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September 26, 2010



Who are these "parents"? Any one child's parent will only have an investment in the school while the child's at the school, which isn't that long a time. Any ownership structure based on parents would need to have a ~10% annual replacement rate built in. (That's 1/6, scaled down to allow for parents with more than one child.)

Paul Sagar

Well there's a whole bunch of political theoretic arguments you've not touched on.

Here's one candidate: for citizens to have both the training and education requierd to themselves partake in a developed economy and collectively reap the benefits of that developed economy, they need guaranteed access to education. For the poor and disenfranchised, only the state will provide that guaranteed access at a required standard. Furthermore, however, if citizens are to grow up not just with equal rights in theory, but equal rights in practice, they need to be able to exercise equal citizen rights - and that will invariably mean them attaining basic minimums of education. The state has a duty, therefore, to its citizens to provide the basic foundations of equal meaningful citizenship to all - and that means the state running schools, not abandoning the task to the sharp-elbowed middle classes who will look after only their own.

Of course, you might think such considerations imply that private education is perhaps indefensible. And I'd be inclined to agree, though more arguments will be necessary.

chris strange

So a mutual of either teachers or parents could be justified, however looking at those points State ownership would be very hard to justify.


If you look back to formation of state schools, it was not supported by most parents who preferred to have their children working.

State schooling was set up because of support big business that desperately needed people with 'industrial discipline' to work on their rapidly expanding production lines.

from Alvin Toffler

Jose Luis Campanello

I think joint ownership (state, parents and teachers) is the right way. Otherwise, parents disgruntled with the F their child got will overide the teachers decision (as i'm sure it hapens in many private schools). The abusive teacher must also have a limit on control.

As o e of the comments says: the state must be involved too to provide the means for education to all citizens.


Point 4 needs modifying...

"The harder it is to get hundreds of parents to agree upon how the school should be run"

The harder it is to get hundreds of parents who are even remotely interested in running a school in the first place... I think people like Michael Gove, Tim Worstall (perhaps yourself?) haven't even the vaguest sense of the depths of disinterest in this sort of thing there is out there. Schools can't even get people to serve as governors, or turn up to PTA meetings. I've been in one or two schools where teachers are given the task of phoning around to drum up customers for parents' nights because they are so badly attended. Where oh where do any of you get the idea that there's an army of concerned and active parents out there ready to take on this kind of task?


Of course, an individual middle class parent doesn't rip any immediate benefit from contributing to a universal decent state education for every child. On the contrary, it's in her best rational interest that everyone else gets a lower standard of education: She wants what employers consider to be the best education *only* for her child and no one else's child because they are competitors for a limited supply of opportunities.

But if there is something like an enlightened best interest -and a collective willingness to avoid the tragedy of the commons- this might not be a correct premise.

In any case, Risk Bearing (#5) is in principle a good reason for state ownership because all citizens collectively bear the most risk, whether they are parents or not: My share of the benefits of living under a free prosperous country are at stake if the general standard of education is (or rather had been) poor.

Education is not like choosing the style of your house, and even in architecture Victorian public spaces bear the mark of a pre-Thatcherite public spirit completely at odds with the pseudo-pragmatic way the debate about education is framed.

chris strange

Why does the state have to own the schools to make sure everybody goes to one? Why can it not just make schooling your children a requirement, and then maybe provide funding to those that need it?


The state doesn't *own* all schools. Table 2b here http://tinyurl.com/37lruzn summaries the situation as of Jan 2010. Of 3,333 English secondary schools funded by the DofE, 16% are Voluntary Aided; 23% are Foundation schools and around 6% are Academies. it all of these cases, a third party owns the buildings and employs the staff. These schools educate around 47% of all pupils in secondary maintained schools in England.

The state funds and regulates these schools, but it does not own them.


What Shuggy says is true, but that is not necessarily an argument why this state of affairs should be accepted. One of the points of the free schools system is to challenge this apathy and encourage parents to take a more active involvement in their children’s education. In the long run, it could even produce a more active citizenry that will be more inclined to channel its energies into other socially useful and politically significant activities.

I really don’t know whether these schemes will succeed, but I think that they are worth a try. And judging by the state of many of the schools in this country there is not an awful lot to lose. It’s all very well for Paul to preach about the duty of the state to provide a decent level of education. The problem is that it is failing to do so.

captain swing

Who are the parents? Loud mouthed, pushy middle class bastards like Toby Young for christ's sake.

Ask the public as Ipsos-MORI did recently in a poll and you will find that 96 per cent of parents want a good local school run by local councils, and by a ratio of 9 to 1, the public is opposed to head teachers being given more freedom.

And yes originally parents did not want their children educated by the state, but would rather have them work. The difference being we are not in the 1870s any more.


Some time ago, came to Barcelona a swedish politician to talk about schools (by the way, I think Gove is trying to follow the swedish way out of the constructivist model mess).
When asked about private schools, she answered: the question of private schools only arises when state owned ones do not work well.
Allow me to add that this is very often the case.


"Education is not like choosing the style of your house"

Really? Because there is one true educational model which is unarguably the best for every child?

The big problem with discussions about the best way to operate schools is that the parents involved in such a discussion are always the ones that care about their children's education (the parents who show up for conferences, help out at school, read with the kids at home etc.) and the children who are most affected by the quality of schooling are the other ones (children of parents who don't care, or are actively harmful to their kids' education.)

The MORI poll and others are potentially misleading, because the answers strongly depend on the environment. In an environment where you attend your local school, or some nearby school which is allocated to you, you probably don't want to give the head much control as the risk of getting a dud head might be greater than the risk of getting a dud LEA.

If the parents have real choice (which implies an oversupply of school places, amongst other things), giving heads more power is more interesting.


I don't have any theoretical problems with parent-run schools, though I think that it will be very hard to get more than a handful of genuinely parent-run schools off the ground. What I object to most is parent-run schools being bundled in the same Act of Parliament with Academies, which drastically reduce the influence that parents have over the running of the schools their children attend.


Is it not the case that having a state owned and supervised system allows more professionalism by effectively uniting the required standards for teaching and suchlike, instead of having lots of local developments of variable quality?

As well of course that yes, public bodies (are local authorities part of the state? If so, why exactly are free schools which I understand to be answerable to central gvt so much better?) have more money and can smooth out local variations that might be expected in funding if you followed a more american model of very local taxes paying for schools.

People don't seem to be asking why it is that there is such apparent apathy about childrens schooling. Is it because it is a topic which is rather complex and thus more efficient to leave to the professionals, or because people are lazy, or maybe after they've been working hard all day just to afford the mortgage and done some overtime to pay for christmas they don't actually have the time and energy to really get stuck into running their childrens school, especially when we're supposed to have people paid to do that...

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