The Journal Opinion: The vision is there - but where's the framework?

The Journal's opinion column for Tuesday, February 3, in which we say Durham Free School's problems show the flaw in the PM's education plans

Prime Minister David Cameron and Education Secretary Nicky Morgan taking part in an experiment in a science classroom with school pupils
Prime Minister David Cameron and Education Secretary Nicky Morgan taking part in an experiment in a science classroom with school pupils

The key battlegrounds in the election campaign so far have been the economy and the NHS. Important as these issues are, there are others to be debated and fought over.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister turned the spotlight on education.

No one could argue with his message – no more failing schools, no more schools just coasting along.

But his prescription is open to debate. He wants more academies and more free schools, with poorly performing state schools to be corralled into joining their number.

But are academies and free schools the answer? For even as Mr Cameron was outlining his message during a visit to a London school, up in Durham pupils were writing letters to his Education Secretary (who was there with him) urging her to keep open the free school she says should close.

The children’s letters were heartfelt and it is to be hoped Mrs Morgan reads them before making her final decision.

At the end of the day it is likely that, however well-written the children’s letters were, Mrs Morgan will place more weight in the Ofsted inspectors who last month delivered such a dire verdict on the school.

Mr Cameron’s vision is light on details about how his new wave of academies and free schools are going to avoid Durham’s fate. The close quarters monitoring by local authorities that is part and parcel of the state school system seems to be a work in progress when it comes to free schools and academies.

An education system that is more closely tailored to each city, town or village’s needs is Mr Cameron’s goal – and it is a worthy one.

But the framework to sustain this system just does not seem robust enough. Until it is, many more pupils will be writing desperate letters pleading for the future of their schools.

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