Education Jul 19 2010

Swedes pass new legislation to control ‘free schools’

Today the government starts the process of forcing its Academy Bill through the House of Commons, using emergency legislation that has only previously been deployed to rush through the Dangerous Dogs Act.

How ironic that at the same time the Swedish government, on whose education reforms the Coalition’s policies are based, has had a re-think and is preparing to implement a new Act, passed earlier this year, to bring  ‘free ‘ schools under the same regulatory  framework as local municipal schools.

Why have we heard nothing about that here? Because it doesn’t fit the spin, from both the right wing media and Michael Gove about free/independent state schools raising standards for all. But the harsh truth is that the Swedes have recognised that diversity and freedom have worked against fairness and equality. Remember the head of the Swedish schools inspectorate who pointed out on Newsnight that the free schools only really worked for the benefit of a middle class minority.

Among the new measures in the Swedish Act is a common regulatory system in areas like admissions and SEN, for both free and municipal schools, regardless of the responsible body (ie the free school sponsor). There are also  more rights for parents and pupils and a common framework for ‘quality control’ with sanctions to be imposed by the Swedish Schools inspectorate on both ‘public and private responsible bodies’ This is code for admitting that many of the free schools were rubbish and had to be closed down.

Several years ago, before the Academies expansion had really taken off in this country, I sat next to a, now well known, academy head at a private dinner. He told me that ‘in the end, if there are too many academies, the government will have to reintroduce local authorities’.

So remember you read it here first. Where Sweden leads, we will inevitably follow. Once the mayhem in admissions, provision for special needs and excluded pupils becomes clear, new regulations will have to be enforced with some form of local control.

Let’s hope the Labour and Lib Dem MPs remember that and put up a bit of a fight rather than sit mutely by as a badly drafted Bill ,which paves the way for the Swedish experiment to let rip here, flashes past them this week.

4 Responses to “Swedes pass new legislation to control ‘free schools’”

  1. Gwyn says:

    This assumes that the Tory's actually WANT schools to be fair and equal. Do they?

  2. Anna says:

    It goes without saying that we would hope the Labour MPs will fight back, but it seems our fate is in the hands of the Lib Dems; they need to be lobbied hard to vote against the bill despite their ludicrous shoring up of this dangerous Tory government. We are lurching backwards to a two tier system that I remember from my childhood, where 'secondary moderns' failed to deliver a decent education to so many. Those children were written off as failures, and many people's lives were blighted by a lack of educational opportunity.I have friends who still talk about this with incredible bitterness. If the free schools and academies soak up the money and the more advantaged children, I fear for the fate of the rest. Since Sweden has now learned this lesson the painful way – through the failure of the system – do we really have to sit by while the same awful, destructive mess is created here? ( a rhetorical question, I think I know the answer)

  3. Hobson says:

    Why does it go without saying that we want Labour MPs to fight back? Did Labour do a good job delivering equality in our education system when they were in office?

  4. Gwyn says:

    At least they invested massively in Education. The Academies were designed to give schools a fighting chance in poor areas. Now they are going to be outstanding schools. You can argue if they did a good job of it, but they tried. The Tories aren't trying. They want a three tier system. That's what they are making.

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