Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Schools - Artificial monopolies are always bad.

For most people the state has a monopoly on providing education. The state has taken all our money and spent it as it sees fit.

Supporters of this monopoly often want to extend it to everyone by banning all private schools. Looking at the results from schools I suspect this is because state-monopoly supporters don't like us, the public, to have the solid evidence of state-school failure. But while we have private schools we can see for real just how bad state-education is.

It is true that kids in private schools will often be from wealthier families - but family money doesn't make a kid smart. It is schools that are responsible for getting the best educational outcome for an individual child. And time and time again we see thick rich kids reaching their potential, while clever poor kids are kept down. Clever, poor kids kept down so far that even the thickest rich kid has far surpassed them by the time they leave school. This is how social mobility is arrested and everyone is kept in their place. After all if social mobility means people can go up, then it also means people may go down - and the rich couldn't have that, could they?!

Most kids are well trained to play their role - both the 'snobby' kids who look down on the 'oiks' and 'chavs'; and the 'oiks' who play dumb and play up and hold others back so they can pretend to be happy with their lot - rather than striving and running the risk of failure and humiliation at the hands of the toffs.

Some of us think this must change, and often it will be those of us who did strive and take the risks and may well have alienated both the 'oiks' we went to school with and the 'toffs' whose bastions we seek to assault.

This is how it starts.

A basic private education costs in the region of £10,000 a year. Funnily enough the LEA's (Local Education Authorities) who run the state school monopoly receive about this per year for each child they need to educate.

So on cost it is even - private and state education can cost the same - it is only the quality (as evidenced by the outcomes) that differs. Given this - that 'we' already pay for private quality education for all - why do we allow the failed state-education monopoly to provide such rank service? More importantly, how does this get changed?

I say - let the money follow the child. Let the family (parents, child etc) choose where and how the child is educated and let the £10,000 per year go to the chosen educators. Send you child to a state school, private school or whatever, give them the choice.

Educational establishments will need to compete for the pupils/students that they want - they will need to attract them by offering the best quality educational experience, leading to the best outcome that they can.

If suitable educational establishments don't exist there will be no barriers to parents clubbing together to create their own. Maybe in new premises, converted premises or maybe subletting from another school, using their physical facilities but providing their own educational regime. Its not for me to dictate every available option - millions of parents and teachers minds are better than one.

If you take a sterile academic economic view you may not see how this works - but while soulless companies may work to mechanical rules on investment, return and profit - people have a human element that separates us from computer models, especially when dealing with children and extra-especially when dealing with our own children.

A company does not (and cannot get a 'buzz' out of any sense of achievement - but people do. A headteacher who is only interested in the cash they get in their pocket and would move in an instant to get a few pounds more is worthless. But such a person may do well in (say) Banking.

Let parents choose how their kids are educated, let the tax-man pay the £10,000 per year directly to their chosen establishment, remove barriers to creating new schools, and let parents and children be the quality controllers of their education.

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