Swedish lessons on Conservative policy….
One thing should be abundantly clear about David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ that far from empowering the disadvantaged in society, far from improving social mobility it will once again usher in an era where social privilege is entrenched and for the few not the many. Looking specifically at education a story today in The Guardian proves that point rather eloquently.
It concerns Per Thulberg, director general of the Swedish National Agency for Education, who says that the ‘free schools’ much beloved of Michael Gove have not improved standards as the Conservatives claim they would. Furthermore, where they have improved this has been as a result of entrenching privilege and not as a result of much-vaunted ‘competition’ ;
“This competition between schools that was one of the reasons for introducing the new schools has not led to better results. The lesson is that it’s not easy to find a way to continue school improvement. The students in the new schools have, in general, better standards, but it has to do with their parents and backgrounds. They come from well-educated families.”
One result that inevitably comes from abandoning the state-sector in favour of greater ‘choice’ is that this choice is the privilege of the few not the right of the many. Only the state is in a position to make sure that the latter outcome is the one that results; this is something that sadly, Labour seems to have forgotten in government. Schemes like the academies are failures and they are effectively mortgaging the futures of the children who are unfortunate enough to be caught up in them.
A target driven culture is also leading to the closure of schools where they should be helped not shut-down. This is the negative side of state control which people rightly rile against but to say a rejection of this should lead to support for the system of privilege ingrained in the ‘big society’ is to throw the baby out with the bathwater.