This CiF Column Is Just Rent-Seeking, Isn’t It?

In London, where I live, the fact that we have the best schools in the country is meaningless at a local level, where there’s a chronic shortage of non-denominational, non-selective, mixed-sex school places.

Does it really matter if you don’t have those things, if you have ‘the best schools in the country’? Clearly, results speak for themselves!

Don’t they?

From the outset, our approach was pragmatic rather than ideological: to establish a free school as a means of addressing local need. So far, so good, as far as Gove is concerned.

However, the government’s laissez-faire approach disregards the wildly different capabilities, capacity and ambitions that different communities have. It is not enough to simply sit back and wait for parents to come forward in areas where schools persistently perform poorly, and where aspirations are lower.

Ah. I see. It’s another Guardian column bemoaning the fact that people are all different, then?

Meanwhile more affluent communities and organisations with skills, money, ambition and knowledge of how to “play the system” will see opportunities in the policy. If we allow this situation to develop its own momentum, inequality will increase, as the better-off gain from increased choice and the worse-off are left even further behind.

Yes, well, that’s life. There are winners and losers, and there are always going to be winners and losers under any scheme you care to implement.

Leaving things to the market clearly won’t work. In fact I’m deeply uncomfortable about even describing education as a market: it’s children’s education we’re talking about. But neither do I believe that the alternative is to call for a return to a post-1945 model. Rather than rejecting outright the idea of free schools, I would encourage consideration of how the policy can be adapted to deliver the education provision we want.

You mean, you want to change it to suit you? To hell with the others who are happy with it?

Two things need to happen if free schools are to become a force for social good. First, the government needs to play a more directive role in determining where the current provision is inadequate.

In other words, they need to be less free?

Support could be targeted at areas that are currently poorly served – not just by the quality of provision, but also the type of provision. Outstanding selective schools that take just a tiny proportion of local children, or high-performing single-sex schools offer no choice for parents.

That supposes that the thing those parents regard as ‘choice’ isn’t good schools providing a good education. I’d have hoped that – for the majority of parents – that’s exactly what they would choose for their children, over some bizarre social engineering experiment.

But then I remember what paper I’m reading this in…

Second, we need to support parents and local communities in areas that are poorly served by current schools, to believe that there is an alternative and then help them to realise their ambitions.

So…we need schools for the parents, not the children? To help them make the ‘right’ choices?

This will require educational experts and community development practitioners to work together to encourage local parents to develop their own solutions to the problems they face and bring these ambitions to fruition.

Hmmm. So… what’s the bio for this poster? Well, according to the ‘Guardian’, it’s this:

Toby Blume: For 15 years he has run national charities supporting marginalised communities. He now works for a local authority on a major change programme and is also a Design Council built environment expert.

Ah! The penny drops now!

Until those two things happen, it’s my belief that we will see increasing evidence of market failure accompanying state failure in our education system.

You mean, you might go out of business?

9 comments for “This CiF Column Is Just Rent-Seeking, Isn’t It?

  1. john in cheshire
    March 8, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    Mr Blume has one heck of a CV. Goodness knows what actually means, though and I doubt it was even marginally beneficial to anyone other than himself and his comrades. To paraphrase what was, I think, a National Socialist German playwright – as soon as I hear the word social I want to reach for my gun.

  2. Voice of Reason
    March 8, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    I had the good fortune to go to a a couple of (selective)grammar schools, and one comprehensive army school, as we moved around. To a compulsive such as me, the mere threat of being taken out of that enriching environment meant that I worked very hard. We tried the other approach, and you can’t teach a pig to sing.

    • March 9, 2013 at 7:43 am

      Not that that’s going to stop them trying, by the simple method of housing pigs alongside opera singers…

  3. March 8, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    “I’m setting up a free school – and I know the system isn’t working”

    Should read

    “I’m setting up a free school – and I know the system isn’t working the way *I* want it to work”

    • March 9, 2013 at 7:41 am

      Oh, indeed! In fact, isn’t that the way with most CiF columns? 😉

  4. mona
    March 8, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    Julia M you are not Julia Middleton by any chance

    • March 9, 2013 at 7:38 am

      ‘Fraid not! ‘M’ is my middle name. 🙂

    • Furor Teutonicus
      March 10, 2013 at 8:30 am

      Polite people do not ask such questions on a blogg site.

  5. Furor Teutonicus
    March 10, 2013 at 8:29 am

    XX Meanwhile more affluent communities and organisations with skills, money, ambition and knowledge of how to “play the system” will see opportunities in the policy.XX

    Ah, we are talking of doley scum, then!?

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