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Will 'free schools' improve standards?

09:14 UK time, Friday, 18 June 2010

The government in England is setting out how parents, teachers, charities and other groups can apply to set up their own "free school". Is this good for education?

Free schools will not have to follow the national curriculum but will need to provide an education that is "broad and balanced", in the same way as new academies. The schools will be independent but funded by central government.

Education Secretary Michael Gove says the schools are a way of raising achievement in areas where local authority-run schools are not providing a good quality education. But the National Union of Teachers (NUT) says the policy will create "chaos" at a local level.

Will free schools improve education standards? Will they create a two-tier system? Would you set up a free school?

This debate has now been closed. Thank you for your comments.

Comments

Page 1 of 7

  • Comment number 1.

    And I thought the last government came out with some balmy ideas about how to improve the education system!

  • Comment number 2.

    This government is doing a lot of things that shift responsibility to other people.

    Why would they be doing that?

  • Comment number 3.

    Oh look, they can't think of anything else to privatise so they are privatising education, the NHS will be next. Why are we employing private companies to run our schools, if we currently have the wrong people in charge then sack them. Financial profit should not be made out of the education of our children.

  • Comment number 4.

    so the tories are going to lets parents choose their school, and organise the buildoing and running of them ,in any other words its privatisation the tories favourite thing .get tid of all goverment responsabilities so they can blame others when it goe`s wrong ,will the school uniforems and equipment carry adverts .and the teachers will do as they please demanding large wages .but will the teachers be up to the standard the parents want and when the parents children have all left shools who will run them then .

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 6.

    Independent education paid for by the tax payer but without control or any say on how our money will be spent! Well, all those of you who voted Tory must be clapping your hands in delight. If you don't already send your children to private schools, you will now be able to do so, and it will be free! Don't bother giving a thought to those kids who will soon become second class kids with their schools no longer be able to receive funding. The Tories will do anything to promote their beloved class system and now they are making us tax payers pay for it. I am glad I did not vote Tory but I wonder what the Liberal voters think of this two-tier system.

  • Comment number 7.

    I would question whether the schools formed will be ready for the planning and expense required tp provide the necessary levels of management required, personnel officers, pay officers etc.
    As to standards; what do they hope to achieve?
    They will all be required to provide a standard of education that will eventually lead to pupils leaving school with qualifications that are acceptable to employers.
    Will they be allowed to exclude pupils on grounds of ability?
    Political dogma versus children's futures make your own mind up.

  • Comment number 8.

    Per Thulberg who runs the Swedish system suggested in February that free schools would not improve standards. England is already ranked higher than Sweden for pupils maths and science. "In the 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (Timss), Sweden's ranking for science fell further than any other country's." I have concerns that this system WILL create a two tier system. The fact that Gove is also hinting that he would like to see private business involved in the management of the schools suggests that there would be some profit motive. Privatisation of the education system with a second class safety net provided by local authorities?

  • Comment number 9.

    This is my view of the direction "free schools" are likely to take, bearing in mind they are not constricted by a national curriculum:

    Some schools will narrow into an early equivalent of technical colleges, offering a basic curriculum in some subjects but concentrating on others. This will allow them to become centres of excellence and they will be sought after.

    Some schools will take a much tougher stance on discipline and morals, and these will become a modern equivalent of borstals, where troubled children are sent to correct them, and these will become an early breeding ground for the armed forces.

    Some schools will see the attainment of present-day religious schools and will start down this road, competing with these schools to offer a high standard of mainstream education.

    Some schools will be badly placed or misuse their funding and will fail.

    The end result, though, will be that our state-funded, state-overseen schools, which offer a mediocre, but wide, education will disappear and will be replaced by these new schools. Whether they are the road we want to go down is debatable, but they will pull our education back up to world-competing levels.

  • Comment number 10.

    As a former Chair of Governors for a mixed Infant/Junior Schools in Rotherham when the Tories were last in power...I can vividly remember the chaos they brought with the everyday chop and change that they made to the various subjects that were being taught...I remember sitting in on a session where the teachers were discussing the changes to be implemented and how this was to be done and what new resources were needed to be bought in to cover it...the very next day a new set of instructions were received and that meant that the whole day was wasted...the government then couldn't understand why so many Headteachers, Deputy Heads and Teachers began early retirement or left the profession and went into other jobs away from education...
    Oh! how I do hope that this new 'Free Schools' plan isn't another mess about with education...its all the pupils at any age that suffer and yet we keep on saying that its their future we are thinking about and that they are the future...I really do wonder just what future they will get after all the interference education keeps having to get through...
    Also its the 'Free' bit that gets me as I'm sure its going to come at a high cost sooner or later...

  • Comment number 11.

    If there is the proper heirachy and chain of command then I don't see any reason why this shouldn't work but if there are regular checks, then it has the ability to go very pear shaped.

    My wife and I have recently been looking at pre-schools for our daughter. There's one in our local village run by a committee of mum's, within walking distance and on paper, it's absolutely ideal. In reality, it is disorganised chaos and basically looks like a bunch of mum's bringing their kids to a place to play all day with no-one properly looking after them. Don't even get me started on the "sleeping area!"

    A few miles up the road is another one that has a proper headmistress (not called that of course) but every major decision goes through her and the buck stops at her door. The "carers" know what their jobs and responsibilities are and the children know theirs too.

    I know where I'll be sending my child, that's for sure.

  • Comment number 12.

    Standards in schools could hardly be worse so I think it's worth giving 'Free' schools a try.

    Labour managed to dumb down teaching to a ridiculous degree, so let's get back to teaching children rather than chasing targets

  • Comment number 13.

    Sure, let's get schools not following the national curriculum! That way they can all end up like the Ashkenazi and Shephardi in Israel!


    To ensure students in this country get a fair chance in life they must all be taught from the same songsheet.

    Giving groups the opportunity to bring intelligent design and other such dim-whitted nonsense will just make the UK slip on the education charts globally.

    I am sorry Mr Cameron BUT you are elected to steer this country and that includes the direction of our education as a nation, otherwise if you cannot be even bothered to do this one must question the reason for voting you lot in.

  • Comment number 14.

    Sadly this is just a ruse to spread more 'faith' schools.
    I think its an utter disgrace that people have to pretend that they go to church in order to attend their local school.
    I expect this from the torys i'm ashamed that the lib-dems support this.

  • Comment number 15.

    As these new 'Free' schools are to funded by taking money from the budget for State schools, the coalition government intention is quite clear. The intention is to starve existing schools of funds. The 2,000 schools rated as being outstanding to which Michael Gove has already written asking them to become academies, will see that it is in their interest to leave the Local Authority and follow the money. There is no requirement for the school's Governing Body to consult the parents either. So much for localism.
    These new schools will be responsible to the Education Secretary not locally, so centralisation not localisation.
    Any organisation including private companies can start these 'Free' schools and the intention9in the future) is to allow these schools to make a profit on their operation. These schools will not be bound by the national curriculum either.
    The effect of this policy will be an improvished State School Sector and more social segregation as these schools are colonised by the middle classes desperate to ensure that their Gervase and Jocasta don't have to mix with Wayne and his sister Sharon from the local council estate, by faith groups who want their children to know only their view of the world and by profit-driven 'education providers'. We will be told that this policy will widen choice, choice to a Tory means the choice of the cheque book.
    The driving idea behind this policy is ending of State provision of Education.
    Furthermore all the arguments advanced in favour of 'Free' schools could be advanced over Health Care provision.
    If the coalition determine this policy has been a success(in their terms), then the next target will be the NHS.

  • Comment number 16.

    There will always be parents that have the energy and enthusiasm to support schemes like this while their own children are at school. I do wonder if such arrangements are sustainable.

    I think we need less choice, but better standards. For decades parents have tried to get their children into schools they think are better, when there are nearer schools that should provide the same opportunities.

    Rather than change everything, we need to face up to the reality that sometimes hard work and persistence is needed to make something work. Only change things that simply will not work.

    I suspect that the trend for ever larger schools, with thousands of pupils, and remote from the community, has been a part of the problem. Economies of scale are almost always at the expense of control and quality.

    Small local schools will certainly provide more personal teaching and connection with parents and the community. Does they really need independence?

  • Comment number 17.

    What we need is rationalisation of the education system and a concerted effort to then bring standards up to an acceptable level in all schools. What we don't need is the addition of more variety, more complexity and hence more cost. Rather than sort the problems of existing schools they do this. It will still leave the problem schools as problem schools. They are not solving anything at all.

    The only good thing about this idea is that is challenges the current leadership structure of schools who have sunk in their own bureaucratic waste. The worst thing about it is the implication that standards of truth will no longer apply and even more freedom is going to be given to minority view holders to indoctrinate their children. Freedom is the right to choose what you believe as an adult based on a good education. Indoctrination is the opposite of freedom. These cannot therefore be described as free schools.

  • Comment number 18.

    Basically, the idea is to take children from properly managed schools, and send them to "free schools", where there are NO standards. And this is supposed to help raise standards, how?

    These Free schools still come at a cost to the taxpayer. We might as well be paying the correctly qualified people to do the correct job.

    Did they mean "Free School" like "Free Range Education"?



    This is such a stupid idea, "Education Secretary Michael Gove" needs instantly firing.

    If local schools aren't up to scratch:
    COMPLAIN TO THE AUTHORITIES AND FORCE THEM TO BE IMPROVED.

    Free School? Hahahahahahaahaa.. just make truancy legal. It's the same thing.

  • Comment number 19.

    this is very worrying - supposing a child was attending one of these 'new' schools that do not follow the national curriculum and for whatever reason the parents had to move to another location where the child would attend a 'normal' school that followed the national curriculum - how aligned in the learning process would that child be and how would it affect their subject knowledge in relation to GCSEs etc.? I have always been one to advocate teaching children according to their academic ability and not in a one-fits-all scenario but I sure am glad that I do not have children, or grandchildren, aged 8/9/10/11

  • Comment number 20.

    There do seem to be many knee jerk reactions going on here. I've spent 10 years working within, and for schools in a technical management capacity, and whilst there are many, many fine state schools, there are also plenty of schools which fail. Some of the schools fail because school senior management, staffed by teaching staff, are simply not up to the job of running what is effectively a business. Management practices, purchasing, recruitment and a whole raft of other areas are often poorly implemented by people with little or no experience of the 'real world'. If a group of parents, teachers etc feel that they can do it better then they should, and there is nothoing to stop the nay-sayers here from doing the same either. what are they arfaid of? That someone is going to create a better school than the one their children are in? Then good. That is one more better school that anyones children can attend. If your school is poor, then set up a better one, bring your experience and qualities into the mix. Or would you still be happy doing nothing and complaining that other children get to go to better schools whilst doing nothing yourself to improve the situation?
    My opinion? I'd prefer this, that we get to own these schools, than the PfI Building Schools For The Future initiative which hands our schools over to the private sector lock stock and barrel.

  • Comment number 21.

    It's a brave and romantic idea to think that people will all want to work together to achieve a common good, but the truth is, most people can't be a*sed!

    Joe public says: 'I pay my taxes, YOU sort it out'.

    I wonder if these are the same people that complained about a 'nanny state'.

  • Comment number 22.

    Providing that any schools set up under this system agree to abide by the rules and ledgislation that govern all other schools, I don't see the problem. It should be clearly stated that if it is found that they have deliberately or continually discriminated against any section of society (any disability, special needs, religon etc.), they will immediately be taken out of the control of the people runing them and come under local council control. Once the situation has been corrected then they can be returned to the control the parents/board of goveners but be monitored by the council (even if it means having monitors on site) to ensure they comply with the requirements to run the school.

    If the situation is deemed to be too serious, then the council should be given the right to have the option of either taking permanent control of the school or closing it down and relocation pupils to other schools.

  • Comment number 23.

    'Mr Have a say' Item 1 has said it the way it is. Diversity, the inword most of the politicians were using over the last several years will be nailed to the agenda and this country will be destroyed by it as we know it.
    Every group whether religious extreme or other wise will be given state powers to do as they will with their childrens education. This country has led the world with freedom and welcomed down trodden peoples from every corner to our shores. Only now to be fragmented by ''wellmeaning soft politicians'' who will allow all and sundry to do as they please.
    Why go to your own country to those 'special schools' to learn to hate when it can be learnt here.

  • Comment number 24.

    Interesting idea, on paper it looks good to me.

    Surely though it'd make more sense to work on improving the standards in our current schools then simply working on creating new "free" schools!?

  • Comment number 25.

    how is this diffrent to home schooling? or traunt? whats next internet laerning? how soon before our kids leaen evrything from wikipedia which we all know is a faulty source. just another way of ducking the issue.

  • Comment number 26.

    Under the last Tory Government parents were allowed to choose/apply to a school for their child. Result - traffic chaos, stressed out parents, parents willing to lie in order to get their child into a particular school, unhealthy kids with not an ounce of street savvy as they are chauffered around everywhere etc. This new and ill thought out ideologically driven policy will no doubt rear another set of problems in the future. Choice equals division.

  • Comment number 27.

    Oh, come on ...

    I accept all the criticisms of 'Free' schools but the state sector wasn't doing an absolutely brilliant job, now was it?

    Perhaps we'll get children who can spell (the teachers may be able to spell!). And maybe, just maybe, we'll get teachers able to put a plaster on a graze without having to go on a course and wear blue gloves. Maybe, just maybe, we'll get teachers who can give hugs to kids when they need them instead of having to obey stupid strictures.

    So we'll get children who believe in imaginary friends ... better that than having to believe in what the Stalinist state wanted them to believe. They'll change their views as they grow up anyway.

  • Comment number 28.

    It seems to me that Free Schools are an extension on the private school system but funded by the govenment. Provided that they don't get more funding than normal state schools I don't see the problem.

    But perhaps a better solution would be to remove huge parts of the National Curriculum for all schools. Have a basic standard of maths, English and (IMO) a foreign language for all children, then allow teachers some flexibility until it comes to GCSE. If a teacher has genuine enthusiasm for a subject matter it is far easier for children to learn and to actually enjoy the experience of learning.

  • Comment number 29.

    There are several issues with this.
    Standards are one, but standards are flexible and can be changed, so the question is biased.
    The content of the teaching should at some point agreed supervised or in a frame of some official nature, so that kids going there receive a similar education to others.
    Who's going to pay is already a much more serious problem. so of course there will be some public money, because the parents pay taxes!
    But other money soruces to fund such a school will be necessary. So the advertisings and are marketing sods are aready in their starting blocks.
    But Bristish society is arleady verty much contaminated by this.
    The issue I see and that is discuss very little is that the government will allow a group of individuals to gather to organise a school to put their chilren in... so that they don't go in already existing schools where it will be sure they will be no longer mixed with kids from - litteraly - lower classes. And my feeling is that it is a lot about that.

  • Comment number 30.

    For over 15 years I have been privileged to be a governor in a school in Harrow. In that time and before the local political parties agreed to keep education out of the political arena. Schools have been protected from the more partisan stupidity of national politicians. If politicians can run schools in Harrow on this basis why cannot this non partisan model be adopted nationally.

    Chris Woodhead the ex Chief inspector of OFSTED recently wrote that Local Authorities are not the problem with education, it is the meddling central government which now presents the greatest threat.

    Why is central government so interested in meddling in schools. Well with the migration of power to Brussels, our civil servants saw their power and jobs ebbing away. So they then set about dismantling local government so as to take more power back to the centre and preserve their jobs. Current Education policy is a symptom of this centralisation.

    The Tories are content to promote this policy because it enables “middle class” voters who cannot afford to pay private school fees to set up their own schools at the taxpayer’s expense.

    Tony Blair was happy to “reform” local authorities by forcing them to accept cabinet government, because it meant nice jobs for local politicians who if they wanted to get political promotion had to toe his party line. Professional Officers who ran local services under the direction of committees were abolished and thus a great source of knowledge was lost. It also meant that there now exists no local source of expertise to question the civil service

  • Comment number 31.

    Ummmm I'm not sure on this one.

    Parents go on and on about getting the best education for their little darlings so give them a chance to see if they can do better than anything already in place.

    My personal opinion is that there is nothing wrong with the current system.

    I passed my 11 plus had a good education and now have a decent job - but I wanted to learn.

    So many kids today have no willingness to learn unless its stuck in front of computer or have foolish ambitions of becoming a popstar or footballer.

    If they want to learn they will wherever they go to school.

  • Comment number 32.

    typical of wasting money
    creating a bigger divide
    we will see schools opening up
    for people of other nationalities
    and the wealthy communites
    at the expense of the lower wage earners
    the money wasted on these schools
    would be better spent on existing school
    or like many countries introduce international schools
    for people who are not english
    this system is typical of the libs endorsed by the cons

  • Comment number 33.

    No, this will not improve education. It will increase class division. We need improvement in teacher training, and less government interference in the way schools teach children. Children learn at difference paces - an overall good education with teachers finding different ways in which to interest children, enough to encourage them to want to learn. Children learn through play and interactive activities. Nowadays we concentrate on the 3Rs so much that children 'switch off' by the age of 10.

  • Comment number 34.

    90% of the problem is not the schooling, it's the parents.

    Fix that and you fix the schools.

  • Comment number 35.

    How can standards possibly be maintained if free schools are not going to follow the national curriculum. If adults are becoming more confused by the education system what effect is it going to have on children.

    Children should be taught by people who are qualified to teach and not by individuals who think they know best.

    Taking money from the education budget to fund these schools will ensure that standards in the schools which are run by local authorities will be the dumping ground for children who are not high flyers. I though education was for all and not the chosed few.

    This Government is hell bent on elitism depite what they say.

    As for the building of new schools the contracts will undoubtedly go to companies where the fat cats will get fatter at the taxpayers expense.
    No doubt another Committee or Department will have to be set up populated by other Tory and Lib Dem fat cats.

    I'm just glad I'm of an age where I was given a proper education at a local authority school and taught by people who were passionate about their job. It certainly didn't do me any harm.

  • Comment number 36.

    It's a moronic idea.

    The first thing the government should be doing is stripping back the vast amount of business-type targets the last government imposed. My partner is a teacher and spends as much time filling out pointless paperwork than teaching. The hours worked by a teacher should be directed towards the children, not back the other way, appeasing illogical and counter intuitive education ministers with evidence of target achievements.

    The time wasted is so incredibly stupid, many hours are wasted every day.

    The first step to sorting out the education system is to stop strangling it, not creating clusters of micro schools everywhere. I imagine it will inevitably end in some cases of child abuse which will be tragic.

  • Comment number 37.

    Interesting how people are very quick to fear a non-regulated school. When such a scary idea is presented your mind instantly flicks to the most horrendous possibility- religious skewed schools! The places where poor children are brainwashed by a religion different to yours (if you dont think this way your probably very religious and wanting to set up a school).

    While this fear is not totally unjustified I will make an important point here- what are you really afraid of? A lot of comments about dumbing down schools and education doesnt relate to the real world. So here is an opportunity for the skilled to get involved.

    This could make for some interesting community projects to create a school and to then teach children the kinds of skills they miss out on in restricted state schools. Some subjects may suffer but who needs fantastic grades in english for most technical jobs? Who needs great RE for scientific research?

    A lot of skills that are hard to get into such as locksmiths could take advantage and a generation of kids with real computer skills (not cowboys) could be taught.

    Maybe higher levels of maths, english, science can be taught and expand on subjects which are cut down in state schools?

    The possibilities for opportunity are huge. But the very real fear of the brainwash squad in faith schools needs to be addressed

  • Comment number 38.

    The idea is sound however the human element of "my child is super clever so I demand that deprived kids and disruptive ones will be excluded" will ensure that problems follow these schools wherever they spring up. That will mean more hybrid schools with even more public money being used-not the best use of resources.
    I think that anything which splits up the old thinking of "going to school"might be welcomed by forward thinkers.We need to look at the whole issue of education and how it could be taught using technology instead of using old fashioned schools with old fashioned ideas.Free up peoples lives to choose a time to learn which in turn would revolutionise what we learn as children and adults.No doubt the teachers will all be going on strike-ho hum!

  • Comment number 39.

    It's a brilliant idea.

    The reason it is already popular amongst parents and some teachers is because they are fed up with the over-administration by LEA's that is affecting their ability to teach and the kids to learn.

    Might have guessed the unions would be upset they hate the thought of losing power or influence.

    'chaos at a local level.... ' my foot!

    What a pathetic comment!

    Of course we would be in danger of ending up with children who could read, write and spell at the end of it.

  • Comment number 40.

    No. The general attitude here is to get the most money for the least moo, so people will set up a school, get a bit of money from the government, and then proceed to make a complete pig's ear out of it.

  • Comment number 41.

    Who cares!

    Most kids today are spoiled brats, bring back corporal punishment, that'll sort them out! It'll probably focus their attention on learning.

    Free schools..........Non starter!

  • Comment number 42.

    Cameron and his lot have a cheek. It was the Tory Party under Thatcher that took away teacher and school autonomy by imposing the over detailed, over prescriptive and nanny state national curriculum. Now they want to give schools back their freedom by bringing chaos to local provision.

    Local Authorities perform a vital service when it comes to promoting continuity, an even spread of resources, fair school admissions, effective special needs education and coordinated in-service training. To have schools using local resources to set up on their own independent of LAs and free to ignore local needs is disastrous. Already we see ordinary schools suffering in areas that have retained independent grammar schools which cream off the best pupils and their parents. New independent schools will, at a time of reducing resources, take extra capital and day-to-day resources just to set up. In terms of local numbers such schools will not be needed. They will steal children from local schools making them economically not viable.

    All this for Tory dogma!! Bring back NuLabouir's pragmatism please!!

  • Comment number 43.

    #33 Northern Belle

    'No, this will not improve education. It will increase class division.'

    Typically naive socialist comment. Only socialists believe in class divide and they are the ones who create and perpetuate it.

    My understanding of this is that it is local communities working together for the community good, free eductaion for the poor and working together to achieve higher educational standards, something a socialist should be applauding.

    Typical though, get out the class drum and bang on about it. Pathetic.

    Maybe with better education we can finally rid ourselves of the socialist disease in this country.

  • Comment number 44.

    So according to the new regulations I could set-up my own school, fix my own salary structure so I could poach the best teachers around.

    I could opt out of the National Curriculum, I could set admission criteria so only the best and brightest pupils got in and the government would fund this.

    Where do I sign up?

    All that will happen is you will create elite schools where the best and brightest kids are taught by the best teachers.

    State education will suffer as the budget is cut to pay for these new schools and the best teachers leave.

  • Comment number 45.

    I, for one, would not have wanted any child of mine to have been forced to attend an indoctrination factory masquerading as a school during the Reign of the Blair-Brown Conspiracy.

    The English school system? It stinks!

  • Comment number 46.

    Education is so politicised. The last government were giving schools responsibilities better fitting into the area of social services witha ll the safeguarding children stuff. Then there were the latest trendy initiatives every 5 minutes. Dumbing down subjects and exams so "all can have prizes'. Now this. I really dont see how free schools represent an efficient use of resources; maybe they will be a useful mechanism for use in a small proportion of special circumstances. Think my focus would be to set more challenging exams and get people to accept that not all will get grade As any more.

  • Comment number 47.

    "This wont work in the long term or in most Citys many parents who have the ability to make this system work, will be too busy with they jobs' or business. What happens when they children, go to another school for exams ? will new parents take over, if they wish they children to have an islamic or Hindu or buddism education where will the new teachers come from ? will they be vetted or just approve by the parents.

  • Comment number 48.

    I think it's a good idea.

    People seem wedded to the idea that local authorities must be the provider of education - why must they? They are unresponsive and completely unaccountable.

    A lot of problems would be sorted if people from all backgrounds could learn to value education, not sneer at it. Like it or not, plenty of people don't care about their children's education and that is the problem, not how education is organised.

  • Comment number 49.

    Schools will still be inspected. In Scotland education for all started in the 17c by the then Church of Scotland, who had a 100 year programme to open a school in each parish, in order to teach children to be able to read, so that they could read the Bible. This expanded into teaching the brighter ones to write and then extended education to age 14, when Universities took on the best and subjects expanded to include Geography, the sciences and eventually technical studies. First things first. Children need to develop social skills and use of the creative imagination, then go on to learn their 3 rs in a creative age appropriate way, then to develop thier all thier skills between 14 and 18 in preparation for life, included self awareness and self confidence and social awareness. This is an excellent skeleton plan to sucessful Education Policy.

  • Comment number 50.

    #40 Starlinguk

    I rather suspect that is what the guidelines are there to prevent. Not everyone is on the take.

    Most groups who are lookign to set up their own school are looking to do it out of frustration and disillusionment with the onerous bureaucracy that they feel is stifling education in this country.

    Who better to run a school? Teachers and Parents? or suited officials?

    Me thinks you have a rather jaded view on society. Not all of us want to rip off the system and take what we can.

  • Comment number 51.

    In 1870 all schools were like this, mostly run at a local level by either well-intentioned religious types or community stalwart with no understanding of education at any level.

    Meanwhile the rest of the world prepares its citizens for a globalised future underpinned by a rounded knowledge based education.

  • Comment number 52.

    Lets face it, after 13 years of Labour standards can't get any worse.

  • Comment number 53.

    What on earth is the point of all this changing the education system - Why - There is no future in employment now - You have to get into debt to go to university - These University fees will undoubtedly increase etc.etc.etc.

    The old system of education - Infant School - Secondary Modern School - Grammar School - University was perfectly adequate, and in those days was free !

    Of course the argument will be throuwn back - That we need advanced education to be competitive - Rubbish We need the industry and services to create jobs that are badly needed now on all fronts !

    This will bring damaging Chaos to the Education System and should be forgotten !

  • Comment number 54.


    All schools should, in fact, be private schools.

    It is entirely fair and proper that those who have made a personal life style decision to bring a human being into existence should be entirely responsible for loving, caring, providing and paying for that child - anything else is simply immoral, irresponsible, unaffordable, unsustainable and extremely bad for our already over-populated environment.

    Now that Bankrupt Britain has completely run out of the money that it has borrowed, we see politicians and policy makers actually realise this and make the parents pay the full costs for the children that they have chosen to have.

  • Comment number 55.

    #42 Windblown

    'Cameron and his lot have a cheek. It was the Tory Party under Thatcher that took away teacher and school autonomy by imposing the over detailed, over prescriptive and nanny state national curriculum....'

    'Local Authorities perform a vital service when it comes to promoting continuity, an even spread of resources, fair school admissions, effective special needs education and coordinated in-service training.'

    Bit of a contradiction isn't it? First you blame the current Pm for the act of a previous administration and then compliment the result of it?

    Odd, but I suppose that hypocrisy and contradiction were and are the very mainstay of a 'pragmatic' labour administration.

    Good riddance.

  • Comment number 56.

    'Will "Free schools" improve standards'? Or, should they be called "freedom schools"? The idea, according to media reports, appears popular?

    In any case, as I understand it, these schools will be directly funded from central government and not funded from local authorities as happens now?

    If that is the case, then presumably, Council Tax (which includes a proportion for schools) will be reduced by equal measure? Perhaps Mr Pickles could advise on that?

  • Comment number 57.

    #48 Normannippy

    I think you might be right there. The biggest downside tothis is that those who will benefit the most will be those who care most about getting the best education for their children.

    I see trouble ahead from the lazy and indolent and the 'it's not fair!' brigade of moaners that Labour left us with.

  • Comment number 58.

    In my view no. My experience is that it would be controlled by a group of parents, who are really more interested in looking after the interests of their children, and their friends children, rather than the community as a whole.

  • Comment number 59.

    there is not enough disipline in schools today that is the problem. if the parents and teachers took more responsiblity for there students and actually disiplined them properly (e.g. corporel punishment) then this would improve matters. i also think national service would be a good idea for those that end at gcse level. i may not agree with the eu but many european countrys have national service and it works well for them. a year in the armed forces or the police or fire service would teach young adults the meaning of responsiblity. so get rid of the free schools idea and just make sure there is enough disipline in the state schools. easy!

  • Comment number 60.

    'Free schools will not have to follow the national curriculum but will need to provide an education that is "broad and balanced"'

    Sounds like a licence for religious fundies to start teaching their claptrap.

  • Comment number 61.

    To improve standards, the system needs an influx of LITERATE and free-thinking teachers, visionary heads and governers and unannounced OFSTED inspections. It needs a thorough overhaul of primary education, where children should be fully grounded in the basics of numeracy and literacy - and, in most cases, not allowed into the senior school system until they have a workable knowledge of written and spoken English. Many parents do not have the mental capacity to make decisions concerning the education of their offspring.

  • Comment number 62.

    You have to love the way so many contributors here are comparing the real world problems any new free schools will face with a theoretically perfect state system that is even less likely to be achieved.

    The best thing we can do for our children is to free their education from political manipulation, if only to try to prevent them accepting the self serving lies propagated by the statists in politics and the media.

    Will some parents set up schools we don't approve of? Yes

    Will some free schools fail? Yes

    Will some children do better than others? Yes

    Will the vested interests in the education establishment (those responsible for the UK having the worst state schools in the developed world, worse even than some in undeveloped countries) make every effort to sabotage them? Yes

    Will most children at free schools be better off than their peers in LEA schools? Yes

    Will any children be significantly worse off than they are now? No.

  • Comment number 63.

    It is NOT privatisation - Public money is being used for this.

    All it is about, is allowing those in society who actually care about their children's futures to get together in order to create an entity free of Left Wing dogma and indoctrination. There has been too much of a left Wing influence upon our State education system for too long.

    Now that makes a nice change doesn't it? Parents who actually take the time and trouble to take an active interest in their offspring?

    Too many parents regard their children's school as nothing more than a free childcare centre and aren't really bothered about what is actually taught, how it is taught, or how well their children are doing.
    Fine, let them carry on.
    But for those who are concerned and who wish for their kids to do well, then why stop them?
    It's time to take the politics - both local and national, out of our education system altogether.

  • Comment number 64.

    This will create a two tier education system where those in struggling schools will be left to rot and those who get funding for free schools will have more chance to flourish.

    Surely, if a school is struggling, you don't take away funding to give to a select group of quite frankly self serving individuals who care only about their own children to set up a free school. You surely give the struggling school those extra funds and individuals with the ideas to improve standards so that every child has a chance.

    The new system will penalise, abandon and lower standards in struggling schools and fail the children who go there. It's as if the government are saying if one school is struggling, they wont support it. They will instead abandon it to try and create straight A students down the road and leave the struggling school to struggle on.

  • Comment number 65.

    Use your search engine - free schools in Sweden - and there may be some answers to this HYS question?

    Michael Gove is using this Swedish model?

  • Comment number 66.

    44. At 11:35am on 18 Jun 2010, Robbo wrote:

    "State education will suffer as the budget is cut to pay for these new schools and the best teachers leave."

    Robbo - So what if this does happen? Most parents don't really care, so why punish those who actually do care by not allowing THEM to sort out their own schools?

  • Comment number 67.

    No standards at present are low. Our whole education system needs a rethink on whole we can better educate our students. We need to stop pandaring to Enthic minorities, all pupiles should have a bsic standard of English before they enter a British school so as not to hold back existing students. Bring back Grammer schools

  • Comment number 68.

    @60 - yeah, sure does. In fact, the solution is to take ALL schools back under 100% state control and give everyone the same education without the influence of religious kooks and single-interest groups. We have a uniform code in most schools - why should education itself be any different?

  • Comment number 69.

    Frankly I could not care less, I left school in 1963.

    What I am concerned about is getting a decent pension from the state, better interest on my savings, getting into hospital,if need be within 3/4 weeks rather than 3/4 years, and having the country "deyobbed".

  • Comment number 70.

    It's a pity Sirecomspect does not realise that, in fact, he is the person showing class distinction, by calling anyone who thinks we should not be a divided population a 'socialist'. Socialism in itself is not a bad thing, it is caring - only extremism is. The only sensible thing he writes is his last sentence.

  • Comment number 71.

    We all know that the education has to change however I am not sure this is a change for the better.

    The issue I see is that the better off more involved parents who probably lie to get into Church schools or are willing to move/fight to get their children into better schools will jump at the idea.

    The less well off benefit based parents with no aspiration who are more worried about where their next packet of fags are coming from will just let everyone get on with it and probably just send their children to whatever school is closest regardless of league tables results etc.

    The general outcome will be that the better off schools will get better and the worse off schools will get worse.

    Nothing will be solved by this it’s just moving the deck chairs around on the titanic

    Why do children at private schools excel its simple their parents make big sacrifices and its instilled into the children that they need to perform in all sectors (academic, attendance, discipline)

    I will be up front and say that I sent my children private and before the lefties start complaining I was brought up on a council estate in the 1970’s the son of a card carrying TGWU shop steward

    My children are both dyslectic and I aspired to do the best for them regardless of the personal cost to myself.

  • Comment number 72.

    For a long time I've advocated school groupings specialising to allow a greater and more focussed education in curriculum areas for those students who show ability.
    i.e. a small city with, perhaps 7 secondaries, could have a school concentrating on languages, one on maths, one on science, one on physical education, one on music, and two more general schools. This is one road that free schools could take, outbidding our present system by offering a better curriculum for those with talent and leaving the best general schools for those who have a more rounded portfolio.

    Of course the schools could take a very different road, narrowing down and teaching individual tutors' agendae. We could have a boom in religious schools and a drain on generalist teachers. But I think not.

    What we have not learned from Europe and the EU is that if you really want to change something and want to have some control over its direction then you must do so from the inside. Because we stand on the margins of Europe we marginalise ourselves. In the same way we can get involved with and behind our education system and change it for the better. We can be the driving force or we can stand on the margins, moaning and berating others, and then scratch our heads and wonder why it all went so differently from how we wanted. So please stop the moaning and think of ways you can get involved and BE the change.

  • Comment number 73.

    I agree with the majority of posters - It is privatisation by another route. - I can see some Hospitals being privatised as well by October (goodbye NHS - hello USA style "care")

    First - I taught for 30 years in a East London State Comprehensive which I enjoyed - then I taught at a Jewish Free School - I was totally appalled at the jewish boys attitude to non jews (I am jewish)- It engendered a feeling of superiority to all the jewish children (boys only of course)- I left after a few months - I was so disgusted.

    So as these "free" schools will definitely be taken up by all religions especially ethnic minorities - I can see all sorts of serious isolations occuring by their indivdual curricula - VERY bad for the UK's future - it's bad enough now.

    Now for "free" - what will happen is the money to run these schools will be taken FROM existing state schools budget - that is already having problems paying for resources to improve education at the existing schools. So the already strapped for cash local authorities will suffer even more. State Education will suffer more.

    We have already had a taste of Tory Party 'Education' money saving policies with the abolition of the ILEA (the Inner London Education Authority). It was a disaster for all Inner London (poor) Schools - but good the Outer London (rich) schools and excellent for London City (very rich) NO schools.

    The reason? Because the ILEA was able to impose a tax on the City and Outer London independent of government and give most of that tax to Inner London Schools who needed it far more for various reasons. So educational needs for the poor were better met.

    It may surprise you that the ILEA had an ongoing policy to reduce state school classes of TWENTY in poor secondary schools - to bring them UP to private school class size. After Tory THATCHER banned the ILEA our class size rose to THIRTY FIVE. Considering the disadvantages the children already suffered from - it became far worse. (We had 174 languages to deal with!)

    The reason ILEA was formed in the first place was because Inner London Boroughs just could NOT deal with the poverty - deprivation AND improve educational aspirations of their children. This was when I stopped voting Tory and started voting Labour.

    As I understand it a number of "Academies" have already failed - but that was WITH inspection - Imagine what will happen WITHOUT inspection.

    An Education Depression is hovering over the UK - I'm glad I voted Labour!

  • Comment number 74.

    A truly disasterous proposal by the tories that will create a three tier education system (public, private with public funds and private).

    The only reason they are doing this is so the middle classes who cannot afford to send their children to eton have somewhere else to send them.

    We cannot allow the tories to destroy the education system that has seen incredible improvement in the last 13 years under Labour.

  • Comment number 75.

    No. Having world-class teachers, with inspirational school management is what improves education.
    We need to recognise that the standard of education we give our children directly influences the kind of country we will have in a generation. In thirty years time, the kids in infant schools today will be running our country.
    We need to pay teachers enough to attract our finest graduates into a profession that is seen as valued and respected. Anything less will deliver an ordinary country that looks with envy upon the rest of the world.

  • Comment number 76.

    Not if it comes at the expense of the Building Schools for the Future programme where the old, expensive to run and unsuitable for use schools are brought up to standard. How does it help any one for groups to make these new schools while the old ones fall down? Focus on making all schools good.

  • Comment number 77.

    If free schools are allowed to teach children without goverment intrusion. Stats, interfearence. I think they will be a wonderful idea. To see Teachers have to cope with looming stats is a crime. They went through college with a love for learning that they wish to pass on to children. Far to often in my working life I have met with working parents who are ex teachers who gave up due to continued goverment ministers changing the way pupils need to be taught. The three R's are the most importent thing in the life of children lets get back to that.

  • Comment number 78.

    This is just another way to centralise control at Westminster. The Tories say that they want localisation and then do everything they can to wrest control from locally elected councils.

    If these measures improve the standard of education then I'll eat my and anybody elses hat.

  • Comment number 79.

    If schools had catchment areas based on set geographic boundaries (rather than varying dependent on how many middle class families buy into the area), thereby eliminating the need to apply for nursery and reception, and were funded appropriately, these free schools might make a difference. The combination of the American Free schools and the current class bias of schools means that poor children will still end up in good schools only if they are lucky enough to have puishy parents. Get rid of the application procedure, and all schools can be fairer.

  • Comment number 80.

    "Education Secretary Michael Gove says the schools will help close the achievement gap between rich and poor and will be closed if they fail."

    How are schools set up by the most achievement-driven 'pushy' parents for like-minded parents and their middle-class children going to help working class children?

    I'm not opposed to the idea in principle but the Government should be honest about their motivations; this has nothing to do with helping deprived children and everything to do with pleasing those parents not quite wealthy enough to send their kids to private school, yet with the means and knowledge to go for the best available state provision.

  • Comment number 81.

    63. At 11:57am on 18 Jun 2010, David Mulvey wrote:

    "Too many parents regard their children's school as nothing more than a free childcare centre and aren't really bothered about what is actually taught, how it is taught, or how well their children are doing.
    Fine, let them carry on."


    Precisely - let children pay for the fact that their parents aren't interested. We don't need a level playing field, life is tough and children should learn this from a young age.

  • Comment number 82.

    "#2. At 09:56am on 18 Jun 2010, coolhandpaul wrote:
    This government is doing a lot of things that shift responsibility to other people. Why would they be doing that?"

    I think it would be down to the general 'small government' ethos, giving people back control of their lives and not trying to meddle or control everything.

    Some people don't want to have freedoms or to be responsible for their lives/actions - why would they be like that?


  • Comment number 83.

    66. At 12:02pm on 18 Jun 2010, David Mulvey wrote:

    "44. At 11:35am on 18 Jun 2010, Robbo wrote:

    "State education will suffer as the budget is cut to pay for these new schools and the best teachers leave."

    Robbo - So what if this does happen? Most parents don't really care, so why punish those who actually do care by not allowing THEM to sort out their own schools?"


    Because, contrary to popular understanding, schools and education are provided for CHILDREN not parents.

  • Comment number 84.

    Education should be secular in the French style. State sponsored superstition will only lead to more extremists.

  • Comment number 85.

    Re: TaurusBellow:

    "Independent education paid for by the tax payer but without control or any say on how our money will be spent!"

    Tax payers are ordinary citizens; e.g.parents. Putting control in the hands of (e.g.) parents means putting it in the hands of taxpayers; specifically the ones with local knowledge and direct interest.

    I'm not saying it is the best approach, just pointing out we should not see "government", "taxpayers" and "people" as distinct. They are all "us". Even the government is "us"; it is how we organise parts of our lives. We employ the likes of Cameron et al to deal with it day to day.

  • Comment number 86.

    Frankly I could not care less, I left school in 1963.

    What I am concerned about is getting a decent pension from the state, better interest on my savings, getting into hospital,if need be within 3/4 weeks rather than 3/4 years, and having the country "deyobbed----

    ----------
    As all of these services will be provided and paid for by those currently at school or who have left since you then you should care what sort of system we use .

  • Comment number 87.

    Why are the Tories so in love with the concept of the 'free market'?
    Why do they think it is the ultimate panacea -- the solution to all problems??
    Why do they worship it like some primitive tribe worshipping their animist deity?

    We are in the middle of the worst recession in living memory due to their precious 'free market'!

    Are they poorly educated, or just stupid? We need to know.

  • Comment number 88.

    I'm sure this kind of 'opt out', 'power to the parents', 'do what you like in your schools' dogma has been peddled out before and it couldn't have worked then, or it would have already happened.

    Just point out one glaring hole in this kind of education 'planning' (term used as loosely as it can be) unless there is a wholly chaotic set of 427 (random number)different exams for each school in each different subject, how will they be able to pass exams on the given cirriculum of the day, unless they teach it?

    First myth of these schools and tory policy, Nil, Lets not be silly, ONE.

    I have never and will never trust the tories with managing or funding a system which educates and gives opportunities to children of families that wouldn't vote for them. 'It's fine to experiment with the long term future of those peasant kids, because ours will always be able to opt out altogether by going to fee paying shools'. Once again, neglecting and undermining the majority of the British people, some of whom, sadly, just voted to flush their kids futures down the toilet, even though they didn't know that at the time, but should really have remembered from the time before.

    You have been ConDem-ned

  • Comment number 89.

    4. At 10:01am on 18 Jun 2010, clifford feary wrote:
    so the tories are going to lets parents choose their school, and organise the buildoing and running of them ,in any other words its privatisation the tories favourite thing .get tid of all goverment responsabilities so they can blame others when it goe`s wrong ,will the school uniforems and equipment carry adverts .and the teachers will do as they please demanding large wages .but will the teachers be up to the standard the parents want and when the parents children have all left shools who will run them then .

    Cor, sounds like you could have done with one of these free schools!

  • Comment number 90.

    If parents are fed up with the failings of local authority run schools and have the get up and go to organise better local education for their children then why would anyone want to prevent that - it's their tax money after all so should they not decide the best way to spend it. We need to get away from the Labour philosophy of everything being controlled and provided by the nanny state to a population of dependant morons with the result that everything gets dumbed down to the lowest common denominator in the name of social inclusion.

  • Comment number 91.

    The real problem here is that schooling is becoming like fashions, with a constant need for change without any concern for those in the middle i.e. The children

    I heard a good one the other day where students at a University were called customers!

    We have lost all good sense.

    I am a product of the change from Grammar school to Comprehensive. I was 13-14 in the third year of Grammar school when it happened. We were considered the least vulnerable year and so were moved, all 120 of us to the Girls school, where there were about 1,000 teenage girls. What a year we had!

    My results ranged from must try harder to disappointing. Not bad for someone that had finished 3rd in the year previously eh?

    Never really recovered, although I have 9 O levels and 3 A levels from, they were not good enough to do what I wanted.

    Most of the best teachers took a year out to travel, and were replaced by a new breed that we could wrap round our little fingers.

    Change for changes sake.

    Implement a strategy, back it up with an Action Plan and make it work.

    If teachers cannot deliver, find out why and rectify it.


  • Comment number 92.

    This is a short-sighted populist policy:

    1. Applicants do not seem to understand how the school funding system works but the private companies, who will come in to run these schools, certainly do and are set to make profit at the expense of the vast majority in the state education sector.

    2. I fear it could lead to further segregation in society with religious groups,creationists, adjusting the curriculum to suit their beliefs. I have seen adolescents come under pressure to abandon the state sector but not for educational reasons.

    3. Our current pastoral, holistic approach to education will go. It will be pre-planned lessons on the cheap.

    4. In the recent past, our government made a big mistake in following the USA down the SATS route at a time when they themselves were re-thinking the wisdom of "teaching to the test". I fear that, once again,they are blindly following a demonstrably flawed policy. The case for improvemnet in standards has NOT been made.

    5. The Uk has no little land for new-build and existing empty office/factory buildings could be used as in other countries, with this policy comes no play space, no sports fields... And a complete disregard for child development.
    Vital to listen to teachers and educational practioners before allowing this poilicy to proceed.

  • Comment number 93.

    The most effective education you can hope for nowadays is to get yourself a Scottish accent. Then there are so many jobs opened up to you the rest does not matter.

  • Comment number 94.

    Comparison is made to Sweden.
    1. Sweden has education vouchers. Sound familiar?
    2. In Sweden, anyone can establish a for-profit school and the municipality must pay new schools the same amount as municipal schools.
    Private schooling is growing market; 15% of Swedish pupils are enrolled in private schools. The system is very popular among right-wing voters in large cities. Criticism has been expressed that this reform has led to a large number of fundamentalist religious schools, and that the system results in increased segregation. Many public schools have closed due to lack of pupils, partly as an effect of the increasing number of independent schools.
    The element of Swedish Education with which I agree is this:
    Swedish School Plan also encourages an “individual” education where every student has their specific means met. The students are also encouraged not only to participate in student councils but also to actually form the education they desire together with their teachers, choosing what books to read and how to balance practice with theory...
    As for the Canadian School System, being Canadian, I don’t believe I have ever seen an educational system that goes its own way, except for private schools – which tend to be tuition-based and "private".
    I agree with General Secretary Christine Blower: "Rather than providing opportunities to all parents, it will privilege the few at the expense of the many."
    Will free schools improve education standards?
    Only for the elite class, who tend to go to private schools anyway.
    Will they create a two-tier system?
    Definitely, it will create a two-tier system, and where you are dealing with the mind of children, this just seems ill-advised.
    Would you set up a free school?
    No, but I might complain about the current school. I may try to fix the current school. I would not do anything that would seem to disadvantage any child.

  • Comment number 95.

    No, they will not!

  • Comment number 96.

    "Free schools". Either that's an oxymoron or a deliberate attempt at making an expensive white elephant acceptable to the public.

    They are NOT free! The money that will have to be spent to buy or build new schools comes from exist schools budgets. So does the money to fund staff (at whatever wage those schools choose to pay). We're being asked to pay for the vanity projects of well-off parents (and studies of the original programme in Sweden proves it's largely well-off people who will access these schools) by slashing funding for all other schools.

    What's the point of doing this when they're telling us every single day that there isn't even enough money to loan to company to boost the economy?

  • Comment number 97.

    If you want parents to have more say over what goes on in schools in preference to Big Nanny State then good on you I say. We've had the centralising control freaks of Labour in for a long time now, so it really does need to drift back in the decentralising, local empowerment direction for a bit.

    However, this new move doesn't achieve that for even one existing school .. and it's the existing schools that have the problems.

    What it does do is give a blank cheque to every bunch of religious nutters to build themselves an indoctrination centre all of their very own. Really smart move guys. That's exactly what we need, yet more brainwashed god fodder.

    Religion should stick to being a social pursuit for the invisible friend bothering minority to toddle off to on a [insert holy day of choice]. It should be kept WELL away from the law, government and particularly schools. If the kids get fed their dangerously irresponsible claptrap about 7000 year old planets and fossils put there as a test of faith; then they will grow up confused and uncertain and that much closer to doing something that everyone around them will no longer have the chance to regret.

  • Comment number 98.

    This new shower are offloading everything they can. They want the power but not the responsibility.
    Useless "pie in the sky" ideas will be their ruin. That cannot come too soon

  • Comment number 99.

    We are having enough trouble getting parents to make sure their children actually attend school... never mind running them.

    It sounds great on paper but I can just see them falling apart and poeple becoming massively disillusioned and frustrated once they see all the hurdles that are in front of them (or more to the point never see the real hurdles in front of them).

    I think it is a bit late in the day to try and start from scratch. Let's try rework what we have... but without sweeping changes. I don't want to hear the word 'reform' for at least a couple of years, as usually it just means waste, think-tanks, reports, paper shuffling and musical chairs for the people who actually do the jobs on the ground.

    An education is for life... not just for a political term.

  • Comment number 100.

    A few commenters have stressed the need for corporal punishment in schools. (a) do they have kids of their own and if so does corporal punishment work for them, and (b) haven't they watched Supernanny?

    My son is only a toddler and has yet to deserve real punishment of any kind. If and when he does, I'd like it to come from his parents, not teachers at school.

 

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