PRIME Minister Blair yesterday said that he was poised to make irreversible changes to primary and secondary education by bringing in an education market directly linked to the changes that he is making in the NHS.
In his speech Blair linked his decision to hand a major portion of the state health NHS budget to private medicine with his plans to hand over part of the education budget to private schools and private education companies.
He said that the second stage in these plans began in 2001. ‘We added another dimension. We started to open the system up to new influences and introduced the beginnings of choice and contestability.
‘We brought in the first wave of independent sector procurement in healthcare; choice in cardiac care and bit by bit, into elective surgery. People used to wait two years for removing cataracts. The maximum now is three months.
‘In schooling, specialist schools all have external sponsors, on a small scale but nonetheless important in focusing the specialism, whether business, science, languages, art or sport. City Academies are further along the spectrum, with the external partner fully engaged in the formation of the school. And Academies, of course, are specifically designed for the schools that are underperforming and failing; the beneficiaries being some of the poorest kids in the inner city.’
The external partners in all cases are the banks and big business.
He added: ‘We are now at the crucial point where the reforms can be taken to their final stage. In the NHS, healthcare will remain free at the point of delivery, but there will be a system in which patients can choose to go to any part of the NHS able to treat them, and with freedom for the independent sector to compete in providing the service. . .
‘In our schools, as I shall go on to describe, the system will finally be opened up to real parent power. All schools will be able to have Academy-style freedoms. All schools will be able to take on external partners. No one will be able to veto parents starting new schools or new providers coming in, simply on the basis that there are local surplus places. The role of the LEA will change fundamentally.
‘But otherwise the schools will be accountable not to Government at the centre or locally but to parents, with the creativity and enterprise of the teachers and school leaders set free.
‘In both the NHS and in education, there will in one sense be a market. The patient and the parent will have much greater choice. But it will only be a market in the sense of consumer choice, not a market based on private purchasing power. And it will be a market with rules. Personal wealth won’t buy you better NHS service. The funding for schools will be fair and equal no matter what their status; and there will be no return to selection aged 11.’
How wrong he is. Personal wealth will ensure that you get a much better NHS service, and your children get a much better education because of your postcode in an affluent and rich neighbourhood, while the right of school heads to interview the parents of prospective pupils will ensure that only a token number of the poor will be allowed in.
The independent state schools connected to banks and big business – and under an umbrella and ‘brand’ name provided by very expensive public schools, which will be paid handsomely out of the education budget for that privilege – will be very selective about who they elect to teach.
No wonder Blair comes out against the ‘levelling mentality’.
His government is wrecking (privatising) the NHS and now it proposes to wreck (privatise) education.
The trade unions must bring his government down to go forward to a workers’ government.