I know that Gordon Brown will get some political capital from being seen to bring these wicked private schools in line. But is the outcome I describe above really what he has in mind? In addition to his contemptible abolition of the assisted places, is he determined to rid every private school of their disadvantaged pupils?
What I would love is for him to fight the Tories by adopting their Swedish voucher system himself, offer them the state average of £5,500 a head - with a guarantee of no interference - and then tell his lefties that he’s nationalised these schools. The school I have in mind would then take in plenty of state pupils. Sure, their current £8,500 private fee is higher, but with extra kids to a classroom that could be guaranteed under the state voucher system the economics can stack up. (The pupil-teacher ratio in private schools average is 9.3, v 16.7 for state schools).
Many schools looking at their options carefully would follow suit. Get the planning system sorted and more schools would open. A Labour triumph. This reform could be enacted with a footnote in the Budget, allowing the state voucher to go to schools. Brown would deny the Tories one of the most attractive and powerful policies in their arsenal.
But Brown prefers his beloved five-year plans, his ill-conceived Building Schools for the Future fund and his instinct to control, control, control.