I believe that what is happening right under our noses now in education (and as mapped out in the current education bill going through Parliament) is just as toxic as the issues that are at stake in Lansley's health bill. In fact as Peter Wilby's article in the New Statesman today points out, Gove, just as Lansley is doing, is aiming to turn an entire public service upside down.
Here is a telling extract from Wilby's article: "Gove's vision for our schools has a degree of continuity with the policies of previous administrations, both Conservative and Labour. At their heart lies a project that central government has quietly pursued for nearly 25 years: the removal of English education from the control of local councils."
The Lib Dems have been tossed the fig leaf of the pupil premium as a cover and a sop, whilst the Conservatives get on with the big job of dismantling locally accountable state education. They are making it easy for private providers to generate and run chains of schools (and they can do so, with powers centralised to Gove through the education bill now going through Parliament, so that he can intervene and close schools down, then hand them on to companies). Meanwhile, as well as the current one-year bribe to get schools to switch to academy status, existing academies are being handed extra capital sums, even as I write this. This despite the fact that loads of local community schools have had their capital programmes cancelled through the abandonment of the BSF scheme. (And for a government apparently hell-bent on reducing the deficit, the £800 million new building schemes for academies programme announced by Gove this month, is not a long way behind Labour's £1 billion BSF programme, really, is it?)
There seems little doubt--at the current rate of conversion--that all secondary schools will become academies by 2015. I know from speaking to heads that many of them are converting just because they feel they will get left behind it they don't--rather than actively wanting to be an academy. What will happen to primary schools, is they will form in clusters under single academies or academy chains, and become part of an overarching academy trust. So that's the future.
It is no longer good enough for Lib Dems to crow about the pupil premium, when our whole system is being dismantled and rebuilt to accommodate and encourage private suppliers, and to centralise all power in Michael Gove--away from local areas. What is particularly and spectacularly bad about this overall, however, and despite the rhetoric to the contrary, is that children's quality of education seems to be an afterthought in a programme driven by structural reform that is not bound ( or proven by a staggering amount of evidence) to create an ounce of difference to educational standards.
Whilst it is good that there is so much debate about the health bill, we seem to be completely ignoring what is going on in education--much of which is remarkably similar to the NHS proposals. And most--if not all-- of it stemming from ideology, rather than evidence.