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I mentioned last week the Education White Paper was a pretty feeble effort given the scale of the challenge.

This film in America, Waiting for Superman, shows how similar the issues are. Bad teachers stay in work. The unions seek to thwart choice. As Toby Young says in The Spectator (£):


While the White Paper confirms Ofsted’s findings, it stops short of proposing that heads be empowered to sack under-performing teachers. Instead, all they can do is suggest that they seek employment at other schools and offer to write them glowing references in return. In Waiting for Superman, this practice is referred to as ‘the dance of the lemons’ and it’s as common here as it is in America.

At the end of Waiting for Superman most of the six children fail to win places at charter schools and are condemned to a second-rate education in a variety of failing public schools. The viewer is left in no doubt about who to blame for their plight: Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, who is every bit as intransigent as Christine Blower, the head of the NUT. Weingarten is a ghastly, fire-breathing dragon who puts the interests of her dues-paying members before those of the children they teach. She is bitterly opposed to charter schools for the same reason the NUT is opposed to free schools: because they have a little more flexibility when it comes to teachers’ pay and conditions.

I urge everyone to go and see Waiting for Superman. I cannot imagine a more eloquent statement of the case for free schools.

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