September 2, 2011
Michael Gove's free schools are a triumph - but can they keep up with the baby boom?: When Michael Gove first proposed 'free schools' four years ago, he could have been written off as another Tory daydreamer. (Fraser Nelson, 3 September 2011, The Spectator)
When Michael Gove first proposed 'free schools' four years ago, he could have been written off as another Tory daydreamer. The idea of creating an education market, with independent state schools competing for pupils, was considered by Keith Joseph in 1980, then dropped when the depth of his department's hostility became clear. English schooling was controlled by bureaucrats and unions, and sporadic ministerial attempts to change that always ended in failure. So Gove's friends and enemies concluded that, as Education Secretary, his radical reforms were doomed.Posted by Orrin Judd at September 2, 2011 6:27 AM
How wrong they were. This month 24 new 'free schools' will open, admitting about 10,000 pupils. Behind each school is a group of teachers acting on parental demand for something better. Gove is due to visit Woodpecker Hall, set up by Patricia Sowter, a successful headteacher in Enfield, east London. Frustrated at having to turn so many parents away from her old school, Ms Salter has set up a new one free from council control. She is the first of what Gove hopes will be a new breed of British education entrepreneurs.
Also this month, more than 1,000 Academies will open their doors -- five times the number that existed last year. These too are independent schools operating in the state sector, which have used powers in Gove's Academies Act to break free from their local councils. Last week one of the earliest groups of Acadamies, those run by Harris, released its latest GCSE results and for comparison, each school's last results under town hall control. On average, the proportion of pupils with five or more good GCSEs had trebled. The Academy programme, set up by Labour and expanded by Gove, is becoming the most rapidly vindicated social policy in modern history.