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"We are seeing the fastest rate of school reform in English history"

By Tim Montgomerie

Because of a nasty backlash from the educational establishment Michael Gove didn't have the best of starts at the Department for Education but the tide has turned. Last week he ordered that narrative British history be "put back at the heart of the school curriculum". He also announced new measures to restore classroom discipline.

The session he led at last week's Conservative Party conference was inspirational. If you haven't seen the speech of Katherine Birbalsingh - rewarded with a standing ovation from Tory activists - please, please, please watch it. You'll understand what Michael Gove is trying to succeed and, more importantly, why he must succeed.

The key reason why I argue that the tide has turned comes from statistics released yesterday by the Department, pointing to the rapidity of the reform process...

227 Of course it's easier to expand an existing programme than launch a new one but 227 extra schools now have the advantages of Academy status.

Without the costs of the local government bureuaucracy, schools are using the freedom of Academy status to direct more money towards teacher pay, specialist teachers, smaller classes and an extended school day. These are real practical benefits that will appeal to all parents.

The Free Schools rollout has, of course, been slower. 16 new state-funded but privately-initiated schools will open next year and 140 more applications have been received. The policy should start to be judged in 2015 when it is perfectly possible that hundreds of new schools will be in existence - offering parents real choice, particularly in poorer neighbourhoods.

> If school choice is to triumph, argues Ross Douthat in a US context, bad schools have to suffer from competition.


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