'Free school' problems

19th February 2010 at 00:00

Conservative plans to introduce a system of Swedish-style free schools would entail the "slow, political and unpopular" closure of existing schools if they are to make economic sense, academics have warned. They also claim that the new system, which would allow parents, charities and other groups to set up schools, would make "little difference" to the English education system because there is already a wide choice of school types. An article in CentrePiece, the magazine of the Centre for Economic Performance, says that the system had only had "small positive effects" in Sweden, possibly because funding was still being spent maintaining poor-quality existing schools. The article says: "This points to a general weakness in the application of market economics to the public sector. There is no natural mechanism for closing down poor schools (they do not literally go bust). Closing down schools can be slow, political and unpopular."

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