Willettsdavidsocc_1In a speech this evening to the Politics Society of St. John’s College, Portsmouth, David Willetts MP will promise support for the Government’s Education Bill if it provides more freedom for schools:

"When the Education Bill is published, if we can at least see the building blocks for future reform then there is a strong case for backing these measures.   Our test will be a very simple one.   Could the Bill raise the quality of education by increasing the freedom of our schools?   If we believe that on balance it does do that, then we would back the Bill."

The speech is an encouraging statement of Mr Willetts’ commitment to school choice.  He will say that "the evidence from Milwaukee, Michigan and Arizona in the US and from the Swedish school reforms as well, is that school choice is an incredibly powerful mechanism for raising standards. But in order to work it has got to be implemented in the right framework."  Mr Willetts identifies three planks of that "right framework":

"First, it has to be possible for new entrants to create new schools. You can’t allow a municipality to protect its own existing schools by obstructing the creation of new schools which can also deliver a public financed education, free at the point of delivery…

Secondly, pupils have to be financed on per capita basis so that public money goes with them to the school of their choice. Of course that means that schools that lose pupils lose some funding as well. In the US charter school experiment districts that lost a pupil to a charter school lost amounts ranging from 45% to 75% of their per pupil cost. Similarly, in Sweden municipalities were obliged to give 85% of their public school funding to a new school in their district which gained a pupil…

Thirdly, existing schools have to be able to respond to the challenge of new entrants. This is crucial to avoid the problem of pupils being left behind in poorly performing schools. Often this means that existing schools have to be free to recreate themselves. They have to be able to change the way they work and reward teachers so as to raise their performance and recapture the students they are losing."