David Cameron and the Conservatives need to think radically if they are to correct Labour’s disastrous legacy in education.
There has been much talk in recent months about declining standards in schools, but an excellent recent editorial in The Business really struck at the stark, and simple truth; of all his many failed promises, Tony Blair’s emphasis on ‘education, education, education’ has been the most abject betrayal of those in disadvantaged sections of society who need government most.
The Business focuses on identifying the problem, understandably for its standpoint and readership from the point of view of the failure to produce adequate employees, let alone business leaders of the future. One in four children leaves school functionally innumerate and illiterate; one third of employers has to teach basic skills to new employees; a recent study indicates a grade ‘A’ in 2006 was worth a ‘C’ in 1990. I wish to elaborate on something The Business only touches on; the solution. Only a complete overhaul of the system and the introduction of a voucher system can avert declining social mobility and crumbling standards.
You might argue that the Conservatives tried this before in health, and it is political suicide. But they didn’t and it isn’t. The patients’ passport was a weak halfway house which was easily shot down by Labour claims it helped a rich few opt out not a poor many get better, and David Cameron was right to axe it. A full system of education vouchers would be of most benefit to the poorest parents in the most deprived areas, giving them a power to decide and a freedom to choose of which they can currently only dream.