Wednesday, October 26, 2005


But can he make it happen? Three different reports below:

Prime Minister Tony Blair has unveiled plans for a huge shake-up of state education - describing it as a "pivotal moment" for his last term in office. The reforms will be "irreversible" and driven by the needs of parents and pupils. They will also free schools from local authority control, he said. Teachers will have an "unambiguous right" to discipline children, he said.

But reports say Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott fears the plans will disadvantage the poorest pupils.

Public school educated Mr Blair said he had been lucky enough to have "a very privileged education", during his speech to parents in Downing Street. Outlining the reforms, he said: "We will continue to put more money into our schools, but we will also complete the reforms we began so that in time we will have a system of independent, self-governing state schools with fair funding and fair admissions." The changes would be "driven above all by the needs of pupils, the wishes of parents and the dynamism of the best teachers", he said. "We want to see that change being made irreversible."

A White Paper, to be published on Tuesday, will allow schools, not councils, to decide how pupils are selected and the courses and teaching methods they offer.

But Mr Prescott fears the plans will see the poorest pupils paying the price for making schools independent and giving parents more choice.

BBC education correspondent Mike Baker said the reforms would see the majority of schools becoming "trust" schools. These would have the "freedoms of city academies and a more arm's-length relationship with local councils", he said. They would also be backed by businesses, faith organisations and parents groups. Under the plans, local education authorities would have a more strategic role, monitoring standards and commissioning services rather than running schools.

The paper will also see transport subsidies for poorer pupils and school choice advisers to help parents select schools. They would also make it easier for independent groups to open state funded schools.

Mr Prescott has questioned whether the 17 new city academies championed by Mr Blair have raised standards. He is said to be worried about plans to bring some of the ethos of public schools to the state sector.

Ex-Labour education secretary Baroness Morris said she agreed that head teachers should have the right to manage their own schools. But she argued that Britain's most successful schools should federate with mediocre schools, giving them the leadership expertise they need to raise their standards

(From The BBC)

Blair takes a cane to the Left over school reform

TONY BLAIR has set the stage for the biggest showdown with the Left in his last term of office by promising to force through changes to enable state schools to match the best in the private sector. As left-wing MPs began mobilising against the schools White Paper, which is to be published today, Mr Blair made it plain that he would face down his critics and introduce legislation early next year to create "irreversible change" and "real parent power".

Although John Prescott is among ministers who fear that the plans might disadvantage the poor, Mr Blair said in Downing Street yesterday that complaints from the Left that the Government was privatising public services and giving too much to the middle classes were a version of the old "levelling-down mentality that kept us in opposition for so long".

Criticism from the Labour back benches was swift. Ian Gibson, the MP for Norwich North, said that he was "dismayed that all the good work that is being done could be destroyed by the changes that are taking place. "There will be a lot of people disquieted about that and there will be a lot of lobbying going on to try to row back on some of the proposals." Members of the far-Left Campaign Group are also reported to be spoiling for a fight.

Mr Blair, who appears to be relishing one of his final reforming battles, confirmed the key plans, disclosed by The Times last Monday. He said that the proposals could be taken "to their final stage". All schools are to have the same freedoms as city academies. All will be able to take on external partners and no one will be able to veto parents starting new schools or new partners coming in simply because there are surplus places locally. Mr Blair admitted that in health and education there would be, in a sense, a market. "The parent and the patient will have much greater choice. But it will only be a market in the sense of consumer choice, not a market based on private purchasing power. And it will be a market with rules. Personal wealth won't buy you better NHS service. The funding for schools will be fair and equal."

Mr Prescott has said at least twice in Cabinet that the new generation of schools run by independent charitable trusts with the power to set their own curriculums and teaching methods was promoting the "public school ethos" and discriminating against the poor. Cabinet sources said that he had secured some changes to the proposals, and that he was prepared to go along with the White Paper.

Yesterday Mr Blair insisted that the reforms would help the poorest inner-city pupils because they were aimed at schools that were underperforming and aimed at giving "as good an education in the state sector as anyone can buy in the private school system". "I have no doubt that the changes will be controversial in certain respects, but I have also no doubt that they are right for the country, and in particular right so that every child in our country, not just those from a privileged background, gets the best chance to succeed," he told parents. Mr Blair said that in two years almost all secondaries would be specialist schools, and there would be 200 academies by 2010. Academies could provide a legal model for independent state schools, with independent schools allowed to join the state system.

Under the plan it would be easier for parents to complain or to replace the school leadership. They would also have greater choice and have a say on the curriculum, meals and uniform. It should be possible to reform failing schools more rapidly, and schools should be free to seek partners such as charities, and businesses.

(From The Times)

The historical background

TONY BLAIR is said to enjoy comparisons between himself and Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister but, on schools at least, he has more in common with John Major. In September 1995 Mr Major declared that "all state schools should gain the benefits of becoming self-governing, independent schools free to parents". Mr Blair said yesterday: "We want every school to be able quickly and easily to become a self-governing independent state school."

Mr Major ran out of time, hampered by party divisions over his plan to make schools grant-maintained. Mr Blair faces opposition in Cabinet and on Labour's backbenches to his proposals. Will he also run out of time? The Prime Minister dismisses the comparison of his plans with grant-maintained schools, arguing that the latter enjoyed unfair privileges, "creating a two-tier system". The same criticism is levelled against his plans by John Prescott and Labour's traditional wing. The "parent power" reforms, they say, favour elite schools while condemning the poor to sink schools.

However, Mr Blair is clearly conscious of the impending judgment of history on his commitment of "education, education, education". His rhetoric to parents yesterday suggested that he believes this latest Education White Paper will fix the problems facing schools for all time. Government's role in future, Mr Blair said, will be to remove itself from the education system "except to help where help is needed". Will Mr Blair's successors be able credibly to promise that education is their priority when power resides in the relationship between 24,000 schools and their parents?

The White Paper faces two big questions if it is to achieve such revolutionary ends. Do parents want the power offered to them to shape the school system, and will local authorities give it up? Mrs Thatcher claimed "parent power" as a slogan before her landslide 1987 election victory. Mr Blair understands the electoral consequences of opposing consumer choice. He now seeks to make "real parent power" his legacy as Labour leader

(Comment from The Times)


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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