Education Mar 13 2010

Do we need parent promoted ‘free’ schools?

Should parents start their own schools? This idea looks likely to be fiercely contested issue in the run up to the next election. The Tories want to give fund parents to set up ‘free’ schools, if they are not happy with their local provision, even if there are enough places available locally.Journalist Toby Young is the most high profile advocate of the parent promoted ‘free’ school. Last summer he wrote an article complaining that his local school wasn’t good enough for his children so he wanted to set up a ‘free comprehensive grammar‘ . He later decided it should be a ‘secular faith‘ school. He and I have now had various debates on this issue, on Sky, Woman’s Hour, Teachers TV and in the pages of the Times Education Supplement and the Observer.

But the politicians aren’t promising any new money for the new schools so the cash for building them will have to come from the exising Building Schools for the Future budget, which is designed to refurbish all secondary schools over the next 15 years, and the money to run them will result from attracting children from neighbouring schools.

The new schools will also be ‘free’ so not necessarily bound by the same rules and regulations as other local schools. Parent promoters would be able to jump the admissions queue and get places at the schools they have started so could quickly become self selecting islands in their own communities.

And what sort of parents should be allowed to set up these new schools. If Toby Young gets his pseudo grammar school, does that mean the parents who want the Steiner School should be indulged? Then what about the creationists, the fundamental islamists or the observant jewish parents?

There is an alternative though. We are facing massive public spending cuts so the politicians could just say, we aren’t going to spend time and money on new schools if there isn’t a demand for new places. We are simply going to make every local school good, with a balanced intake and curriculum, good teaching and behaviour, strong leadership and refurbished buildings.

Every other policy could then be calibrated in line with that aim. Some decisions on admissions , the curriculum and qualifications – would become inevitable. The good local school will never flourish with a curriculum that is as skewed as its intake.It would be cheaper and probably give most parents what they really want – a good local school.

One Response to “Do we need parent promoted ‘free’ schools?”

  1. Customi says:

    Sallalallala, this is a test comment – but the answer is YES!

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