Iain should be grateful to Edwina

11th October 2002 at 01:00
With Jeffrey Archer and Edwina Currie hogging the limelight, the Tories were desperate to shift the media focus from personalities to issues at this week's conference. They hoped to do it with new scholarships worth pound;5,000 enabling parents to remove children from failing schools and spend this "state funding" elsewhere.

The policy was presented as something new. But it sounded more like something old, something borrowed or something blue according to whom you listened to.

On Sky's Sunday with Adam Boulton, Tory chairman Theresa May made it sound like a mix between assisted places and her ill-fated "free schools" policy . Education spokesman Damian Green told BBC Radio 4's Today that "new people" would set up schools: "churches, voluntary groups, parents themselves and conceivably private companies". The policy was borrowed from New Labour, in other words.

But Iain Duncan Smith, as leader, is less worried than his education spokesman about causing staffroom uproar. On BBC1's Breakfast with Frost he was determined to put his true blue stamp on the idea, when he insisted parents would be the prime movers in establishing new schools. The Daily Mail translated this as: "I'll pick up where Maggie left off."

However, the Tories should have been grateful for the distracting diaries. Otherwise more people might have noticed that their pound;5,000 average funding per pupil includes the cost of educating children with special needs and administering the whole system. What's more, no allowance is made for the costs of building new schools. If the Tories are serious, they must get such details right as well as winning headlines.

Conor Ryan was special adviser to David Blunkett from 1997 to 2001

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a TES/ TESS subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number


Get Tes online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to Tes online and the Tes app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off Tes Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the Tes online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order today