Monday, 13 July 2009

Ends and Means

This post isn't really about education. It just begins that way.

A couple of weeks ago, Conservative Education spokesman Michael Gove gave an important speech to the RSA. The speech revealed the contradiction at the heart of his thinking, and probably that of all parties.

The first half of his speech covered his personal views on the purpose of education. A return to the liberal tradition; a focus on thea subject-based canon of content; a retreat from the pursuit of wider skills and outcomes, as exemplified by 'Every Child Matters'. His views were interesting, coherent, and genuinely guided by a passion for social justice. Matthew Taylor's blog gives a good summary, and will soon challenge Michael to clarify a few points.

The second half focused on Tory plans to free up schools to run schools as they wish, driven by the demands of their parental community. If Michael really believes this, it renders the first half of his speech irrelevant. His opinions are no less interesting, but they become merely opinions, ones which schools and parents could adopt, adapt or ignore as they see fit.

The key 'localism test' for any politician should be this: If you are serious about devolving power, you will have to be prepared not only to devolve methods, but to devolve outcomes too. Every child will still matter, but in very different ways to very different communities.

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