Peter Hoskin

School daze | 25 February 2008

School daze | 25 February 2008
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Why would anyone want to be the “heir to Blair”?  

It’s a question that’s popping up numerous times in the comments on Michael Gove’s latest piece for the Spectator. And I’m sure it enters many people’s heads when they hear either Brown or Cameron laying claim to the title.  

A short, simple answer might be: “because Blair was right about some things (not everything, but some things)”. For instance – and Gove makes much of this – he was right about the academies programme. That much is made abundantly clear by Richard Tice’s report for the think-tank Reform today.

As the Chair of Governors at Northampton Academy, Tice is reporting from the front-line on these matters. His personal experience is that the Blairite academies model rapidly improves failing schools – and does so in everything from results to application and attendance levels.

On Tice’s account, academies are so successful that their underlying ethos should be injected throughout the education system: 

“The model of freedom of management and governance is the critical part of the Government’s academy programme rather than the provision of new school buildings. The management freedom given to academies should be rolled out across the entire state sector rather than only in the 400 planned academies.”

But this is where Gordon Brown's failure to be the heir the Blair stands out. Rather than rolling out “freedom of management and governance,” his Government has actually restricted the independence that academies enjoy (by wedding them more closely to the national curriculum). The result? Academies won’t perform as well as they can do.

In the end, it means that Brown’s plan to build 400 more academies is just another waste of money. And a nail in the coffin of Blair’s legacy.