Why Free Schools are the ticket

21st July 2000 at 01:00
ANY fair-minded reader will regard the derisive "The New Slavery" cartoon (TES, July 7) concerning William Hague and Free Schools as unreasonable. Abuse is generally a sign of complacency, and is a poor substitute for serious debate.

Free Schools will have the power to make even more difference in children's lives. That is what I entered teaching to do. There will no longer be the wearisome argument about whether LEAs have passed on enough money to schools.

Moreover, they will encourage more good-quality governors once people see that it is even more worthwhile to get involved - ending the situation where some openly admit that they were appointed by a council "to represent the Labour party".

It was a Conservative government that introduced the idea of a national entitlement for all children. The national curriculum was a good idea, supported by many teachers and parents. But it became too bureaucratic, and both William Hague and Theresa May have learned from this mistake.

A core national curriculum will give pupils the entitlment to a high-quality education whatever their social background, but schools will also be able to develop their own identity. I am a teacher, primarysecondary governor, and have done supply in a range of schools. What is striking is how similar schools are (and were even before the national curriculum). Schools have historically offered the same academic curriculum, with the same subjects; only watered down for less able children.

Those specialist schools which do exist have improved their GCSE results at twice the rate of other comprehensives. Technology, arts, languages and sports colleges are state schools but have the freedom to diversify. In a global information age our children do not need to be confined by an outdated system of LEAs in their present form.

The freedom - and responsibility, which comes from the power to set the ethos of a school - is an exciting prospect. All of us involved in education should grasp the opportunity which free schools will provide.

Francis Lankester

82 Byfield Rise, Worcester

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