EDUCATION Secretary Michael Gove recently announced plans to allow private companies to run state schools in Britain. In addition to his modernising agenda which is built upon the largely successful Academy and Free School systems, just one company has hitherto been allowed to run a state school for a profit.
This news comes despite clear opposition from both the Lib Dems, and of course, Labour. According to both parties aforementioned, “profit” is a dirty word, a notion that brings out only the worst in people; anyone who seeks a “profit” is portrayed as an avaricious lunatic with scant regard for the well-being of anybody else. In the eyes of the Left, profit corrupts.
We on the Right, especially of the Libertarian persuasion, see things rather differently. Despite the Caviar Comrades lambasting our apparently selfish inclinations, installing a profit motive is the libertarian mithridate to almost everything. What is most tetchy about this issue is that it’s all too easy for the left-wingers, however incredulous, to paint the proposal as a grand scheme for those “evil Tory” expletives to further line the deepest pockets of their sardanapalian, snuff-tooting chums. This notion, of course, is complete rubbish.
The brilliant idea to allow private companies to run state schools for a profit is transplanted straight from conservative DNA to an applicable, real-life situation in need of drastic surgery. Our state school system wastes talent. Despite just 7% of the population receiving a private education, the lion’s share of top jobs go to this magic septenary of Ruperts and Cheskas whose parents were lucky enough to steer them clear of the under performing local Comp and into a school where ‘excellence’ and ‘competition’ are celebrated; students: nurtured; teachers: inspired. That leaves 93% with an often inferior education, especially the less fortunate, the kids from deprived areas, the working classes. Is it right to assume that middle class kids are just that bit brighter? No, it’s not.
The key to remedying this disgraceful situation is not to abolish private schools, like some would advocate, but to emulate and spread the excellence. The academy and free school system is already bearing fruit; allowing private companies to run a sink-school for profit is the next logical, and radical, step.
The proposal forwarded by Michael Gove would allow measures that would smash a hole through the seemingly granite problem of class-based attainment levels. In short, poorer children would do better. Adopting a ‘stages rather than ages’ approach would mean that pupil progression would be determined by their own readiness, classes could be mixed age and streamed according to the pupil’s current level of attainment. Pupils could be required to reach a certain standard before they make the leap forward. Nobody would be left to rot in an environment unsuited to their current ability. By allowing the profit motive to become a key instrument in our education system we could raise standards across the board.
Although we should not expect to see any direct expansion of the profit motive during this parliament, largely due to Lib Dem feet-dragging, this proposal is likely to make its way into the 2015 Tory manifesto. Both surprising and exciting, this is a drip-fed insight into what a truly radical Tory government could look like; classic conservatism, giving people the encouragement and means to better their lot, regardless of background. The brand of conservative thinking that wins elections.
Thatcher liberated people to buy their own council houses, Cameron has a similar chance to unshackle a subject most emotive to our nation – the education of our children.
If any of the other key policy areas possess even a modicum of such gumption, I wouldn’t bet on Miliband’s Red Army sweeping into Number Ten without a tooth and nail scrap first.