Yesterday in the Commons we witnessed the new unholy alliance between Labour and the one Green MP to try to limit the freedom. The discussion was about the rights of schools and Headteachers under the new Academies legislation. It was intriguing to see Caroline Lucas in action again – she favours state control and state solutions over giving individuals, professionals, even state employees more opportuntiy to make their own minds up and to differentiate what they do and offer. It makes her a natural ally of Labour as they dump their Blairite baggage and revert to the “state knows best” litany. At one stage she got so worked up she completely forgot the point she wanted to make in an intervention.
One of the ironies of their position is they think Governors and Heads of state financed schools would operate against the public interest or against the wishes of the parents and pupils they serve if they are allowed more freedom from Council control. These advocates of public services have so little trust in the main suppliers of such services that they wish to keep them enchained to Councils and to Whitehall.
As we kept explaining, the legislation was enabling, not mandatory. If Heads and Governors share the socialist view that they would misbehave or be unable to survive with more freedom, they are quite entitled under the new legislation to stick with the Council and what they have. They can put themselves under any amount of central and local regulation they like if that makes them happier. If a school opts for freedom and then does a bad job it will lose the support of pupils and parents and have to change. When did Councils last force timely change in enough poorly performing schools?
There is all the difference in the world between socialist legislation which mandates certain behaviour, requires a service to be delivered in a certain way, and imposes penalties on innovation or choice, and legislation which tries to free things up a little. Let’s have some more of this enabling legislaiton. The public sector is too driven by top down controls and expected to conform to the same broken Labour way of doing things.