Local authorities are already doing their utmost to block the coalition's schools reforms, so just how will they respond to this story on the front of today's FT? It reveals how Michael Gove is planning to sideline local authorities from the funding of all state schools – not just free schools and academies. The idea is that state schools will get cash directly from the state, without any need for the council middlemen that currently control the system. Here's an FT graphic that captures the change:
The money would be allocated to schools in proportion to the number of pupils they have, and headmasters would have much more freedom in how to spend it. This is the same simple but transformative dynamic that inspirits the rest of the Gove reforms. Good schools, that attract pupils, would get more and more cash. Bad schools would have to improve, or wither and collapse. In choosing where to send their kids, parents would quite literally be shaping the system of education in this country. Talk about people power.
It is an idea, too, that chimes with two of Downing Street's favourite leitmotifs. The first is that Cameroonian staple, "responsibility". This reform would hand considerable responsibility over to the schools themselves, who would have to prove that they are capable of handling it. And the second is "centralising to decentralise," made popular by the wonks at the Institute for Government. The state would take over a great number of the powers enjoyed by local authorities, but with the purpose of handing more power to schools and individuals. This will not sit well with some of the more local government-friendly Lib Dems.
As the FT notes, this is, for now, a proposal in a draft copy of the education White Paper. We should hope that it makes it all the way to the final version. There will be questions – and quite legitimate ones – about schools taking on a whole load of new administrative functions, or about some schools receiving less money than they do currently. But if the coalition can manage it successfully, then the gains for pupils and parents could be tremendous.