Monday, July 12, 2010

Simon Hughes and paying for free schools

The Liberal Democrat deputy leader, Simon Hughes, today distanced his party from education secretary Michael Gove over the contentious decision to cancel 700 school rebuilding projects.

Hughes said he was not entirely comfortable with the handling of the announcement, adding it would be "a nonsense" to build the new free schools proposed by Gove using cash that could have improved existing buildings.

claimed Patrick Wintour in this morning's Guardian.

I don't suppose anyone is "entirely comfortable" with the handling of the announcement - certainly not Gove himself.

But I am not convinced that Simon Hughes can single-handedly distance the party from anything. And, more important, I do not see why it would be a nonsense to build new schools with cash that could have been used to improve impressive buildings.

If existing schools are decrepit then, of course, improving them should come first. But, as I have pointed out before, it is by no means clear that all the new schools being provided under the Building Schools for the Future programme are needed for this reason.

Nor, where urgent replacement is needed, is it clear that this programme offers the most cost-effective way of doing so.

Beyond that, one of the reasons I am a Liberal rather than a socialist is that I want to see variety and innovation in the public sector. So I am find it hard to be concerned that money is going to set up new schools.

And, much as we all love Simon , I have a limited appetite for hearing those who were privately educated themselves insist upon conformity in the public sector.


Duncan Innes said...

I'm not sure any political party wants uniformity.
But it does seem a little silly to have state schools, academies and free schools each having separate HR, Finance and Marketing Functions when they all essentially have one paymaster.

My biggest concern is that Academies and Free Schools will get preferential treatment leaving even outstanding comps falling behind in terms of investment.

Roger Thornhill said...

Schools surely should be free to share services voluntarily. In fact, I see that as a natural progression.

Small companies manage quite well and it does help to keep structures flat, so the concept of "HR dept" has less meaning.

The LEA is never going to be the answer. Monopolies rarely are and Education is not a natural one.