was rather hoping I would not have to explain what is going on in the
current debate over the government's white paper on education reform.
On the one had you have its backers including the Sec of State for
Education, the PM, various advisors, much of the profession and nearly
all of the Tory party, not quite enough of the labour party. Its
opponents are spread throughout the rest but particularly in those who
take the straightforward view that what people want is not more choice,
or more more freedom for schools to run their own affairs, but an
improvement, if it is needed, in their local school. These people think
the reforms will not achieve this. They wish to have a local
opportunity they can take, rather than a theoretical choice they
probably can't for a variety of reasons.
what's the answer? The answer is both approaches could work, but
the argument is probably at cross-purposes. The advantge of the
proposed reforms is that it will allow well managed schools to look
after themselves, establish best practice and take advantage of their
freedom to achieve this. John Prescott thinks this will automatically
be to the disadvantage of the other schools. If nothing else was done,
this could be true. But once we have many schools lookin after
themselves and their standards, with local authority and government
just monitoring to ensure their entrance criteria and application does
not descriminate, local and centra government can zero in with funds,
support and special interventions on those of the rest who are
exhibiting problems. This is therefore the way to get maximum
performance out of those who can manage their affairs well, and maximum
improvement in those who really need help.
the other hand you could leave things as they are but just try to
sort out the mess without engaging the liberated efforts of the newly
freed establishments. This is the way preferred by all those whose life
is driven by the urge for egalitarianism. It is not the best way,
unless the educational establishment on average when given freedom is
not socially responsible, and local and national government is
incompetent in doing the work that falls on it to complete the picture.
Policy driven by
people who harbour some sort of resentment, feelings of guilt or are
driven by jealousy, is rarely the best. But, as I say, either can give
an improvement if properly applied, or produce adverse effect if not
properly applied .But one engages of them far more talent and will give
best results nationally.