Conservative Diary

« Conservatives reluctantly accept that asset sales are "probably necessary" | Main | Should Nick Clegg feature in all three election debates? »

Michael Gove's schools revolution

ConHome has already quick-fired the ten main stories from last week's party Conference plus David Cameron's compassionate agenda and George Osborne's public spending crackdown. Each day this week we'll be reviewing other big stories to emerge from the Manchester Party Conference that we didn't cover adequately in a very busy last week. We start with education and will turn to the environment tomorrow.

PHILLIPS-MELANIE In today's Daily Mail Melanie Phillips underlines the problem of British education:

"In one of the world's most advanced societies, the level of illiteracy among schoolchildren is astonishing.  This year, nearly a quarter of a million children left primary school unable to read, write and add up properly. Two-thirds of working-class boys at the age of 14 have a reading age of seven or below.  More than half the children leaving comprehensives failed to get the basic requirement of five decent GCSE passes. Public examinations have themselves dumbed down. Universities are having to provide remedial courses to make up for the deficiencies in students' knowledge. Employers despair of school-leavers and even university graduates who lack the basics and can't think for themselves."

She goes on to pay tribute to Michael Gove's vision for root-and-branch overhaul of Britain's educational establishment. She argues that the educational establishment, including Whitehall civil servants, quangoes and professors of education, have conspired to subvert the best of previous reforms. By opening the school system to new providers and allowing those new providers to use alternative examination systems (like the O Level) and set teachers' pay, Michael Gove will be setting up a schools system that might just work.

Melanie Phillips has reservations about Gove's position on the national curriculum and academic selection but otherwise - for a commentator not known for pouring praise on politicians - she gives Michael Gove high marks.

Fraser Nelson - in yesterday's News of the World - gave Mr Gove even higher marks. Fraser has been Fleet Street's leading advocate of the Tory schools policy and believes that the doom mongers are wrong in thinking that new schools won't be created:  

"Michael Gove said that, as schools secretary, he’d give £5,000 a pupil to any independent school teaching only state kids. Think about it. The average class in England has 22 kids - that’s £110,000, per year. The average teacher is on £35,000 a year. You don’t need an A-Level to know the maths stacks up. The best teachers and heads would be able to set up on their own. Now, you may think: who can be bothered to set up their own school? The Swedes thought that when they introduced this policy in 1993. But people did. A THOUSAND new schools opened up – in villages, towns and inner cities. All government did was sign the cheque."

If Sweden can create 1,000 schools how many new schools could be see in Britain with its much larger population?

And in a sign of the commitment to the poor, pupils in disadvantaged areas will get a £1,500 premium - producing an extra incentive for the 'schools industry' to set up schools for them.  And 'schools industry' is the right term.  Up until now start-up schools were to be banned from making a profit.  ConHome opposed this policy and now - according to The Guardian and Fraser Nelson - it will be scrapped.

Rachel Wolf's New Schools Network (profiled recently in The Economist) plus this allowance of profit gives hope that a new schools infrastructure is developing to support Michael Gove's new schools revolution. 

Tim Montgomerie 


You must be logged in using Intense Debate, Wordpress, Twitter or Facebook to comment.