Thursday, September 30, 2010

Reasons to oppose 'free schools'

Last night, the BBC broadcast a programme of such devastating bias that complaints from Downing Street should follow. I don't think they meant it to be biased, but you would have to be certifiable to approve of the free schools programm after watching Start Your Own School and following the travails of Toby Young as he struggles against entrenched opposition to open a secondary school that will provide an education that matches Toby's own views and prejudices. I'm not alone in this - Twitter was alive last night with abuse being hurled at him and Stable and Principled joins in here.

You may ask what qualifies Toby to start a school and to presume to be chair of governors - an elected post in most governing bodies, but Toby clearly plans some form of benevolent dictatorship. Beyond being a parent - a useful qualification, but no demonstration of experience - there seems to be very little. Yes, Toby is the son of a great man, Michael Young, who wrote the 1945 Labour manifesto and founded the Consumer Association, thinktanks and the Open University, but Toby's current attitudes mean that his father must have attained a spectacularly high speed of revolution in his grave.

Watch the programme and be amazed as he turns up on the wrong day for a key meeting with the Department for Education, searches desperately for a suitable - or unsuitable, such is his desperation - home for the school, assembles a group of middle-class, white parents representative of Acton. Gasp as he is gently ridiculed by a group of experienced teachers and as his friends patronise the locals. Of course, Toby is helped by his celebrity connections and the fact that he is able to wangle an invitation to Downing Street to a reception with Cameron. I doubt you'll be able to stomach much of it and you will end up hoarse from shouting at the screen.

Through it all, you wonder whether Young is driven by a desire to improve education for the children of his sharp-elbowed friends or whether it is far more to do with his ego and a desire to be the first 'free school' to open, as that seems to be the major driver. Not doing it right, just doing it first. And that's the problem. There are some things - brain surgery, nuclear reactor design, educating our children - that are perhaps best left in the hands of trained and experienced professionals, not handed over wholesale to feed an ego made flesh in Toby Young. I'm all in favour of schools being run by their governors - local people committed to involvement with the school and to being critical friends of the school management - but the move to make these schools independent of local influence and beholden to the central finance of Whitehall is deeply worrying. That the son of one of the architects of the post-war system is leading the charge to destroy his father's legacy is just depressing.

1 comment:

EtonMess said...

This is the kind of programme that the BBC can only make about a Tory pet-project... and yet these attempts to placate the "BBC-is-a-CommieEUSSRLieBORE machine" brigade all inevitably fall on deaf ears.

Still, something to cheer you up: Buried in the finer detail of last night's YouGov political tracker poll (which the Sun gleefully portrayed as a bad poll for Ed Miliband), was this heart-warming nugget:

Tory voters support higher taxes on richer peolpe, a higher minimum wage and more taxes on the finance sector. Something for the 'Red Ed' brigade to chew on...