Thanks to Bruno Behrend of Extreme Wisdom
for this great heads up. Tony Blair has decided to take on the left and the teacher's union and reform the education system in England. Not surprising many of the same lame excuses put out by the education establishment here are being touted in England.
Funding for Schools to be Fair and Equal
Funding for schools to be 'fair and equal'
By John Clare, Education Editor and George Jones
Every secondary school is expected to become an independent, self-governing academy within five years, Tony Blair said yesterday.
Parents would be given power to change the curriculum, replace failing heads and start new schools, he promised. Anticipating today's education White Paper - "a pivotal moment in the life of this Government" - he outlined radical plans to "complete the reform" of state education in England that Labour started when it came to power eight years ago.
Councils will be stripped of their responsibility for schools; businesses, churches, City livery companies and wealthy individuals will be allowed to take over schools; independent schools will be encouraged to accept state cash and join the state sector; and there is to be a new emphasis on grouping pupils by ability and offering advanced classes to the brightest.
Mr Blair made clear that he was ready to resist opposition from the Labour Left and the teachers' unions to opening up the system to parent power and ending comprehensive education.
He has decided to make reform of secondary education one of the defining issues of his remaining years as Prime Minister.
In what will be seen as a rebuff to his critics, including John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, he said: "Parts of the Left will say we are privatising public services and giving too much to the middle class. Both criticisms are wrong and simply a version of the old levelling down mentality that kept us in opposition for so long."
The National Union of Teachers said Mr Blair's "obsession with choice" would "lead to chaos" and accused him of "pandering to the pushy middle classes" at the expense of poorer children.
Ian Gibson, the Labour MP for Norwich North, said he was -"dismayed" that all the good work in secondary education could be destroyed by the changes.
Government sources stressed that Mr Blair was ready for a final showdown with the Left over the plans to introduce more choice in both education and the National Health Service.
Although Mr Prescott is unhappy with the plans, fearing that they will discriminate against the poor and favour the middle classes, Mr Blair has the backing of Gordon Brown, the Chancellor and his likely successor, who is intent on creating more "personalised" public services.
David Cameron, the Tories' education spokesman, said that if Mr Blair really meant to introduce greater rigour, autonomy and choice he would "have the full backing of the Conservative Party because the education of our children is too important to play games over".
Mr Blair, addressing an invited audience of parents at No 10, said that successive reforms of state education since 1944 had not always fulfilled what they had promised. This time it was different because "we have learned what works".
Since 1997, good or better teaching in primary schools, as judged by Ofsted, had risen from 45 per cent to 74 and in secondaries from 59 per cent to 78. The proportion of 11-year-olds reaching the expected level in reading, writing and maths had risen from 43 per cent to 57 and pupils achieving five good GCSEs, including English and maths, had gone up from 35 per cent to 44.
But there was more to do to tackle pockets of deep educational disadvantage. Parents would be given real power. All schools would be able to have academy-style freedoms and be able to take on external partners.
"No one will be able to veto parents starting new schools or new providers coming in simply on the basis that there are local surplus places."
There would be a market in both education and the NHS but not one based on private purchasing power.
"Personal wealth won't buy you better NHS service. Funding for schools will be fair and equal no matter what their status and there will be no return to selection aged 11."
Parents would be able to replace the leadership or set up new schools if they were dissatisfied and they would be involved in decisions on issues such as the curriculum, school meals and uniform.
Although Mr Blair failed to acknowledge the debt his academy and specialist school programmes owe to the city technology colleges devised by the Tories, he did try to explain why he had abolished grant-maintained status, which provides the model for his independent schools.
He said: "Grant-maintained schools only covered 18 per cent of secondary schools and three per cent of primary schools and on both funding and admissions, where special privileges were given, created a real sense of anger amongst other less fortunate schools, needlessly creating a two-tier system."
Mr Cameron said: "Only now at the twilight of his premiership is he taking the steps that the Conservatives pressed him to take for so long."