Friday, February 04, 2005

Failing schools

The Chief Inspector of Schools, Mike Tomlinson reckons that 1.5m children are denied a decent education. It's hard to greet this news with anything other than a bored yawn. There is a litany of failures in the education system and the only solutions the education establishment suggests are the usual calls for more (or fewer) exams, more (or less) tightly prescribed syllabuses, more (or less) coursework and so on.

When is an interviewer going to put it flatly to a politician that it is the education system that is broken, not the intracacies of its delivery? The system needs to be torn down and started again from scratch. Without any involvement in delivery by the state. None. Tony Blair told us shortly after he was elected that Labour would think the unthinkable. Well, it was absolutely unthinkable that eight years of tinkering with the education system would follow, but that is exactly what Labour have done. How many thousands of young lives have to be destroyed before Mr Blair plucks up the courage to take on the education establishment? I'm afraid that the answer is "Many thousands more". I have no doubt that Blair would love to leave a reformed system as part of his legacy, but he lacks the political muscle to persuade his party to back him in radical reform. He has lost far too much political capital over Iraq, and his backbenchers are part and parcel of the bureaucratic system that is most threatened by any change to the status quo. That is now his great weakness and the reason why we can expect no significant changes to the education system, or anywhere else in the public services while he is in office. Perhaps this is the true cost of the Iraq war.