Put an end to boom and bust

29th June 2007 at 01:00
The new Prime Minister has barely got his feet under the desk, but it is already clear that he has big plans for education. The broad brushstrokes have been applied - a greater role for business, focus on skills and more help for the disadvantaged.

His plan to provide every secondary school with a business partner (and perhaps every primary) reflects his determination to produce the entrepreneurs and skilled workforce needed for a modern economy. Picking up where his predecessor left off - and Tony Blair deserves great credit for huge investment in schools - Gordon Brown promises to raise funding levels still further in the years to come.

We must wait to see the detail before we can make a considered judgment. Mr Brown's aspiration to raise funding for state schools to match that of the private sector looks impressive, but there is no target date for achieving it. Equally, can anyone really expect independent schools to stand still while the public sector catches up?

Time will tell whether it will be Mr Brown, the son of the manse with a lasting vision for education, or Mr Brown the master political strategist who takes command. This is the problem. For too long, our education system has been subject to the four-year cycles and whims of politics.

Mr Brown, of course, is famous for acting early as Chancellor to set the Bank of England free to fix interest rates. As a result, we have had 10 years of economic stability, putting an end to decades of boom and bust caused by political interference and short-term planning.

Mr Brown's new National Council for Educational Excellence looks set to become a major player in education, with the PM himself likely to take the leading role. Major business figures are already lined up as members, with high-profile school leaders and other stakeholders expected to follow. Mr Brown clearly believes he needs the support of the profession and a wider consensus to take education to a higher level.

The real test will be whether the new council can think strategically, but act non-politically. After many years of having to manage the effects of boom-and-bust policies in education, teachers and school leaders badly need long-term stability and clear thinking.

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