Our battery farm schools failed... guess who'll pay if we go free-range

Michael Gove

Education Minister Michael Gove is diverting £50million from the budget to invite people to set up their own schools

We don’t need no edukashon - so you will be pleased to know that I am thinking about opening my own school.

After all, I only need to write 500 words (shorter than this piece) to apply to do so.

My school will have its own ‘special’ ethos. We can do it in one of those fashionable ‘pop-up’ shops or really any old unused building.

And we won’t have to bother with that dreary old national curriculum.

As I haven’t the time or the inclination to bother with employment law, management, recruiting teachers, CRB checks, admin or training anyone, I will probably have to get some kind of firm to sort it all out and pay them a fee.

Still, sounds great, doesn’t it? My free school.

Except it’s not. You will pay for it. Out of your taxes.

Money for free schools will come from 'the extremely wasteful Building Schools For The Future' budget.

Michael Gove, the Education Minister, is allocating £50million to invite people to set up their own schools.

On the surface, this is all about parent power and deregulation. For, on the surface, the charming Mr Gove is excellent.

He was very good at apologising this week for his monumental cock-up on school buildings.

Even some of his own backbenchers are rebelling as they were promised new schools, or at least repairs, and Gove had to tell them that now they weren’t getting them. It was a mess and Gove frankly admitted it.

But underneath this mess resides Gove and his chums’ extreme views on education.

There is a dazed and confused misapprehension that the education budget, like health, is ringfenced. It isn’t.

The redu­cing of free school meals, one of the first Coalition moves, shows exactly who will be hit hardest. Jamie Oliver is again up in arms.

Cuts that leave poorly fed kids in leaky buildings are not inevitable. This is a choice that has been made.

We don’t all suffer, for indeed there is money for shiny new schools run by Toby Young and some yummy mummies.

Actually, many of the applications for free schools have come from teachers who may indeed be the best people to set up schools, but they are going to have to be managed by outside organisations.

To put it simply, this is privatisation. These schools will be given ‘independent status’ but maintained.

I don’t doubt the good intention of some of the parents involved but nor do I believe that these schools will be anything other than selective.

Research on the great Swedish model on which this is based shows that such schools have little impact on low-income families and immigrants.

Those who do well are from educated, professional homes. Well blow me down.

Similar results are to be found in charter schools in America.

What is so galling about this is not that this is simple privatis­ation (sub-contractors can run the schools for profit) but that it is actually funded by the taxpayer.

So mired are we in the mantra: bad bloated public sector versus good lean/clean private sector, we forget recent history.

Many of the problems with the NHS, from its useless IT system to its dreadful hygiene problems, come from contracting out all services to the private sector.

Of course parents want good schools and teachers are frustrated, but is this the way to do it?

Labour failed appallingly on education with its insane testing and meddling, but this Government is not interested in pushing up standards for all but in maintaining the already horrendous divides in education.

£50 million is actually a tiny amount and cheaper than building two big academies, but the principle shows where we are heading, so let’s get the terminology right.

These schools are not free. We are subsidising them.

This is not parent power in action but, again, parents as customers. Are these people going to set up their own universities if their precious cargo does not get into the right one?

A. S. Neill, founder of Summer­hill, an actual free school, described its philosophy as ‘Freedom, not licence’.

This is exactly the opposite. Simply licence. Battery schooling our kids is not working but if you think free-range is the way to go, you better understand the poorest pay the actual price.

Lindsay, a victim of Hollywood’s rock 'n' roll doctors...

Lindsay Lohan

Off the rails: Lindsay Lohan in court last week

Lindsay Lohan is a talent. And very young.

Yes and off the rails but let’s not write her off. Drinking, experimenting with her sexuality and recreational drug-taking strikes me as par for the course.

What is shocking is the way Hollywood plies its stars with prescription drugs.

Lohan has been on anti-depressants, opiates and amphetamines (all prescribed) for as long as she can remember.

I am surprised that she remembers much.

The scandal of Hollywood now is not what stars do in their time off (no, I am not defending drunk driving) but the sinister medics who give them what they need to function on set.

It’s a familiar scene in the music industry but is now widespread. These rock ’n’ roll doctors make a killing. Literally.

Snoop? He’s funnier than Ronaldo’s toes

Snoop’s people are talking to Coronation Street about the rapper appearing in the programme in the butcher’s shop. As Snoop explains: ‘It is my world. It’s something I could fall into.’

He wants David Beckham to appear too.

Really, nothing has cheered me up as much as this, which makes some sort of sublime sense. Why has no one thought of it before?

Not even George Galloway making a musical about Dusty Springfield or Ronaldo painting his toenails, as you do when you have just become a father, or even the fact that the psychic octopus is called Paul, has made me feel so happily lightheaded.

I am very concerned about the death threats to Paul - the Germans want to turn him into a paella - particularly since a friend of mine informed me he once tried to get off with me in a dodgy pub.

It was dark is all I can say. But I knew he was special.

I really can’t wait for the silly season to begin.


The new austerity? We have to pay £12 million for policing a four-day visit by the Pope.

Why? The Catholic Church should cough up. What other religious leader would the taxpayer be expected to fund in such a way?

Surely it would be cheaper to put everyone who actually wanted to see the Pope on a Ryanair flight to Rome.

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