25 May 2007

More School Voucher Support

Yet another publication has taken up Graeme Leach's call in The Difference for the introduction of school vouchers. This time it is The Spectator, in which Fraser Nelson argues:

[Sweden's voucher system] fits perfectly within Mr Cameron’s philosophical framework. The state pays the fees, but organises nothing. Civil society is invited to step in, run schools and take over in areas where the state fails appallingly. Nor is this an obscure Scandinavian theory. School choice is being used in the Netherlands, Chile, Canada and charter schools in the United States. Reams of data have now been assembled, proving that the choice works for the taxpayer, and promotes equality and social mobility. ...

In Mr Blair’s system, new schools can only open once they have a found a sponsor willing to part with £2 million in areas that fit ‘deprivation criteria’. Academies usually replace failed schools, thus adding nothing to the number of schools. Negotiations often take two years. And if the organisers want to open a second school, they must start this whole process from the beginning — and run the dispiriting gauntlet of the LEAs yet again

Mr Willetts is proposing to correct each of these defects.
The Spec's Political Editor concludes, "The freeing up of the education marketplace is a Conservative mission that, if implemented properly, could represent a bigger step forward than expanding grammar schools. But the first task for Mr Cameron is to make this case to his party."

To an extent that is clearly true. However, from my conversations with Conservatives over the past fortnight, I still wonder to what extent the Conservative "core vote" (especially the hidden, traditional blue vote that is either offline or not inclined to blog) is truly upset with the Party over the city academies / grammar school debate.