The Sunday Times; 30 January; Letter

The government’s admiration for the Swedish model of education is right, despite criticisms from some of the teachers’ unions. For instance, the most recent evidence from the Institute of Economic Affairs shows that Sweden’s free schools and the competition they helped introduce into the system have raised standards in all schools — and they are non-selective and socially inclusive.

With regard to Finland’s schools, which the unions so admire, they are comprehensive in the sense that they are non-selective, but more than half of parents in Helsinki opt to send their child to a secondary school different from the one the local authority allocates to them — so school choice is operating in Finland to drive up standards.

Unions are, of course, against school choice, and even against teachers helping to set up co-operative schools in which they would have a stake — an option under the free schools model. Nothing is done to protect our children from incompetent tutors and poor teaching, and — worse — poor teachers are recycled around the system. Research shows that our most disadvantaged pupils are taught by the worst teachers.
Patrick Watson, London

PS The unedited version of this letter  sent to the  Sun Times  was  in response to a published  letter from the NUT , which, interlia, attacked  the Swedish system. I wholly accept that  other unions  and their leaders do not necessarily all  share the views of the NUT  and my letter was attacking specifically the NUTs   position which  may not be  obvious  in the final published version of the letter. Research undertaken in the last Labour administration by the  DCSF  provides evidence that our most disadvantaged pupils are taught by the worst teachers.