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Are Free Schools Elitist Or Just What Britain Needs?

By Periscope @periscopepost
Are free schools elitist or just what Britain needs?

Toby Young. Photo credit: Jason Michael

As the BBC explained,

That last point in particular has made many in the education sector nervous. The National Union of Teachers, for instance, warned earlier this year that free schools “would fuel social segregation and undermine local democracy,” reported The Daily Telegraph. The NUT was quoted as saying that the move towards free schools “may tip the balance” from a coherent, local authority-led education system “into a wasteful patchwork of privatised, competing school market places in which those with ‘buying power’ will do best.”

  • Elitist and unaccountable? Jamie Thunder at Liberal Conspiracy was worried too, claiming that free schools’ independence from local authorities meant that they were “not accountable to the public either.” Thunder thundered that the new schools are mired in secrecy, and that parents, other schools and the media have been unable to investigate the business case for opening them. “When asked,” he said, the Department of Education “couldn’t even estimate the amount it expected to give to the 24 free schools this year.” Thunder saw this “lack of transparency” as a bad sign for the future of the free schools initiative. Steve Richards at The Independent was also cynical about the potential social impact of the free schools. Parents and teachers “are not setting up a free school in the hope that their children will join a bunch of pupils expelled from other nearby schools,” he wrote. “The want the equivalent of a private school intake without paying for it.”
  • An idea whose time has come? Supporters of the government’s plans rallied in the face of this criticism. Dr Eamonn Butler, Director of the Adam Smith Institute, blogged at Conservative Home that the free schools were being targeted in “scare campaigns by educational statists” and was convinced that despite this, the schools would succeed because the concept “is so right, so in tune with human nature and so powerful.” Butler dismissed the argument that free schools should not be selective as “a lot of bureaucracy they could do without,” and believed that greater “school autonomy,” “accountability” and “competition” would prove the schools’ worth in the end. Vocal free schools proponent Toby Young popped up in The Independent to explain why he was opening a free school in west London. “I think one of the virtues of the free school policy is that it involves parents in the ongoing life of the school,” he was quoted as saying. “All the research suggests that the more involved they are in their children’s education the better the children do.”

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