Fresh embarrassment for Michael Gove as free schools plan flops

Responding to a report in tomorrow’s Guardian that Michael Gove will next week reveal that as few as 20 ‘free schools’ will be opened next year, despite telling Parliament more than 700 groups were interested, the shadow children and education secretary Ed Balls said:

“This is another embarrassment for the Education Secretary’s flawed, unfair and unpopular school reforms. Just a few days after we saw just 32 new Tory Academies rather than the 1000 Michael Gove promised to Parliament, now we see that his free schools plan is also failing to live up to the hype.

“We know Michael Gove’s long-term plan was to fund hundreds and eventually thousands of new free market schools by the money saved from cancelling new schools buildings promised to hundreds of other communities across the country. Now that it turns out there is so little interest in his Swedish experiment, I urge him to think again and stop the damaging cuts to the Building Schools for the Future programme.

“And rather than pursuing an ideological free market in education that will favour some at the expense of everyone else, Mr Gove should continue with the investment and reforms which under Labour led to rising standards and the fastest improvements amongst the poorest children.
“He can try to blame trade unions or so called bureaucracy as much as he likes, but the fact is his two-tier education policy does not have the support of either parents or teachers.

“The vast majority of parents just want a well-funded local school with great teaching and do not have the time or the wherewithal to set up their own school.

“That’s why I believe the government will follow the Swedish example by allowing private companies to make a profit from opening up taxpayer funded schools, even where there are already enough places. That’s how free schools took off in that country, with private companies touting round the country offering to set up new schools for parents safe in the knowledge they’ll get a big cheque from the government and be able to make a profit too.

“But it was a hugely damaging policy which saw standards fall and inequality rise in Sweden and I fear is the biggest threat to state education in our country for sixty years. And with tight public finances the only way new schools with thousands of extra surplus places can be paid for is by cuts to the school building programme and the budgets of existing schools.

“Michael Gove took over a successful Department which has helped to deliver record improvements in school standards over more than a decade, but in just a few months he has managed to turn it into a chaotic shambles. It’s no wonder the Education Secretary is rapidly losing the confidence of parents, teachers and even his own MPs.”

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Posted September 3rd, 2010 by Ed's team

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