...


I want my daughter to go to the best school around. So I will be applying there. I don't expect to be turned down as it's my choice, right?

If you want to see what happens when you let any old twat run things, look at the buses, phone network, railways, school construction, the random idiots employed to mend the roads (it seems they don't do the safety aspect anymore) etc. The people running schools should be professionals, not some busy-body numpty with an air of self-importance. I've been a teacher for 14 years and we've had enough trouble with senior management and governors mismanaging - usually a dim as a 10 watt bulb - without the totally uninformed getting involved too

your use of the words individualism and diversity means very little - you are using them in a very lazy way.

Nich Starling said...

School standards in Sweden have fallen since the introduction of Free Schools.

People like to get off on the idea of "parents doing the best for their children", but fail to address the point that if we all "do the best" for our children, some will inevitably miss out, and it leads to a large number being left behind.

No such thing as society, was the oft used misquoted line. But for some selfishness will always come first. Should we scrap the NHS so you can pay for your kids to get faster better treatment ?

Still though, you just swear at me, why not. After all, addressing the point that I made seem beyond you.

dreamingspire said...

I like to think that my letter to the Guardian did a great deal towards getting the Motability scheme on the road. Admittedly Adam Raphael helped.

LucidMag said...

I question the point of letting parents and teacher make new schools instead of improving old one. My thoughts on the matter if you would like to read them are here: