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Tories' schools revolution depends upon the involvement of profit-making businesses

The Sunday Times has an important story tomorrow that could be crucial to the success of the supply-side revolution that Cameron and Gove plan for the nation's schools.

In many ways the Gove vision for education is very radical:

  • First, there is the ability of new start-up schools to set teachers' pay and conditions.  This will put a Conservative government on a collision course with the teachers' unions - rightly referred to by George Bridges as today's equivalent of the National Union of Mineworkers.
  • There is also the proposed freedom for schools to opt out of the existing examination system and, as reported in today's Daily Mail, schools will, for example, be able to choose to use the O-level exam.

The great weakness in Michael Gove's current proposal to alllow new schools to open is that the invitation is only being made to groups of parents, voluntary organisations and faith communities.  Profit-making businesses will not be invited to set up schools even though such businesses were absolutely critical to the Swedish success story (upon which Tory policy is based).

Sir Simon Milton, now Chief of Staff to Boris Johnson, has previously made the case for business-run schools and, notes The Sunday Times, Labour's James Purnell said last week that “If allowing state schools to be run by profit-making companies encourages equality of capability, we will have to allow it.”

Up until now the Tories have been scared of Labour attacking the Tories for wanting to make money out of children's education but on the back of Gordon Brown's collapse in support the Cameron leadership might feel emboldened to be more ambitious for its schools policy.

Tim Montgomerie


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