The Observer reports today that Cllr Les Lawrence, a Conservative councillor in Birmingham, has voiced opposition to Shadow Education Secretary Michael Gove's proposals for thousands of new schools funded by the state but operating independently. Gove wants us to follow the model of Sweden where the new schools have driven up standards. It is not just that the new schools have achieved high standards but also that the choice and competition has improved the standards of neighbouring schools.

But the policy would mean less power for local councils so naturally the Local Government Association, on whose behalf Cllr Lawrence was speaking, offer knee-jerk opposition. "If you look at the Swedish system you see that there is now quite a lot of debate as to whether the free school system has caused a degree of dissent and division," he says. "As I understand it, looking at recent debates in Sweden, they are beginning to wonder whether they need to go in the opposite direction, having taken them about 20 years to create 900 of these schools, separate from the other more traditional schools."

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