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What do we think about the Tories proposed education policy?

(174 Posts)
faraday Mon 03-Aug-09 20:44:16


This is just one article I read- there will be links here and in The Guardian on the same subject.

The bones of it seems to be that the Tories will effectively give parents 'vouchers' to spend where they want, school-wise, 'good' schools will be allowed to expand, and poorer DCs will get higher value 'vouchers' thus making those DCs more attractive to a school.

Can you see a 'middle-class backlash'?

Can we REALLY follow a Swedish model seeing as our societies are so very different?

faraday Tue 04-Aug-09 09:37:05


This policy could well mean that anyone who has carefully positioned themselves possibly at great inconvenience and expense to get their DC into the most suitable school may as well not have bothered!- So ultimately it WILL only be the rich who have genuine choice!

My reading is that a parent can choose any school they like for their DC and the school has to take that DC- nay, may welcome that DC with open arms if it comes from a socially and financially deprived background.

'Good' schools will become overwhelmed with numbers- which will inevitably mean DCs WILL get shoved into less desirable schools which will be even WORSE than they are now.

Surely a 'good' school is a sum of its governing body, head teacher, teaching staff, pupils and parents. Upset that cocktail and suddenly you may not actually HAVE a 'good' school anymore. You may find yourself with a 'bog standard comprehensive'.

kathyis6incheshigh Tue 04-Aug-09 11:41:55

I can't get my head round this [dopey emoticon]. They're going to let parents choose any school they want but they're not going to give schools any more freedom to select than they already have? So it does mean schools will have to take 10000s of children if the parents choose those schools?

As for the vouchers, would that be the sort of voucher with a monetary value you can use to pay towards private education?

As to whether the schools would compete to take the poorest kids, well it depends how big the premium is....

BonsoirAnna Tue 04-Aug-09 11:45:50

I agree, kathy smile, I find it really hard to visualise how it might work in practice.

Say I were a clever child from a poor family with a maximum value education voucher, and theoretically schools will be crying out for me. Realistically, how many schools do I have within commutable distance to choose between? Who will arrange and pay for the additional transport costs?

BonsoirAnna Tue 04-Aug-09 11:48:39

And surely, discrepancies between schools will accentuate over time, such that some schools will become total dumps and others will become brilliant. And then the dumps will be closed down - and then what will happen to the children who were there?

kathyis6incheshigh Tue 04-Aug-09 11:49:16

Quite Anna.
I am always sceptical of the argument that giving parents more freedom (eg to set up and run schools) will solve everything. Not for the kids whose parents don't care or don't have the knowledge or resources to help their children, it won't.

kathyis6incheshigh Tue 04-Aug-09 11:51:15

They will go to other dumps which are on the verge of closing down, and then after a year or two get passed on to other dumps when the second schools close! One way to ensure some children get an education which is even worse than the one that some of them get now!

margotfonteyn Tue 04-Aug-09 11:51:44

Yes, I am wondering if I am being really stupid not understanding this concept.

Surely there will be everyone wanting to go to one particular 'good' school in some areas and no-one wanting to go to the historically 'bad' schools, and there physically won't be enough space at the 'good' school to accommodate everyone, regardless of any vouchers they may have.

Or have I missed the point??? (genuine question).

BonsoirAnna Tue 04-Aug-09 11:53:00

The big problem with schooling is that you need it to be near your home. Aspirational parents in the UK have always moved to be near good schools (be they state or private). That isn't going to change.

BonsoirAnna Tue 04-Aug-09 11:53:51

kathy - I agree, the chances that some children will have no consistent schooling and get passed from failing dump to failing dump will increase under this system.

margotfonteyn Tue 04-Aug-09 11:54:45

Actually, in a way, wouldn't it be fairer to have less choice rather than more, so all schools were a much of a muchness rather than some brilliant and some absolutely appalling? That is if you are wanting to be fair in the first place, over other criteria.

BonsoirAnna Tue 04-Aug-09 11:56:17

It doesn't work, margotfonteyn. For years in France there was very little choice and people went to their local state school. But schools get better or worse over time, regardless - because aspirational parents group together!

kathyis6incheshigh Tue 04-Aug-09 11:58:30

Well the 'no choice' idea would only work completely if you also banned people from moving house.
There must be mechanisms which can speed up or slow down the process of school provision getting polarised, though.

MrsBadger Tue 04-Aug-09 12:00:20

I haven't looked at this very hard but I can't get my head around how it would work in practice

it sounds too market-driven to use in the public sector

I mean they reckon that if all the parents flock to the 'good' schools waving their vouchers this means 'poor' schools will have to improve to attract more parents.

What it doesn't seem to take account of is that schools, unlike businesses, can't expand indefinitely.
If you have a successful (eg) mobile phone company that attracts more customers than its rivals, it can build more central offices, employ more staff and open more branches of its shops to service their needs.
If you have a hugely oversubscribed school they don't have the same routes.
I suppose the market would dictate that Popular Alpha School could 'buy out' or 'take over' Unpopular Sink School down the road and expand into its facilities, retraining its staff and rebranding its buildings in the Alpha livery to accommodate its growing customer base.
Though what happens to the kids who would otherwise have gone to Sink School I am not sure.
Or Alpha could buy an office block / carpark / field and erect Alpha II...

after all, this 'competition in a free market' model is how private schools work...

BonsoirAnna Tue 04-Aug-09 12:00:32

In France they let "less good" schools introduce specialist programmes in order to (in theory) make them more desirable - extra language tuition, for example.

All over Paris there are bad state lycées with sections européennes and good state lycées without them.

happywomble Tue 04-Aug-09 12:02:29

I think the tory policy sounds as bad as the labour lottery.

They should leave things as they stand with those living nearest a school having the best chance of getting in. However to help the least well off they could say that a percentage of places could be given to children from deprived areas who don't live near enough to get in.

I think any system which means you end up not getting in to your nearest school is a recipe for disaster as siblings will end up at different schools and children will end up being driven to school rather than walking, neighbours won't be able to walk to school together.

The way things are going with both main parties education will just get a lot worse for the middle earners. Private schools out of reach and lower standards in comps.

flatcapandpearls Tue 04-Aug-09 12:02:55

Not read article yet but often when good schools expand they lose what made them succeed. They become impersonal and can lose control. In my old town our best school grew and grew until it admitted defeat,

BonsoirAnna Tue 04-Aug-09 12:03:02

Private schools can work on a market system because (a) user families are geographically mobile (b) they can respond endlessly to market demand and charge market rates for their services.

MrsBadger Tue 04-Aug-09 12:05:14

Anna, wasn;t that how 'specialist technology college' status etc was supposed to work here?
and is just the same - good schools with no 'specialist status', bad schools made out to be leading lights in the performing arts or whatever...

MrsBadger Tue 04-Aug-09 12:08:33

Of course you are right Anna, but it does make me wonder if the Tories have spotted those key differences

BonsoirAnna Tue 04-Aug-09 12:08:36

Yes, I think you are right.

The really critical issue is to get parents more interested in their children's upbringing and future. If all parents wanted the best for their children, all schools would be a lot better places to learn in! Children would be school-ready, would all do their homework etc...


flatcapandpearls Tue 04-Aug-09 12:08:42

Not always Mrs Badger I have taught in a bad school with a specialist status but now teach in a very good school also with a specialist status.

BonsoirAnna Tue 04-Aug-09 12:09:40

I think everyone has run out of ideas on education and what to do about disaffected families/children.

kathyis6incheshigh Tue 04-Aug-09 12:10:21

From what I have seen, good schools tend to be specialists in science, maths and languages, while non-academic schools go for specialist status in performing arts....

MrsBadger Tue 04-Aug-09 12:10:53

ah yes flatcap, but not all specialist status schools are good

and not all good schools have specialist status

so the scheme didn;t really help distinguish good from bad or help bad ones to improve

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