Up until my child was four years old I nursed a romantic delusion that when she started school I might be able to have some input into what happened to her for the seven hours a day she was in the care of an institution, paid for with public money, earnt and handed over to the state by working parents.
I and my entire peer group of young mums were quickly disabused of this ridiculous notion, about thirty seconds into the first morning.
Twenty of us stood at the school gate, numb with shock. We staggered across the road to my house for coffee in silence, as the realisation that our precious children had been handed over into the Stalinesque care of a group of left wing robots, who regardless of what question you asked, issued forth an identikit robotic reply, the hidden meaning being ‘welcome to the state system of education – you are now no longer in control of your children.’
I have dipped in and out of the state and the independent sectors for various reasons. I have known good in both, and without doubt the more involvement parents were allowed to have, the better the school.
The independent schools my children were educated in were housed in beautiful buildings; the teachers were unique, intelligent and calm; school discipline was strict and you never heard the words health and safety mentioned by anyone.
Children were spoken to as individuals with respect, the school meals were simple, but tasty and eaten in a family setting, sport was a huge deal and the teachers spent a great deal of time conversing with and consulting parents.
None of the above, apart from the buildings, cost a penny and I thought to myself almost constantly, why can’t this be replicated in the state system?
State and independently educated children both sit the same GCSEs, both sit the same A levels – yet the distance between the delivery of the two systems is vast, and it is not because one set of children come from a different social background to the other.
Haberdashers’ Aske’s Knights Academy, a merchant/charity run school demonstrates that you can take children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds and via a routine of discipline, order, calm and respect – topped off with good teaching – turn them into the wealth creators of tomorrow.
Our education policy to hand the funding for every child over to state providers – thereby opening up the supply sde market – is the most exciting announcement to be made with regard to the prospect of state education in this country for some time.
Of course LAs will hate it, as will teachers. Education, along with the BBC, is a monolithic home to left wing think thinking and political ideology. It has to be, if it wasn’t the disastrous system of reducing all kids to the lowest educational common denominator – known as the the comprehensive system – would have ended years ago. Teachers and LAs have blocked all reasonable reform for over thirty years. The thought that parents and charities will have more control is an anathema to almost all who work within the teaching establishment.
Under a new Conservtive government that’s how it will be. New mums and dads dropping their children off for their first day at school will be able to do so in the knowledge that it’s the school they want and like, and one they can trust knowing exactly what the ethos and objectives of the school are.
We all know faith schools are sought after by parents and produce substantially better outcomes, try saying that in a Labour dominated education select committee, its hard to swallow after!
So, lets bring on more faith schools, we know they work. Lets have more merchant schools like Habadashers Asks. Maybe they will have an ulterior motive. Maybe they will have a Christian assembly everyday and say grace before lunch and a thank you prayer at the end of each day. Maybe Muslim schools will do the same. So what if the uniform code is strict. Children may have to stand when someone walks into the room and say good morning. New schools with purpose and ethos will almost undoubtledly wish to establish a framework of respect and order so that structured learning can take place.
Opening up the supply side to education will guarantee that we will see the reform education needs, but happening organically. New schools will open and parents will become genuine consumers, in the driving seat and empowered.
They will view potential schools on opening evenings with an imaginary £5,000 per child in their pockets. How good will that feel?
That money will be velcroed to their child from day one, wherever the child will go, so will the money. How many parents today know how much money the state pays to the local school to educate their child today?
For someone like myself who values excellence, who believes passionaley in making sure every child reaches his or her potential – whether that is in academia or a skill – and as someone who craves to see a return to respectful behaviour and good manners in schools, this is the most exciting policy my party has produced and one I can’t wait to see reach fruition.