Expel politicians from the classroom - by David Callam
22nd July 2008
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Expel politicians from the classroom

EDUCATION and politics are as potentially explosive a mixture as gunpowder and a naked flame.

Croydon Council's plans to close four apparently failing schools are a case in point - with head teachers, parents and students defending the teaching methods and accusations surfacing that a cash-strapped council merely wants to liquidate its assets.

Now we have the curious spectacle of the leader of the council's Labour opposition contemplating the prospect of some form of privatisation as a way to save all four schools.

In my view we should privatise every school - that is, we should hand over every publicly owned institution to a trust, initially appointed but possibly elected later.

At the same time government would agree to contribute a standard amount from taxation for the education of each child.

The amount would be negotiated annually and it might vary from region to region, depending on costs.

But it would always be enough to ensure that each child received a good standard of general education at no additional cost to parents - in short, education would remain free at the point of delivery.

In this way we would create a market in which trusts could compete by offering different styles of education, in some cases with supplementary fees.

There is scope within such a system for businesses or charities to offer bursaries that would cover any extra fees, thus allowing a talented child to make the most of a specialist education.

More importantly, such a system would focus the mind of every trustee on providing a decent standard of basic education, since parents would always have the option to vote with their feet and send their children elsewhere.

A failing school, like any other failing organisation, would be forced to close, while a successful one would have the money it needs to expand and make the most of its success.

And the political advisers who have bedevilled education for decades - many of whom have neither the talent nor the personality to face a class of students - would disappear like the morning mist.

Sadly, there are too many vested interests to allow such a system to flourish - but Croydon would become a pioneer if it could persuade central government to treat these four schools as a pilot study.

Beware of low-flying pigs.

Croydon Eye is a weekly commentary written exclusively for The Best of Croydon by David Callam and posted in the blog section every Thursday.

David Callam is a freelance journalist and the former business editor of The Croydon Advertiser. For more examples of his work and to see what he could do for your business please visit www.callamedia.co.uk

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