Letter -Published; The Independent 8 December 2008
Michael Gove’s admiration of the Swedish model of education is justified.
However, what he doesn’t explain is that the Conservative variant would not permit private schools, supported by state funding, to make a profit, a key characteristic of the Swedish model. Opposing the profit motive in the running of state schools doesn’t make much sense.
Not only are many special schools profit-making, with local authorities perfectly happy to send pupils to these schools, but a whole range of support services for schools, including teacher recruitment and supply services, are run for profit. Schools are also being designed and built by private companies, under the BSF programme. The national strategies that directly impact on a daily basis on what happens in the classroom in state primaries and secondaries are managed by a profit-making company on behalf of the Department for Children, Schools and Families. Schools inspections are carried out by private contractors on behalf of Ofsted, too. Private companies can build and inspect schools apparently, but can’t run them. There is no intellectual or policy consistency or coherence here.
The Tories, rather than proposing a Swedish-lite model missing its most essential ingredient, should go for the full monty and allow state schools to be run for profit. This would free up the supply side, improve choice, enhance social mobility and drive up standards in all schools. It’s worked in Sweden, so why not here?
Patrick Watson London SW8