Coffee House

What if Britain’s school results were as good as those of our former colonies?

18 June 2013

4:03 PM

18 June 2013

4:03 PM

It’s not often that M&G’s retail bond team link to education pieces; they tend to be more interested in inflation threats and sovereign defaults. But this morning, the guys at @bondvigilantes drew investors’ attention to research published in the current issue of The Spectator on the true economic cost of British educational failure. It makes more sense than you might think. Britain’s sluggish economic growth can, actually, be traced to the systematic failure of its state schools. We’re living in an era where ‘work’ is something done with the brain, rather than the hands – so a nation’s prosperity depends on how well those brains have been trained.

CoffeeHousers will be familiar with the moral scandal of the way state schools teach the richest best, and poorest worst (see the FT’s graph of doom). Every week, we see examples of this outrage. Just last week, Ofsted revealed the way that bright kids are being systematically failed by state schools who set mediocre homework and don’t push them towards the best universities. We’ve long known that we can’t afford this waste of human potential. But only now can we quantify the full economic cost.

Eric Hanushek is an academic at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University who has pioneered a way of quantifying the economic cost. By using the PISA method of scoring schools’ ability, you can see how well they teach – and then, looking at various economic factors, establish a link between school quality and GDP. Prof Hanushek was commissioned by the OECD (full study here, pdf) and I met him a few weeks ago when I was at Stanford as a media fellow with the Hoover Institution. He kindly agreed to run the numbers for Britain.

What struck him, as an American, was how Britain had fallen behind so many of its former colonies. How much richer would Britain be if its schools were as good as those of Australia, Canada, Hong Kong or Singapore?

He teamed up with Professor Ludger Woessmann from the University of Munich to produce the calculations. They worked out that catching up with Australia would add 0.4 percentage points to our economic growth rate every year — far more than has been purchased by the debt-fuelled stimulus. It works out at £3.96 trillion over the lifetime of a child born today.


A more ambitious target would be Canada, which ranks fifth in the OECD league tables. Educating British children to Canadian standards, according to Hanushek and Woessmann, would mean economic growth of an extra 0.64 per cent each year. More importantly, the average worker could be paid 17 per cent more, because the economy would be far more productive. And if Britain were to have school attainment as good as that of Hong Kong? Under the Hanushek/Woessmann tables, this would give us the fastest economic growth in the West and make the average pay packet 34 per cent larger.

Here’s the full data table, and the economic metrics.

Economic effects of boosting the UK's educational attainment

Proof – if any were needed – that Britain’s plan for economic recovery should start in the classroom. But how to do it? Cash didn’t work: Brown doubled spending-per-pupil over the Labour years and schools hurtled down the league tables. Further research has underlined the absence of any link between cash and better results. So what makes the difference?

Teachers make the difference – and way more than you may think. As Hanushek puts it: ‘A good teacher can get 1.5 years of learning growth; a bad teacher gets half a year of learning growth.’ So the difference between a good and bad teacher is one year of learning, every year. Having four consecutive years of high-quality teaching, he says, can eliminate any trace of economic disadvantage. His conclusion is that ‘Family is not destiny’ – something that sounds odd to British ears, especially when surveying the backgrounds of the Cabinet. But it’s not the British class system keeping the poor down. It’s the state education system. Prof Hanushek says that if America was to sack the least effective 10pc of teachers, and replace them with average teachers, it would shoot to the top of the league tables. It’s hard to imagine such a thing happening in Britain: it’s the sort of territory that disheartens even Michael Gove.

One final point. We have seen, so far, that the City Academy programme – started by Labour under Blair and Adonis – has achieved spectacular results. If they were repeated nationally, we would be up at Hong Kong levels. This week, Stephen Twigg proudly announced that Labour would discontinue free schools, and strangle the successful experiment at birth.

Now and again, I have heard Conservative supporters moan that Cameron & Co have made so little progress (especially on the economy) that the outcome of the next election doesn’t matter so much. If you’re rich, it won’t matter: you can afford to buy your way out. But if you’re not rich, it matters a hell of a lot. Only the Conservatives believe that school choice should be for all, not just those who can afford it. Only the Conservatives believe that tackling our failed state school system is a matter of national urgency. If you’re not rich, you have only two options to get your child into a decent school: win the lottery, or vote Conservative.

School reform is not just about social justice. As Prof Hanushek’s research indicates, it’s about the economic future of our country. The stakes really are that high.

Update: I am reminded by @Toryeducation twitter feed that Gove has made it far easier to assess and fire teachers. I am asked: what more can he do? My answer: commission a Hanushek-style study to see if the effect of good (and bad) teaching is as profound in England as in the US. The myth of all teachers being as good as each other needs exploding. It’s not only insulting to teachers, but deeply damaging to pupils. To fix a problem, you need to recognise a problem. A proper study into the impact of teacher efficacy would do just that.

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Show comments
  • vvputout

    It’s going to take time to turn things round, but one immediate step would be useful: remove all grant funding for London University’s Institute of Education.

  • George Smiley

    The so-called full table obviously makes no sense, or at least it is poorly worded, unless this is an oversight, remedied by a more faithful comprehension of the main article in its entirety (translation: if I spend a few precious minutes of my life in the busy December to actually read the whole article). How would the bettering the education system of the United Kingdom (bearing in mind that there is not a single education system in the United Kingdom, but at least three separate systems, if not four) somehow have a direct effect on Canada, the Commonwealth of Australia, New Zealand, the autonomous Chinese Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong and the Republic of Singapore?

  • mikewaller

    Could not Rod Liddle be put on the case so that some true, but unpalatable, things could be said about a very significant minority of British children and British parents? I seem to recall reading that Japanese schools can have class sizes of up to 70 simply because they do not have the control problems found in the UK. I was talking to an experienced teacher at the weekend about this issue. She said that she dealt with a cross section of children ranging from the very able to those who struggled in most subjects, with sizable middle group who did OK by our standards but who (I would think) would be unlikely to pose much of a job threat to the hundreds of millions of able, ambitious kids now pouring out of overseas schools with their hearts set on getting a good job in the globalised economy. However, overlaying this pattern was a number what she called “wild” kids whose indiscipline not only wrecked their learning prospects but also severely damaged those of their classmates.

    I am always cautious about saying that this is a new phenomenon as I recall that in my very good 1960s grammar school my 5th year classmates treated a young teacher so badly he went went off to the mission fields. However I am fairly confident that it has got much worse and I am absolutely certain that the world of work into which these young people will shortly be moving is far, far more unforgiving of wasted educational opportunities than it was in my day.

    Because of this if we do not somehow get a grip, some of these wild children and those whose abilities preclude a well paid role in the new dispensation are going to impose intolerable burdens on the British economy. One immediate measure I would take would be to put a CCT camera in every classroom. Having taught for a time myself I know how intrusive it would seem; but it is the only way I can think of for bring the unruly child under control (what parent could deny the hard evidence of film?) and immediately identifying teachers in need of extra training or demonstrably unsuited to the profession.

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      “I seem to recall reading that Japanese schools can have class sizes of up to 70” Students, presumably. Seventy students in one class. Not even just after the War.
      No substitute for first-hand experience, Mike. The Brit MSM (particularly the Red Tops) can`t seem to drop their cultural imperialism, so churn out a lot of xenophobic racist garbage about Japan.
      Jack, 30 years in Japan and counting.

      • mikewaller

        Whilst you have every right to canter about on your hobby-horse and make us aware of the depth of your experience, is there any chance that you could spare the extra time to confirm or disavow the factoid that Japanese class sizes can be much larger than ours because they don’t experience anything like the same control problems?

        • Jackthesmilingblack

          You`re right about the lack of discipline problems in Japanese school classrooms. Class size is so nebulous, so full of exceptions, but assume below 40. How about Trash Culture UK where classroom misbehavior seriously compromises learning? But then in UK, learning and education are belittled as elitist. In a more general way, higher standards of public behavior apply to the entire society. As example, if you can still find public telephones in this mobile phone age, they are all fashioned of heavy duty vinyl, rather than in reinforced bomb-proof metal. Think about it, there`s a massive saving when the general population behaves to civilized standards. Take graffiti, or rather lack thereof.
          Much of the anti-social crime is committed by foreigners. Chinese steal scrap metal, including manhole covers. Russian sailors that put in to Japan sea ports on the Pacific Sea side steal cars and take them back to Russia on their vessels. South American house breakers who get caught when they try to fence stolen goods. Thai pickpocket gangs … But at least Japanese Authority deports these miscreants with the minimum delay.
          Jack, Japan Alps

          • True_Belle

            If that is the case, why are you out there?

            • Jackthesmilingblack

              “Out there”
              The mind set of a person who still believes the world begins at Greenwich.
              I could easily retort, “Why are you still back there?” But then you are a risk-averse loser washed up on the multicultural UK beach
              However, I still don`t understand the thrust of your question. A lot of the low-level crime in Japan is committed by easy-to-identify non-Japanese. So naturally there`s a high apprehension rate. Followed by swift deportation. Eat your hearts out, Britisher pals. You`re stuck with those third-world negative elements who have been granted citizenship. Who ya going to blame: New Labour.
              If Britain is one minimum security prison, Japan is Disneyland.
              Jack, Japan Alps

              • True_Belle

                Please , please step outside your phantasmagorical bubble.. Vituperative outpourings from your Japanese Alps is a regular feature on Disqus.

                So, as you are communicating to me in our mother tongue , what really eats away at you… are you homesick, nostalgic , needful of a bar room argument, or will you swagger forth with the froth and fury of an alienated frilled lizard… You are locked in to a very rigid mindset… by rote… I on the other hand am smugly self satisfied with my Englishness and rural existence.

                Turn again Gungadin, turn again .

  • Tom Tom

    City Academy Programme is farcical. The simple truth Fraser is that Comprehensives + Private Tuition is what makes your Academies look good. Blair sent his children to London Oratory but had tutors from Westminster School tutor them.

    Without Selective Education and Discipline is it not worthwhile any quality teacher wasting his/her time in being a ringmaster in a circus.

    Britain has NEVER valued Education and affects to despise it. It is a culture based on being ignorant and loutish and woe betide any pupil who trie to learn when thugs rule the school corridors.

    There is no future in PFI schools that look like factories and no future in communal cesspits hoping motivated children can swim through sludge so don’t waste our time regurgitating bilge

    • Daniel Maris

      This is very true. We have a cultural problem. There’s a storyline running on Coronation St. at the moment which revolves around English disdain for seeking to better yourself educationally.

      Establishing discipline in schools is obviously a prerequisite for making some modest progress. In the worst schools we probably need specialist disciplinary officers with legal restraint powers.

      But we need a complete rethink of how we do education. We probably need to rebuild around computer games, smaller class sizes (with a quid pro quo of less teaching time), personal tuition and residential courses.

  • black11hawk

    It annoys me that Tristram Hunt keeps on saying we need to put teachers on a pedestal and worship them to match the other countries around the world where teachers are well respected and results are higher. He misses the point entirely; teachers are respected in those countries because of deeply ingrained cultural factors and also because they do a good job at teaching. It is not the case that you put a teacher and a pedestal and he will do better, you put him there because he’s doing well, not so he will do well. Anyway I’m sure our youngsters can look forward to this delightful little policy under the next Labour government.

  • Rupert Lescott

    In 2004-5, I was the Officer Commanding (OC) of a training squadron in an Army Training Regiment, where approximately 15% of our intake came from across the Commonwealth, from places like Fiji, Africa and the Caribbean.
    The 13 week Common Military Syllabus (Regular) (CMS(R)) included a slot
    for an OC’s inspection of each platoon of recruits’ accommodation.

    Such inspections would normally involve my Squadron Sergeant-Major (SSM) offering ‘robust feedback’ on the recruits’ appearance and kit lay-out whilst I read through the journal we required them to maintain throughout their training, pausing now and then to talk to each recruit.

    On one occasion, a syllabus clash forced us to inspect the rooms whilst the recruits were out on the training area but we proceeded as normal, with a member of the platoon’s Directing Staff (DS) taking notes on each recruit’s kit lay-out.

    The empty barrack rooms forced me to pay closer attention to the journals, to get a feel for what each recruit was like. I soon noticed a pattern between the quality
    of each entry and its author’s origin. Where the writing was neat, the spelling correct, punctuation perfect and the grammar good, the recruit inevitably came from somewhere like St Kitts, Nigeria or the South Pacific. However, a childish scrawl, phonetic spelling and a total absence of punctuation or grammar almost always indicated a recruit drawn from our ‘home-grown talent’.

    Our Commonwealth recruits were drawn from the same socio-economic cohort as their British colleagues – what we used to call ‘working class’ – but they were vastly better educated.

    Having taught at a school in India before going to university, I know that many Commonwealth countries use education methods and maintain an ethos that we, their former colonial masters, gave (or forced upon) them but then abandoned for a newer, ‘fairer’ approach. All must have prizes, eh?

  • vvputout

    Gove and Wilshaw should look closely at how, in countries such as S Korea and Finland, high concentrations of public libraries assist in improving educational standards, particularly literacy. In England the DCMS under Miller and Vaizey has shown a total lack of interest in preserving the service, which really ought to be taken out of their hands before it’s destroyed.

    Perhaps the DfE should take it over.

  • sarah_13

    Anyone who has experienced state schools in recent years knows this, and it’s nothing to do with lack of money or coming from humble beginnings. I keep hearing how only the wealthy go to oxford etc. I was talking to a friend the other day about this , we are both from the north and both went to state schools in the 70’s and 80’s. We tried to think whether we felt disadvantaged at school, we both agreed we did not, we both knew people and Manchester grammar and Manchester high but did not recognise the present narrative ie private school better educated than state schools. We went to university and we all remember plenty of people from our year going to oxford and cambridge, the teachers all suggested trying for any of the sixth formers, this idea that only private school kids went was certainly not the case then, and was nothing to do with privilege and everything to do with the teachers and their expectations for the sixth formers.

  • tribalterror

    What is particularly depressing is that Labour and its cohorts within the education system conspired to inflate grades to disguise the decline in standards for political reasons at the expense of the education of children. Surely this is a scandal that should be exposed through some form of enquiry so that it can never happen again.

  • Bonkim

    British culture no longer extols excellence and youngsters are taught not to be competitive. The world outside is harsh – survival of the fittest.

  • DrCrackles

    Compulsory, state-funded education should be scrapped and the nation ushered into a period of learning to think for itself again. It is a relic from a failed era that has served Britain very badly indeed.

    • Bonkim

      Too many pushed into Universities where they don’t belong.

  • rolandfleming

    Not sure I understand how you guarantee getting better teachers, just by sacking the bad ones. Where are all these good teachers, queuing up to be hired, if only the schools weren’t full of all the bad ones … ? Perhaps there are other ways of making teaching a more attractive profession for talented people?

    • Tom Tom


  • Fergus Pickering

    Can we sack bad lawyers, bad journalists, bad doctors and nurses, bad civil servants, bad penpushers of every description while we are about it, please

    • Maidmarrion

      bad politicians ! ( you forgot them)

    • Tom Tom

      Bad Solicitors should be shot after they have been garotted

  • telemachus

    I really have some difficulty seeing how Hanushek and friends extrapolates his teaching arguments into economic activity(or vice versa)
    It seems a teleological argument which needs further justification to me

    • Fraser Nelson

      The OECD paper (link provided) has fulsome explanation of methodology

      • Nicholas chuzzlewit

        Fraser, this is our resident socialist troll and thus you are wasting your time by offering evidence and reason. He deals only in slogans and leftist propaganda and if Michael Gove chose to contend that 2 + 2 = 4, Tele would dispute the answer.

        • telemachus

          Many of us lost patience when he attacked Ed Balls for sacking Sharon Shoesmith over baby P

          • Nicholas chuzzlewit

            Go on head off to Labourlist you and your facile comments are not wanted here.

          • McClane

            This blog post is not about Baby P and Sharon Shoesmith. Or Ed Balls.

          • Steve R

            On the contrary, of all the exhibits for the case why Ed Balls is unfit (or unsafe) to be given a position of power, the most damning is the way in which, under his very public direction, Sharon Shoesmith was hung out to dry as a scapegoat to give cover to all the agencies, pseudo-professions and Gov’t departments (including his own department) that failed Baby P.

            It was a 21st century equivalent of a summary execution – which is why the court found in her favour when she challenged the legality of the sacking process. She also won the subsequent appeals to the higher courts, and is in line for circa £1m taxpayer-funded compensation.

            Notwithstanding the complexity and the nuances of the Baby P case (which laid bare the fundamental flaws in Labour’s Childrens care reforms) it was astounding that a Secretary of State in these apparently enlightened times could behave like a medieval baron. As I said – neither fit nor safe to be trusted with a position of power.

            • Fergus Pickering

              I thought she had had a long career as a useless pillock at everything she did.

        • McClane

          tm hijacks every comment thread. Now we’re on Baby P & Shoesmith.

      • telemachus

        “Other aggressive goals, such as bringing all students to a level of minimal proficiency for the OECD (i.e. reaching a PISA score of 400), would imply aggregate GDP increases of close
        to USD 200 trillion according to historical growth relationships
        Other aggressive goals, such as bringing all students to a level of minimal proficiency for the OECD (i.e. reaching a PISA score of 400), would imply aggregate GDP increases of closeto USD 200 trillion according to historical growth relationships”
        I guess the real question is how to “boost their average PISA scores by 25 points”
        And the key is in the first quote “bringing ALL students”
        Gove’s plans sadly will improve education for the fortunate who get to go to elite academies or free shools while those left in the school projected to wither will decline. Goodness knows the net effect but my guess is that it will be negative
        The argument therefore may be to sack bad teachers but to me it is also an argument to achieve equality of schooling by effective engagement with the good teachers and stop the divisive approach

        • Nicholas chuzzlewit

          Why don’t you save all this bile and nonsense for Labourlist etc where you and your fellow leftists can bark at the moon to heart’s content. Stop wasting the time of educated adults with your ponderous, boring and inarticulate slogans. Just go.

          • telemachus

            Interesting concept
            So all posts should consist of “Yes, of course”
            In my great northern well taught school one of our guiding principles was first class debate and the dialectic

        • McClane

          You know nothing about anything. You cut and paste selectively (cf your earlier reply on Julia Middleton). This was a well-argued and well-documented blogpost from Nelson and you have responded in your usual way.

          Bad teachers need to be sacked, sink schools need to be closed. Children need to go where they can get a decent education. Parents pay income tax and council tax. They need to get their money’s worth. Labour failed to offer this at any point between 1997 and 2010.

          Labour decided every school needed a Talk Policy. Every subject department in every school needed a Talk Policy. I had to go round all the classes in my department to monitor Talk. This is where all the taxes went. So I could monitor not learning, not teaching, but Talk.

          Come back and reply about something from your experience.

          • telemachus

            My experience is of a number of family members who are members of the honourable teaching profession and are alienated by Gove
            They want sink schools closed but not allowed to wither

            • McClane

              Teaching is not an ‘honourable profession’, it was the working class way to the middle class and now it’s the middle class way to a safe pension.

              • Fergus Pickering

                Oh come sir. Yu are asserting that all teachers at some past time came from the working class, are you? And in what way is a teacher’s pension safer than a doctor’s or a train driver’s?

    • itdoesntaddup

      Presumably you recommend shutting down universities – or come to that schools. We’d save the money spent on education, and there would be no economic disbenefit according to your lights.

      • telemachus

        See my post on the Cable thread
        University academics need to interact better with business and politics

        • McClane

          Politics needs to interact better with everyday life.

    • McClane

      You have a lot of difficulty seeing anything.

      Schools are like supermarkets, they offer good results, they get customers. If they’re sink schools, they fail and they close.

      No parent should be forced to send their child to a sink school.

      • telemachus

        As I keep saying I agree
        But they should BE CLOSED
        Gove wants them to wither and a substantial tranche of children with them-By competition not executive decision.
        He needs to take a grip and not be doctrinaire

  • 2trueblue

    Liebore had 13yrs and failed. Surely that says it all. They threw money at it, failed to make any traction in improving any area of education. Harping on about class is not going to fix it. Enabling students to understand that quality work is what wins, picking subjects that will provide a good basis to their education in total and enable them to have choices. Picking good core subjects is what we should be encouraging students at all levels to undertake rather than the easy option. But with cheap grades being the goal real standards were ignored, students did not end up with good basic skills, but were sold down the river by Liebore. The thing is that over 13yrs that means nearly two generations of education have been wasted and opportunities for our youth taken away.

  • judyk113

    Unfortunately, not quite so straightforward as Fraser Nelson paints it, though as an ex OFSTED inspector with plenty of experience of scrutinising both outstanding and failing schools I’m convinced we should be uncompromisingly setting ourselves to transforming the outcomes of state education to ensure that the best is the target for all, and absolutely no excuses…

    1. For all the excellent things Gove is doing, he made a huge and disastrous concession to the heads’ union when he agreed not to insist on no-notice inspections. That really was selling the pass. It almost made me throw up to see him saying schools should get the chance to “put their best face forward”. Absolutely not. It enables the poor and the complacent, underachieving schools to do things like drafting in star teachers from other schools, have staff up all night faking records, send disruptive and failing pupils off on bogus field trips, so the school gets a better outcome. It’s also essential to break the link between complaints about inspections and judgements about inspection contractor firms. It’s in contractor firms’ interest to ensure they get as few complaints as possible. That can only mean contractors choose those inspectors who never get complaints. Any inspector who leads a team that fails a school will face a barrage of complaints. I have had that happen to me each time I led an inspection of a school that was failed. Especially where they were schools that were previously deemed to be doing well. I still remember the very senior OFSTED inspector responsible for fielding the complaints ringing me after he’d gone through the paperwork and saying, “Thank you for having the courage to do what you did.”. That tells you so much

    2. Changing the pupil culture of schools, particularly where there is a history of a dominant anti-school culture, even if there is a brand new academy being set up, is one of the most difficult tasks, and one that most often defeats the staff. But Michael Wilshaw with Mossbourne Academy in the heart of the most downtrodden bits of Hackney, and on the ashes of a disastrously failing comprehensive showed how it can be done. That Academy now scores way above national average exam results and gets disproportionate numbers of pupils into Oxbridge. It’s one of Gove’s best ever decisions to make him head of OFSTED. He is and will remain under attack from the teacher unions and the local authorities. Gove and the government have got to give him unflinching support and keep publicising to parents what he achieved.

    3. Because of the vested interest campaigns against “privatised” and “for profit” state schools– which unfortunately the Tories have gone along with, there’s a failure to look very hard at why we don’t do more to create branded schools controlled by one nationwide management group, so that we get the quality and uniformity of delivery we get with an M&S, a Waterstone’s or even a Deloitte’s.It’s like we still have an unthinking belief that the old style single-owner individual cornershop is our model for school delivery. Why should it be? I would like to see Wilshaw or someone with as high an achievement record as him as the overall Director of a chain of nationwide secondary schools. The old guild-financed schools are something of an historical model, like the Haberdashers’ schools. And some of the Academy groups, like Ark could be developed into such a model. If they were given financial incentives for showing that they deliver uniform quality and achievement across their brand group.

    4. Boris rightly stresses that part of the reason we have such high immigration levels is that the EU migrant workforce is so much more work-oriented and capable than the London-born and educated kids being turned out of our schools. I would like to see him being the figurehead and public advocate for a Londonwide school rebrand group of all the schools not in the top sixty percent. Maybe led by someone like Seb Coe or one of the Olympic delivery executives who proved their delivery track record. Look at what was achieved in a short time with the Olympics volunteers. It can be done.

    5. More union reform is also needed to help take off the brakes being applied by the teacher unions. Of course that applies to other fields vital to the UK’s future. We do need to introduce as soon as possible compulsory voting by all union members for their executives and leaders as well as for strikes.

    6. Last not least, we need to unshackle schools from local authorities for good. The good schools don’t need them, and they have a vested interest in covering up for or propping up the bad ones. The money needs to go to the schools, and the roles and duties of the governors need to be toughened up, including greater civil liability for tolerating failure. The introduction of nationwide high quality groups led by people like Wilshaw and with governors of equivalent calibre to those of our best company directors would be one way forward.

    • Alexsandr

      no notice Offstead inspections are worthless. The schools paperwork should be fit for inspection at all times, not just during a golden week once every 3 years

      • Fred Scuttle

        You seem to be arguing against yourself there.

        • Alexsandr

          sorry, i’l clarify.
          i think that an inspection regime whereby the school gets notice so they can make sure their paperwork is in order is worthless.

          If the schools were operating properly, then they should not fear an unannounced inspection.

    • Nicholas chuzzlewit

      Hi Judy, thank you for both an interesting and objective insight. I particularly agree with your suggestion that schools be freed from LEA control. After all, what do LEAs add that contributes to the quality of a child’s education? They are nothing more than a bureaucratic strait-jacket deigned to prevent certain events which they deem to be ideologically unsound from happening. Removing this baleful influence would enable the dismantling of a large bureaucracy, or at least part of it, and the resources thus released could be used to reward high quality and enthusiastic teachers.

      • Gareth

        The LEAs under which I’ve worked have played a crucial role in supporting professional development. The article notes the importance of teacher quality, but assumes that there is an abundant supply of ‘better teachers’ who can be parachuted in to replace less effective colleagues.

        In reality, it takes time and focussed effort to develop as an excellent teacher. Education is like most other professions in this regard – how many doctors, accountants, engineers or managers are as proficient on day one as they are after years of development?

        Schools do share expertise internally, and some of the training from private providers is very good, although certainly not all of it. Often the most consistently useful CPD has been from the LEAs. It’s a shame that much of this expertise has now been lost, with little obvious replacement.

    • McClane

      Thank you, Judy.

      I dreaded HMI and OFSTED inspections. I worked in three of the worst schools in Britain, according to the Daily Mail. Then I worked out, you just have to talk the right jargon, do the right lesson plan, know the right inspectors, and you’re ok.

      I have to say, my lessons were ok (of course!) but people failed who shouldn’t have done, people passed who definitely shouldn’t have done.

      On the other hand, I had an OFSTED inspector who moaned about her round trip from Hastings just to do the inspection. And another one who turned up to my lesson in dungarees. I sent her away. I was in a suit and tie. Next day she turned up properly dressed.

      We need inspectors who put the fear of God into teachers. We need local authorities who don’t cover up for the bad schools they have. We need unions who are on the side of the children and their parents and not their ‘colleagues’.

      • Fred Scuttle

        And we need an education secretary that takes the teachers with him rather than treats them as the opposition..

        • Tom Morris

          As someone currently in teacher training college I can tell you teachers, for the most part, are lazy, workshy and do not give a rats about the kids education. The fact Gove has pissed off the leftie cretins in the unions suggests his plans are 100% the way forward

    • dalai guevara

      Many good points but your point 3 gives cause for concern.
      Why would ‘branding’ be something that would benefit real educational outcome? Have those nations we have now chosen to notice demonstrated that a for-profit model delivers?

      In recent British school design, notably BSF and what followed thereafter, a Scandinavian model was often praised for its innovative approach. This led to many British architects looking at innovative layouts and head teachers looking at teaching models that started with grown children taking off their shoes when entering the school building. Was (and is) a single school in Britain ever designed and then run like that? We have also heard far too much about how ICT would supposedly save us all.

      There are many other examples of misguided ideological approches to teaching. Branding and more for-profit-schooling will not exactly ease that pressure. What matters is the curriculum and how fit for purpose those are who deliver it.

  • Peter Stroud

    Heaven forbid that Labour wins the 2015 election. Miliband and his gang will never succeed in improving the state education system until they break ranks with the NUT etc. I just cannot see that ever taking place.

    • telemachus

      Utter nonsense
      What is clear is that the current attempt of Gove to use pupils as weapons in his schools competition war
      All this will do is give a highly select non fee paying population a boost while consigning the sink school pupils who do not have engaged parents further down the sink

      • Nicholas chuzzlewit

        Why are you so afraid of choice? Why are you so determined to ensure that mediocrity is the only available outcome for parents who care about the education of their children? Why must the education of children whose parents care suffer because some of their contemporaries are feckless wasters?

        • telemachus

          I welcome and respect choice but the competition and investment in elite schools will as posted many times leave the sink schools to sink further
          Almost by definition the children left in sink schoold will be those without parental advocates
          We have a duty to all our children

          • Nicholas chuzzlewit

            Meaningless platitudes as usual based on the fatuous assumption that equality of outcome for every child in the country is realistic and achievable. The point is that sink schools should close, their teachers made redundant and children taught at new and existing schools set up and/or supported by enthusiastic parents.

            • telemachus

              I agree that something needs to be done
              The schools should be closed, be revamped but not simply allowed to wither as the children in them wither

        • Fred Scuttle

          Choice only works in large urban areas, and it’s in those large urban areas where failing schools are found. Why? Because all the less able kids end up there and without able pupils you cant get good exam results, regardless of the ability of the teachers.

    • RAnjeh

      That’s not true. What Stephen Twigg has announced that actually all state schools would become academies and instead of free schools – which anyone could set up – Labour would have parent-led/teacher-led academies which would be new academies that parents and teachers could set up where there in areas where there are not enough good school places.