This is the ninth of fifteen draft Bills in an Alternative Queen's Speech that sets out what a legislative programme might have looked like if a majority Conservative government had been elected. Read more about the initiative here.
On education policy, the Coalition has taken some important steps in the right direction, most notably through the Academy and Free Schools programmes. However, we can still do more to raise standards, extend opportunity and make choice a reality for everyone.
If we really believe in giving more autonomy to schools and more choice to parents, we should support the establishment of selective schools where there is demand. Existing grammar schools should able to expand more easily and use their expertise to open new selective schools in areas of low educational standards.
Private companies should be allowed to establish and run schools providing they reinvest in the school a certain percentage of any profits. This extra capital could be used to create new school places where there are severe shortages, and to make places available for children who qualify for free school meals.
We should also work with independent schools to open up places for bright children from all backgrounds. Participating schools would select children on academic ability, but fees would be paid on a sliding scale according to each family’s means.
The cost of each child’s education would therefore be shared between their family and the state, with the average state funding not to exceed the average per pupil funding in state schools. This would give talented children the chance to fulfil their potential whatever their background. It would be selection by ability, not by wealth.
The challenge now is to have the courage to drive real power down to schools, parents and communities, and to trust them to make better choices for their children than Ministers or local councils.