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"...where voucher schemes have been introduced, even where there isn't a choice of schools, the change in the relationship between the parents and the school has served to drive up standards."

I don't think this is as straight-forward as you claim. Any power that voucher-parents gain is an illusion. It is more likely that the test schools’ improvement is the result of the changed relationship between the school and government.

We want parents to be able to drive choice in education, and to improve standards by making the state compete with private and charitable organisations in providing free schools.

Vouchers just muddy the waters. They allow parents to ‘pay’ for something that they used to get for free anyway. Vouchers are a payment method, not a core change or benefit. They're “cash or card?” rather than “academic or vocational?”

"Conservative prinipals can be applied once in office, if we never get there though.... I hope you enjoy the days of socialism.."

You are effectively saying here, that the only way to achieve office is to abandon all our beliefs. I prefer to look at politics in the broadest and least partisan sense (the sharpest out there will notice that Milton Friedman paraphrase). The only way to achieve the changes I believe this country needs is to effectively make the case for individual freedom, resposibility and a small state. I am not particularly fussy about how these changes come about, as long as the country is made the better place it can be. Politicians whose only concern is office, may only achieve just that. Like Tony Blair, completely focused on getting to power and winning a second term, with the sun setting on his premiership, his biggest achievement? Winning 3 consecutive majorities for Labour.

Jaz, by being so blindly focused on power, you are prepared to sacrifice your ideals. Afterall, what is the Conservative Party if it is not the party of freedom? It is nothing but a power seeking clique, fighting a partisan squabble to manage the decline.

Any power that voucher-parents gain is an illusion.

No they aren't. They establish the parent as the customer and pay master - not the government. The schools therefore act to deliver what the parents want, not what the DfES wants.

Vouchers just muddy the waters.

No, they're the mechanism that enables competition.

They allow parents to ‘pay’ for something that they used to get for free anyway.

They did not get it for FREE. Everything has to be paid for - this makes it clear who's paying.

"The schools therefore act to deliver what the parents want, not what the DfES wants."

The parents get more power because the government has relinquished some control over the over the school. That's the policy we want.

The DfES won't relinquish control just because the parents have got vouchers. You can have vouchers AND an over-powerful DfES.

If we want less power in the DfES (which I certainly do), we need our politicians to make that decision. It's quite separate to vouchers, which are just a gimmick - a sideshow to the real issue.

You can have vouchers AND an over-powerful DfES.

You're actually determined to miss the point, aren't you? The mechanism enables and cements the new relationship by taking funding - and therefore power - away from the DfES and LEAs.

Vouchers are no gimmick, they have been proven to work in parts of the US. If they are such a gimmick, why are movements springing up in Cities all over the US demanding school vouchers. Those in the most vunerable positions in society are some of the most strong supporters of vouchers. Single Black mothers in the inner citys of America can see the benefits of school vouchers, we should recognise the benefits as well. Sure we need to go further, but calling them a gimmick is just wrong.

You're actually determined to miss the point, aren't you? The mechanism enables and cements the new relationship by taking funding - and therefore power - away from the DfES and LEAs.

No I'm not. You're insisting that giving parents a voucher is going to have a magical effect on schools. I'm saying that it's the decision to liberate schools that works magic, the voucher is ancillary.

You can take the DfES out of the funding process, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t dictate the curriculum, teaching methods, hours, etc. It takes an explicit decision to achieve that result.

No I'm not.

Yes you are.

You're insisting that giving parents a voucher is going to have a magical effect on schools.

No I am not. I am saying that using them as the funding mechanism is what would facilitate and entrench parental accountabilty and private sector competition.

You can take the DfES out of the funding process, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t dictate the curriculum, teaching methods, hours, etc. It takes an explicit decision to achieve that result.

You are trying to divorce the two concepts. That's a false approach. The point of introducing a voucher scheme is to take control away from governments and give it to parents. That is the explicit decision.

The voucher then cememts the parent as consumer and makes it clear that schools are not FREE (as some socialists claim). Once people are in the position of paying consumer, it's far harder for the state to wrest any control back.

"Yes you are."

He's behind you!

"You are trying to divorce the two concepts."

Yes, because taking control away from the DfES is not dependent upon vouchers. Yes, vouchers may 'cement' or 'entrench' the system, but they are not the only option and they are a tool, not the headline that we should be campaigning on.

Yes, because taking control away from the DfES is not dependent upon vouchers

It is dependent on taking the funding system away from the DfES and LEAs. So long as funding is channelled through them, then national politicians will feel they are ccountable for that expenditure and will try to control it. So despite your assertions, the two are interdependent.

James as you feel so strongly about this why don't you write a 'your platform' article?

"Conservative prinipals (sic.) can be applied once in office, if we never get there though.... I hope you enjoy the days of socialism.."

This is the distorted deferential thinking that elected Cameron in the first place. Stuck for any point of difference between what the party now stands for and New Labour, his apologists and followers make the absurd claim that New Labour is socialist.

Perhaps it is the age of some party members and/or their lack of interest in our party's history that makes them ahistorically claim that Cameron's plan is the only way a party ever got from opposition to government.

"Daniel, you socialist! ;-)"

Takes one to know one, comrade ;-)

"No thanks - I'd rather have a bloated welfare system than one which leads to rural infanticide and/or a booming population of undernourished, diseased street children."

Ideally I'd rather have a privately funded welfare system like we used to rather than no welfare system at all. Unfortunately our current welfare structure is likely to drag us downwards until ruthless Chinese capitalism looks positively benign in comparison.

"Ideally I'd rather have a privately funded welfare system like we used to rather than no welfare system at all."

Thanks for clarifying. I was concerned that you might be holding up the Chinese and Indian welfare systems as a model for us to follow!

Gideon (sorry George)Osborne can afford to pay higher taxes. He will inherit tens of millions. He's a typical rich pompous twit.

And has a very annoying voice. His braying on the Today programme made me turn back to Wogan for the sake of my blood pressure!

"He's a typical rich pompous twit."

NAME CALLING UNWORTHY OF SELSDON MAN

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