For several weeks now I have been agonising about whether to run for Parliament as an independent at the next election. On the one hand, the current political crisis means that an independent has a higher-than-normal chance of being elected. But on the other, it is not clear what an MP who isn’t affiliated with any of the major political parties could achieve. What would be the point?
As the father of four young children, the issue I care most about is education. In the constituency of Ealing Central and Acton where I live there are only two outstanding state secondary schools, one C of E, the other Catholic. The nearest secular school to us is Acton High where, according to the latest Ofsted report, only 31 per cent of pupils managed to get five or more GCSEs at grade C or above. That compares to a national average of 49.1 per cent.
What are my alternatives? I cannot afford to send my children to fee-paying schools and I don’t want to move, so my options are limited. I could home-school them, but unless I want to become a full-time teacher that would not work out much cheaper than educating them privately. The best solution, it seems to me, would be to band together with a group of like-minded parents and start a school. Not a fee-paying school — again, prohibitively expensive, even if it was no-frills — but a publicly funded school.
Is that possible? The short answer is yes — just not the sort of school I want to send my children to. For instance, a group of parents in Lambeth managed to set up a comprehensive that opened its doors in 2007, but I am not a big fan of comprehensives.