In 1997 the Labour party committed itself and it’s election manifesto to ‘education, education, education’. This forthcoming election the three main parties have used education again as their predominate vote grabber. And no party has grabbed the reigns tighter than the Conservative party.
Having introduced the National Curriculum to Britain the last time they were in power and completely overhauling it then, they seek this time to introduce a number of state-funded, but privately run schools around parts of England. The schools will be run by a mixture of advisors, teachers and parents and though they must still adhere to the National Curriculum, they will have a more open, but perhaps more definitive say on the principles of what goes on. They have ‘borrowed’ their idea from the system ran in Sweden where its people are mostly ‘social-democractic’ but run by a ‘right-wing’ party. The Tories can clearly see themselves glowingly in this light.
In Sweden more than a thousand of these free-schools have opened providing education to 12.5% of 11 – 16year olds. In the UK 7% of students are educated in private schools and these institutes produce results far higher than the state-funded primary and secondary schools. Despite the fact that for the last decade or so GCSE’s and A-levels have reportedly been getting easier, the UK’s ranking in Europe still remains nearer to the bottom than it does to the top in the OECD’s table on Education Performance, though the French are still a few points lower. Parents have become increasingly concerned by their children’s education, according to The Economist; A Classroom Revolution; ‘Parents who say they would send their children private if they could afford it has risen to well over half.”
If the Tories do win on May 6th they do still have a lot of work to do in the education system as there are only two ‘parent-promoted’ schools currently up and running. But critics of the plan, and of the Tories, have said that these schools will only benefit the middle-class because working-class parents do not have the time nor the inclination to oversee a parent-based school.
It has not all been gloom and doom under Labour, quite the opposite in fact. The Economist; “Officially, 80% of children leave primary school now at the expected standard of reading and 79% in Mathmatics up from 63% and 62% respectively in 1997,” and the Liberal Democrats seek to invest £2.5bn to be able to reduce class sizes and to introduce an incentive to schools to take on students from more deprived backgrounds, if they win on May 6th.