Monday, 19 April 2010

Education: The Do It Yourself Future

Each morning, as I listen to what the political parties are promising, I get more and more confused. Is it, I wonder, my age; that my ability to understand is beginning to fail me?

The latest promise that I have been pondering is the Conservative’s promise that, if you do not believe that your local school is giving your children the education you wish for, you can band together with other, like minded parents, and set up your own school. Sounds good. But then I began to wonder how the process of setting up this ideal school would take place. How many 'like minder' parents would be needed to start the ball rolling? Could the process be started before the children start school so that, when they come of school age my ‘ideal school’ would be in place? How long will it take to set up the school? It would have to be a short period otherwise the children will be ready to move on. Is there a minimum number of pupils required to allow the process to start? How many schools can be set up in any one area? Where does the money come from? Do parents really have the time to set up and run a school? Will some entrepreneurial people form agencies which will do all the work of setting up the school, at a price of course? Then, what happens if, having set up the school with these other 'like minded' parents it is discover that they are not quite as ‘like minded’ as was thought? And, when the children leave the school can I wash my hands of the running of it; always assuming that I was involved in running the school? The list of questions and doubts seem endless.

You may think that at my age I should not be worrying about such matter. But, having just been presented with our second grandchild, and knowing that education is a major concern of their parents, I cannot help but worry about their worry. It seems so unfair, I think, that young parents are being given even more problems than they need. In my day the State, in the form of the local authority, ran most of the schools and they were responsible for providing a good education. Now, it seems, that if the Conservatives get into power, they are quite happy to wash their hands of education and tell parents that the State can no longer provide a good education for its child citizens and that parents should Do It Themselves.

Perhaps I just do not understand what is being offered. But if I do not understand perhaps I am not expected to understand. After all, as I am not a conservative I cannot help question their promises; if I was a good Conservative I wouldn’t question such an obvious free market approach. But knowing that the engine of the free market is greed, even conservatives should be concerned about leaving the education of our children to the free market.