Toby Young Welcomes Michael Gove

Says coalition government is "four-square" behind free schools

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Anyone curious to know what the coalition government means for Toby Young and the local parents who have pledged their interest in the West London Free School can read what he says below - reprinted from Toby's Daily Telegraph blog

Fantastic news that Michael Gove is the new Schools Secretary – or Education Secretary, as he will no doubt shortly be known."

Rumours were swirling around last night that the job had gone to David Laws, prompting speculation that the Conservatives’ manifesto commitment to free schools had been junked in the course of negotiations with the Lib Dems. Fiona Millar, Alastair Campbell’s partner and the most vocal opponent of allowing parents and teachers to set up new schools, even felt confident enough to write something for Labour List entitled ‘Why would Michael Gove want to give his job to a Lib Dem?’

Not so fast, Fiona. It turns out Michael Gove has got the job after all. And, judging from the just published Coalition Agreement, the new Government has not junked the policy. On the contrary, it’s right there in black and white:

We agree to promote the reform of schools in order to ensure:

* that new providers can enter the state school system in response to parental demand;

* that all schools have greater freedom over curriculum; and,

* that all schools are held properly accountable.

That last cause might set alarm bells ringing for some. At first glance, it looks as though the Conservatives have been forced, at the insistence of the Lib Dems, to keep in place the veto that local authorities currently enjoy over the set up of new Academies. But according to my sources, that is not the case. Indeed, the local authority veto was a “red line” during the negotiations, i.e., something the Tories weren’t prepared to negotiate on. They know that if local authorities can block the creation of free schools, they will – and that even goes for Conservative-controlled councils, as we discovered during the election campaign when the Conservative head of Kent County Council expressed scepticism about the policy.

The fact that the coalition Government is four-square behind free schools is fantastic news, and not just for the group of 500 parents and teachers I’m hoping to set up the West London Free School with, but for the 450 groups that have already registered with the New Schools Network and are champing at the bit to get going. More than that, it’s good news for the children of this country.

Until now, the only children who have had access to high-performing secondary schools that offer a rigorous, academic education are those who are lucky enough to get into one of England’s 164 remaining grammars, are of the right particular faith or whose parents are wealthy enough to either go private or move into the catchment area of a good comprehensive. Now, thanks to this new policy, every child will soon have access to a good school, regardless of wealth, ability or faith.

Welcome to the DCSF, Mr Gove. Your desk awaits you



May 12, 2010