Start working on plan B

October 6, 2010 at 12:23 pm Leave a comment

By Matthew Horne

There was a strange paradox at play at Conservative Party Conference this week.

The language and philosophy driving education policy has elements in it that are a refreshing, if somewhat surprising, return to the 1970s and early 1980s: Schools should have much greater freedoms, and much higher levels of autonomy. Teachers should be allowed to get on and teach. Schools should not be interferred with. Well meaning guidance is out the window. New schools (that are free obviously) should be welcomed. We encourage experimentation, innovation, diversity.

However, it is not a wholesale return to ‘let a thousand flowers bloom’.

There will still be strong accountability, lots of transparency, lots more information and data for parents, much greater competition, and much higher levels of parental choice.

So what happens if a school fails? Well all the information, transparency and choice will ensure that parents will take their children elsewhere.

And here is ofcourse where we might imagine that the new government’s orthodoxy might run into trouble. In four years time, if the number of failing shools increases, if Ofsted raise concerns about quality, if the long tail of underacheivement is still with us, if schooling is more segregated, if results begin to dip; will the government still be demanding freedom, autonomy, trust for the profession??

How deep is the new government’s commitment to schools that are really accountable to the local communities, to much greater diversity in the models of schooling in England? To profession-led improvement? To letting go? I remain to be convinced.

To prevent a return to name and shame, hit sqauds and nationalised interventions the government will have to come up with a more sophisticated plan for an autonomous school system than bigger league tables and more surplus places.

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Entry filed under: Education & Children's Services, Government Departments, Innovation Policy, Public Services, Schools & Multi-School Trusts.

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