The White Paper shows that Gove's free schools movement is a lame duck

Francis Gilbert's picture
Over the coming months I'm sure we'll find much to talk about in the White Paper, but one thing is quite clear already from the Education White Paper; Gove's free schools project is not going to feature heavily in future plans. It's true that he talks about free schools intervening in areas of high deprivation and speculates about them being set up, but they are not the heart of education policy in the way he wanted them to be. In stark contrast, the free schools movement swept through Sweden, with hundreds being formed in the first few years of them being set up; in some American states, such as Louisiana, "charter" schools -- their version of free schools -- dominate the educational landscape. I'm sure that's what Gove's vision was: he envisioned parents would revolt against their local schools and set up their own, by-passing the "trendy lefty" dogma he purports to loathe. He had a stab at setting every school "free" from local authority control but he must have been vetoed by the Lib-Dems and ultimately Cameron. I think it's very interesting that Clegg introduces the White Paper before Gove; the symbolism is clear to see, the Lib-Dems want improvements upon the existing state provision rather than a full-scale free market revolution. The free schools movement will no doubt limp on, with religious groups wanting their faith schools and snobs like Toby Young seeking to segregate their wealthy children from the poor ones in their areas, but it's clear that it's not going to have the full backing of Clegg and co. Still, I have no doubt that this divisive policy still has enough legs to cause quite a bit of trouble in various parts of the country; it will remain Gove's "pet" project for as long as he's in post.

Overall, I think this White Paper proves Gove has been considerably reined in by the Lib-Dems and not the force he thought he was.
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