Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Queen’s first Conservative speech for 13 years

She may be a little peeved that her speech has been so widely leaked, but Cranmer has no doubt that Her Majesty will be relieved that she does not have to deliver another vacuous New Labour tome of tedious illiberal legislation, meaningless mantras and interminable constitutional tinkering.

She may be disappointed that hunting with hounds is not to be decriminalised and that her sovereignty is not to be at least partly restored in a bust-up with the foreign princes and potentates in Brussels, but, make no mistake about it, this is a Tory speech.

With a bit of Whig thrown in.

And it contains a very great deal which ought to delight Conservatives.

But it is the Academies Bill for 'free schools' which is the jewel in the crown.

Cranmer has long been of the opinion that if education reform were the only fruit of the next Conservative government, it alone would qualify David Cameron as one of the greatest reforming prime ministers in history. There is a desperate need to reform the sclerotic, statist, bureaucratic and deficient system of education in this country, and this Bill will do it. Of course, much of the donkey work has been done by Michael Gove, but it is the nature of leadership to take the credit, steal the limelight and bask in the glory.

The decision to restore the Department for Education is symbolic of the revolution. It is heartening that His Grace was heeded on the matter.

Gone is the touch-feely ministry for children, school, families, breast-feeding and nappy-changing. Gone are the trendy teaching methods which have produced the most illiterate and innumerate school leavers since state education was established. Gone are the days of placing the opinions of ‘experts’ above the learning needs of pupils. Gone is the Marxist bland uniformity of the comprehensive system. Gone are the meaningless mantras of ‘excellence for all’ and ‘all must have prizes’. And gone is the curse of equality of outcome over equality of opportunity.

David Cameron is introducing a reform by which every pupil might experience the sort of rigorous academic programme envisaged by Plato. Intrinsic to this is a reform of school league tables and the deregulation of state qualifications which will permit schools to opt for IGCSEs and the IB instead of the increasingly debased GCSEs and A-levels.

When you stop controlling and forcing initiatives on people, far more happens.

The Academies Bill is one of the most liberating and empowering pieces of legislation ever: it is the logical continuation of the Thatcher revolution. But while she democratised industry, the stock market and home-owning, she stopped short of giving choice to NHS patients and empowering parents to educate their children in the school and with the curriculum they wished.

John Major toyed with NHS and education vouchers, but he was never in a political position of strength to implement the policy.

Tony Blair and Lord Adonis understood the problem, and their academies were an important politico-philosophical achievement quite at variance with Labour’s (and Gordon Brown's) centralising and controlling instincts.

The Academies Bill builds on this foundation, and it amounts to the partial privatisation of state education. It will permit teachers and parents and other groups to establish schools which will be independently run but financed by the state. The schools will compete in a free market: those which succeed will expand; those which fail will close or be subject to take-over bids.

This will complement the present privilege of the rich to educate their children in the best independent schools. And it will be irreversible: once you grant parental choice and school competition, there is no remote possibility of a political party ever proposing to wrest that choice back from voting parents.

It is worth observing that the average cost to the tax-payer of putting a child through state education is in excess of £9,000 per annum. But the school sees nothing like this, as layers of local bureaucracy cream off thousands to perpetuate their own bland, uniform and petty agendas.

By granting parents what amounts to a voucher for the full £9,000, they will be at liberty to shop around until they find somewhere they wish to spend it. The money follows the pupil, with ‘premiums’ payable to schools who take ‘problem’ pupils or who wish to serve deprived areas. And this sum is broadly equivalent to the average annual fees for an independent day school: there is no reason why the quality of education provision and class sizes in the Free Schools may not be identical to those achieved by independent schools. And headteachers will at last be free to pay their teachers whatever it takes to keep them: the ending of the NUT’s national pay-bargaining ranks right up there with Thatcher’s defenestration of the NUM.

This policy cannot fail, even though the LEAs will do their damndest to object and hinder, and teaching unions will threaten strikes and disruption. But the moment parents are at liberty to choose the school that is right for their child, with class sizes and a curriculum which are conducive to good learning, with rigorous exams and no grade inflation, we will wonder why we did not do it sooner.

Like any Bill, it will require future amendments to permit pupil selection and profit-making, but this is a very important start. The results will not, of course, be seen for years. But they will come, and they will be worth waiting for.

The Conservative Party may not have won a majority, and the victory was not ours. But if the Free Schools Bill were all that Her Majesty had to announce today, it would be sufficient for those who have vision.


Anonymous Michael said...

'Gone are the trendy teaching methods which have produced the most illiterate and innumerate school leavers since state education was established. Gone are the days of placing the opinions of ‘experts’ above the learning needs of pupils. Gone is the Marxist bland uniformity of the comprehensive system. Gone are the meaningless mantras of ‘excellence for all’ and ‘all must have prizes’. And gone is the curse of equality of outcome over equality of opportunity.'

If Cameron/Gove wanted to solve any of that then they'd be better looking at the teacher training institutions rather than the schools, for surely the latter only reflect what's going on in the former. If the schools are indeed, as you obviously seem to think, full of this kind of stuff, then it would only be because the teachers are - as such, a 'different kind' of school would need a 'different kind' of teacher.

Perhaps those teachers already exist, and are silently waiting to be unleashed, freed from the various pernicious ideologies of their school managers and bureaucratic masters. Time will tell, I guess.

25 May 2010 at 09:09  
Anonymous bluedog said...

A master stroke, Your Grace, and you should be feeling well pleased with your own contribution. Dave/Gove's initiative will have a profound effect both on the quality of education, and potentially on the outlook of the next generation educated in the state schools.

Having established the principle of choice in services offered by the state, why not the NHS too?

25 May 2010 at 09:50  
Anonymous Voyager said...

Thatcher destroyed Grammar Schools and was content to have fee-paying schools provide education and state comprehensives to churn out fodder.

Nothing can be done until schools select pupils and until fear of failure motivates children to work to succeed.

It is fear of failure and its consequences that motivates, and Britain has made failure comfortable and even rewarding. It is a failed society wallowing in mediocrity and being fattened up for slaughter by the BRICS of the world.

Without The City and BBC public school England would have no employment prospects to fund the cycle of hereditary private schooling and fee-paying privilege - they would then enjoy the full mediocrity of this island state

25 May 2010 at 09:50  
Anonymous matt said...

There are some good and interesting parts to the Gove plan, but I fear the inertia in the education world will take a lot of shifting. Also, he hasn't said anything (as far as I'm aware) about home schooling - presumably they would get the voucher directly as cash - and if the free schools aren't allowed to select by academic ability or make profit then it isn't really a very conservative idea at all.

25 May 2010 at 09:55  
Anonymous Graham Davis said...

I remember “Free Schools” in the sixties, sex, drugs and rock and roll but this is probably not what you had in mind. However both are daft ideas. As a former school governor in a leafy, middle class area it was very difficult to recruit governors and several posts remained permanently unfilled.

All you will get are small groups of ideologically driven people who think that they can do better, that is, until they confront the reality of running a school. The State should be the primary provider of education but there should be more innovation. I would like to see small pilot studies particularly in primary education, i.e. individual schools that can apply to change their teaching methods provided the majority of parents approve (as their children will be guinea pigs). They could vary the school terms, the school day even the age that children start school as well as re-thinking the curriculum.

I am no supporter of the previous administration but to blame educational standards simply on the myth of left leaning education authorities and poor teachers doesn’t wash. As with most social ills at the heart of the problem is inadequate parenting. The solutions are not simple and as “Free Schools” are an ideologically driven rather than pragmatic response they will not work.

25 May 2010 at 10:06  
Anonymous bluedog said...

Mr Graham Davis @ 10.06 said "As with most social ills at the heart of the problem is inadequate parenting". To which the answer is better schooling and Christian values. Or are you suggesting that the problem is the genetic inadequacy of the parents? If so, to which part of the British demographic do you ascribe most fault or inadequacy?

And Voyager, in my youth I was occasionally taught by some truly inspired individuals of great dedication and enthusiasm. Thought of failure was never entertained, the drive was positive rather than negative. I'm sure the same can still be found.

25 May 2010 at 10:57  
Anonymous circus monkey said...

The implications of taking politics - particularly local politics - out of education are great, good and to be thoroughly celebrated. Well done!

25 May 2010 at 11:16  
Blogger Graham Davis said...

bluedog said...

Mr Graham Davis @ 10.06 said "As with most social ills at the heart of the problem is inadequate parenting". To which the answer is better schooling and Christian values. Or are you suggesting that the problem is the genetic inadequacy of the parents? If so, to which part of the British demographic do you ascribe most fault or inadequacy?

Chicken and egg. Even the best schooling is unlikely to undo poor parenting. Values are of course essential but why Christian? Like many here you are under the misapprehension that faith confers some special magic on your value system, it doesn’t. We may have many values in common and share concerns about the society in which we live, that mine are not God given doesn’t make them less authentic.

25 May 2010 at 11:26  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Labour's "academies" are a derivative of the Conservatives' "city technology colleges".

25 May 2010 at 12:02  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a shame there's no return to the "grammar schools" since these were brilliant and encouraged mobility!

25 May 2010 at 12:03  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your Grace

Outstanding article!

We look forward to a new generation of conservatives arising out of these schools!

25 May 2010 at 12:15  
Blogger Fader Johannes said...

Your grace!

I´m delighted to get this excellent news. My wife had the opportunity to be educated in a Swedish free school (school voucher funded) for her secondary education. It was a true blessing for her, and I am sure that new schools will give new blood to the entire system in your nation.

25 May 2010 at 12:53  
Blogger Little Black Sambo said...

Graham Davies: The State should be the primary provider of education.


25 May 2010 at 13:17  
Blogger John R said...

"the LEAs will do their damndest to object and hinder"

Only if they're still in place. On the back of the "Gove" changes a massive reduction in the power and size of the LEAs is a key step to making sure the free schools system grows quickly and spreads far and wide.

Also as Michael (09:09) says, the teacher traiinng system is key to production of good quality staff. The current marxist approach also needs to be visited be Mssrs Osborn and Laws.

25 May 2010 at 13:26  
Blogger Graham Davis said...

Little Black Sambo said...

Graham Davies: The State should be the primary provider of education.


Forget for a moment the tug of war between Labour and Conservative administrations over education policy.

These days’ teachers are well trained and mostly well qualified. (My daughter is just about to start a BAed course with the view to becoming a primary school teacher. My wife has a first from Cambridge in English and Education.) The loony left no longer controls the teaching unions and only a few local education authorities are stubbornly opposed to reform.

We probably agree on what we as parents and as members of society want the education system to provide: to enable each student to reach their potential and at the end of it produce a well rounded and responsible member of society. At the same time the most gifted must be stretched and the least able raised to a minimum level of competence.

Whilst many private schools provide a fantastic education they do so at a cost that is far greater than the State can afford therefore it is not possible to privatise all education and so the State will remain the primary provider. To ensure fairness and equality of opportunity and provision the State has to provide the structure and funding on which public education is based.

Finally there is nothing wrong with the comprehensive school system it is the most widely used in the developed world. Grammar schools rely on selection at 11 and so don’t take account of developmental differences. Academies are sometimes successful because for the time being money is being thrown at them.

25 May 2010 at 14:50  
Blogger English Viking said...

Talk is cheap. Let's wait and see how closely what is promised marches with what is delivered.

My guess is: Nothing like.

25 May 2010 at 15:04  
Blogger jane said...

As Perdix says, academies were derivative of CTCs, which also got extra funding. There are now only 3 left - the others have had even more funding to become academies. Presumably,as Francis Beckett has suggested, when it is acknowledged that academies are no more successful than community schools, the name will be changed again. His suggestion was Conservatoires.

Those who constantly talk about bringing back Grammar Schools never provide a suggestion about the 2 out of 3 or 3 out of 4 who didn't get into Grammar School. Kent has ended up with a whole raft of "failing" schools because they have selection. They are just waking up to the problem of not being about to maintain the standards in the Grammar Schools because the academies are stealing some of those students.

As for lefties and "progressive" education - babies and bath water come to mind. In fact, it seems to me, that there is very little scope in what can be taught and how at the moment. That is why the bribe is to offer schools more freedoms by becoming academies. The freedom required is not freedom from Local Authorities but freedom for micro management from the centre.

Finally, why are US and other overseas based companies lining up with slobbering lips. They see fat profits to be made.

25 May 2010 at 16:09  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah blessed part privatization, I am sending my daughter to the Marie Stopes Academy and my son to the Military Academy.

Should be plenty work for them both after graduation.

It will keep them out of trouble, avoid getting locked up by group4 securicor.

Goodness knows, we have all had our fair share of troubles, infact my shares are doing quite well. Making a killing, with all the troubles.

25 May 2010 at 16:55  
Anonymous not a machine said...

Wonderfull post your grace , why indeed do we have an education system that does not seek to make adults who can be as a family ?? and believe facebook is salvation with buttons .

25 May 2010 at 17:25  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just signed up for a course at the all new Sarah Ferguson Academy for business ethics.

Could do with a little extra income, left a down payment in good faith.

I believe they will have excellent creche facilities.

Just waiting for the nod from Andy now.

25 May 2010 at 17:47  
Blogger Lakester91 said...

Little Black Sambo and Graham Davis

'Graham Davies: The State should be the primary provider of education.


Historically, education was almost solely provided by religious organisations. In Europe, this meant the Church. Yes Mr. Davis, I'm afraid to say that the Dark and Middle ages weren't made worse by the Church; in fact, European civilisation only survived because of it. The written word, in almost all cultures, was developed by religious institutions as a way to preserve scripture. Ask yourself why the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge are so called. Will we be able to see the return of religious schools that don't teach liberal orthodoxy?

My opinion is that the freeing of schools from the state could as easily be a bad thing as a good thing. Thatcher 'freed' our utilities from the state and look what happened; they all went to France and Germany. She 'freed' our council houses from the state and now there aren't enough to house the poorest in our country who need them. If we free the schools, how long is it before they're taken over by foreign companies? With European free market laws, what assurances have we that our schools will remain British? Will we own nothing?

I believe that some companies should not be allowed to fall into foreign hands and should be state owned: power, water, gas and military research and production for example. If we were ever, God forbid, at war, then having the ability to control such industries would be vital.

In the case of education, I'm undecided. I'd be happy to support its de-regulation as long as I knew that it would not be another vital service where the money is transferred abroad.

25 May 2010 at 18:49  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unless we go over to the American system where ALL the senior managers of all Public Institutions change with an incoming Government, NOTHING will change.

The Cultural Marxists will just crawl back into the woodwork and use their friends Polly Toynbee, the BBC, Trades Union leaders et al to frustrate the implementation of this Government's policies.

Also, as other commenters have remarked, if we wish to tackle the failure of our education system, we have to start with the Teacher Training Colleges. 60 years of Leftist Educational Theory simply cannot be reversed overnight - it would take two generations: one to re-educate new teachers according to the precepts of the Campaign for Real Education, and another generation to see the fruit in the children taught by them.

Sadly, where someone of the stature of Margaret Thatcher failed, I cannot believe that Dave and Nick will have the political or moral will to implement such a policy.

25 May 2010 at 19:58  
Anonymous Miserable Sinner said...

In the USA, the control and funding of education is very different, with each state or even each school district designing and funding its own system, with the federal government imposing various "mandates" and offering lots of different carrots and plenty of stick, too.

People over here are just starting to wake up to the fact that the public schools are sucking up a lot more money per child than they will admit. When a school district comes up with an amount per child, it turns out that they are NOT including numerous expensive items such as teacher pensions or bricks and mortar or land acquisition. Land and buildings are typically covered by bond issues over here. The bottom line is that the "real" cost per child per year over here turns out to be at least 50% higher than the schools' lowball numbers.

The schools are always whining that if they just had the kind of money per child that the prison system gets per prisoner, EVERY child would get a top-notch education and we would need fewer prison places, as there would be less school failure, etc.

Double check that 9000 pound figure, Archbishop, it may not include some big-ticket budget items.

25 May 2010 at 23:24  
Anonymous Oswin said...

You can all woffle-on as much as you like. The brutal truth is we have no money. We have significantly less than none!

Whatever is proposed, or done, will have to be done for less; much less.

By the time inflation begins again to kick-in, we'll be lucky not to have our children stuffed-up chimneys or 'mud-larking' in the Thames!

We have no industry; no markets; no nothing; excepting those self-same markets that damn near destroyed us a while back.

Alas, we have no true resolve.

Something big has to 'give' - and for the first time in my life, I cannot even hazard a guess as to what!

26 May 2010 at 02:09  
Blogger Gnostic said...

We are being treated to an upgrade in window dressing in the hope no one notices the shop's on fire.

26 May 2010 at 06:19  
Anonymous Voyager said...

In the USA, the control and funding of education is very different, with each state or even each school district designing and funding its own system

Usually property taxes which means poor areas have poor schools viz Louisiana with the lowest paid teachers in the USA. Private schools are much more abundant in areas like Boston to the west where affluent Whites live. Britain is not quite as divided as the USA on economic grounds yet.

Education in Britain takes over 50% Council Tax and costs £80 billion more than twice the Defence budget. It does not need more money.

It needs to put teachers on Supply Contracts with no paid vacations, limited duration employment terms, and to stop the Retired In Place syndrome and maternity pay vacations being used on an annual basis.

The Forced Curve should be introduced with the Bottom 10% in each class failing and being relegated. It should be possible for those who do not work to be expelled to another school and the Curriculum should be filled with content not propaganda themes.

Schools should face up to the China threat and teach pupils there are no free lunches or annuities and they too can be poor if they do not work

26 May 2010 at 07:08  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

Goodness! Well there's quite a flap going on here in Barchester I can tell you. The Small House at Allington has been converted into one of these 'Free Schools' by the Misses Dale, and now everyone wants to send their children there. My Lord's Chaplain, Mr. Slope, has promised to go and teach the children the wonders of the Eastward Position, though of course he will follow the Health and Safety guidelines to the letter.

26 May 2010 at 13:20  
Blogger Ajax said...

Gove should read more Jonathan Swift...

26 May 2010 at 17:07  

Graham Davis said...there is nothing wrong with the comprehensive school system...

Graham: The comprehensive school system is founded on the ideology of constructivism which has proved extremely harmful to education.

Please read: Constructivism in Education: Sophistry for a New Age by Martin Kozlof for a brief outline of what is wrong with this way of thinking.

27 May 2010 at 19:34  

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