Free but No Better

Many serious and respected educationalists doubt the wisdom of free enterprise strategies in educational provision. A recent study of the Charter Schools strategy in the US reveals that in 6000 such schools, covering 2.3m students, just 25% of these schools were stronger in reading performance and 29% in Maths. Respectively 56% in reading and 40% in Maths were no better, while19% were significantly worse in reading and 31% in Maths. In total, then 65% in reading and 71% in Maths were no better or worse. Surely this tells observers that organisational change is a poor guarantor of educational success- as research has consistently shows it is about what goes on in classrooms, the people, that matters.

"The Observer" presented a feature recently about a new free school in a very deprived part of east London that is doing very well because it is led with vision, underpinned by sound learning principles that infuse inspired teaching.

Refreshing views on proper accountability, flexibility of organisation, pupil influence and home contacts are all factors validated by research and if managed effectively in practice can guarantee success. Sad that such an example has to come from a free enterprise initiative because efforts in the mainstream system make such things just too difficult - except in our small schools where these factors are very often found despite the problems created almost wilfully by political priority and administrative myopia.