Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Davis Pledges Swedish Model

DD has set out more detail on his school choice agenda:

"Some people say we need to build on the Blair Education reforms. This would be building on sand. The so-called reforms are just a fraud, a collection of soundbites and gimmicks that add up to very little. We need our own radical Conservative education policy

I have already said that I want 20 new grammar schools in the poorer areas of our big cities, to give young people living on estates the chance of a challenging academic education. But I want to go much further than this. Every family deserves the ability to choose, not just those who can afford it.

So I would introduce a programme of School Choice on the Swedish model. Parents would be given the power and the money to choose a school that suited their child. I would start this policy in the cities, where the problems are worse and where the numbers who need rescuing are greatest.

Giving parents choice is pointless unless they have schools between which they can choose. So I would also allow new groups to set up schools within the state system. Charities, Churches, educational groups, private companies—all have ideas which may appeal to parents and allow the full range of educational opportunities to be available to all our children. "

Faced with similar education problems to ours, Sweden introduced its revolutionary school choice reforms in the early 1990s. In particular, the reforms allowed parents to choose independent schools, with the state paying 85% of the pupil cost at state schools, and with no top-up fees.

There has been huge growth in the number of independent schools, run and owned by a wide range of suppliers including teacher and parent cooperatives, for profit companies and not-for-profit organisations. And standards have improved in both independent and state schools. (For a full analysis of the Swedish experience and its application to Britain, see this paper from Reform.)

DD's bold announcement should be welcomed by everyone with a serious interest in improving education for the vast majority of British children, whose parents can't afford to opt out of state failure. Timeless Conservative principles applied to the problems of modern Britain.

And it is yet another example of DD spelling out exactly what he would do as leader. Substance over style.


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