Yet another blow to Tories’ “free schools” policy

Today’s short report from the LSE marks another blow for David Cameron's Tory party’s proposals to introduce “Swedish schools” into the UK education system.

Yesterday’s short report from the Centre for Economic Performance at LSE marks another blow for the Tory party’s proposals to introduce “Swedish schools” into the UK education system.

Helena Holmlund and Sandra McNally analysis points to two key differences between the Swedish system and our own as evidence that the new model might not reap the great benefits the Conservatives currently claim it will.

Firstly, they rightly point out that the reforms to Sweden’s education system to introduce choice in to the school system was on a background of no school choice. As they say:

“All pupils had to attend the state school in their neighbourhood.”

The picture in the UK is quite different, with greater school choice having been at the heart of the UK education system throughout Labour’s time in office.

Secondly, while the Conservatives propose schools relatively free from state control, the Swedish schools are compelled to follow a national curriculum.

Perhaps most interestingly, the paper asks whether building and opening new schools is the most effective means of bringing about change in the education system:

“What about all the evidence on other things that work to improve educational performance, such as teacher quality, reducing class size, etc?

Left Foot Forward has scrutinised the Conservative’s proposals a number of times over recent months:

• On the unaccounted £1 billion cost of the reforms;

• Their agenda of public service profit;

• The unanswered questions over funding the reforms;

• The abscence of any mention of Swedish schools in their draft education manifesto; and

• The head of Sweden’s Ofsted telling Newsnight that the reforms had led to falling standards and rising segregation

The evidence now seems to be stacking up against them.

While the Tories have been quick to adopt the Swedish model, they have not been so quick to spell out their wider theory of change for the education system.

And in a post-election public sector where tightened belts will be the order of the day, new schools built with private money will only be a success if matched by public money to provide good teachers and small classes.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.