Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Brighouse says some of Gove's powers should be taken away from him

Following the failure of my motion at Green Party Conference calling for a review if our education policy in the light of Michael Gove's reforms it is interesting to read today's report by Professor Sir Tim Brighouse for the New Visions for Education Group. The report 'Improved National Decision Making About Policy and Practice for Schools' sets 5 key  test questions for improved decision making in education.

The full report can be found HERE

This key  question is particularly pertinent to what I argued at Conference:

Assuming the context of the desirability of the principle of democratic accountability and subsidiarity, will the proposed change increase or decrease the power of the centre and the Secretary of State?’

We have referred to the fact that the Secretary of State now has many more powers than was once the case.
As we have outlined earlier however there is the need for democratic accountability and originally it was envisaged that much of that could and should be exercised locally. We agree with that starting point not least because we think that local knowledge can be powerful in securing equity for individual pupils and their parents.

Some of the powers which the Secretary of State has acquired should be taken away from him. It is astonishing that a system has been created whereby schools (in the form of Academies and Free Schools) have in effect been nationalised and are subject to private contract law to the Secretary of state who controls them in what they do. It is surprising too that parental complaints should be handled not by local government nor by an ombudsman but by the Secretary of State.

There are some powers of course which are best held centrally- for example securing an adequate supply of suitably qualified teachers and making sure that scarce capital resource is distributed fairly and to minimum acceptable standards. They are functions of planning which is necessary to secure equity. It makes no sense for the Secretary of State to abandon the duty in this respect, as has recently been done, as it will lead to shortages of teachers and schools with inadequate space and facilities. But there are other powers which are best exercised locally. A guiding principle of subsidiarity should start from the assumption that powers are best exercised and held democratically accountable locally.

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