What a difference a year makes. When Michael Gove spoke at a Spectator conference on schools reform twelve months ago, his policy ideas were just that: ideas, to be deployed should the Tories reach government. Today, at a follow-up conference, they are being put into practice in the fiery crucible of state — and doing quite well, at that. As tweeted by Andrew Neil, Gove has announced that the number of academies — existing state schools that have seized on the independence being offered to them — now stands at 465. That's some way up on the 203 academies there were last year. And it's even a significant rise on the 407 in January of this year. The rate of growth is really quite astonishing.
Gove himself forecast that the number of academies would only exceed 400 by autumn this year. So, in many respects, all this is quite unexpected too. Back in the days of the Tories' Invitation to Government — when the spotlight was fixed on the “free schools” that parents and charity groups would be able to set up from scratch — few might have predicted that existing state schools would themselves be the driver of reform. Yet that is exactly what has happened. By the time the first free schools enter the nation's bloodstream in September, their principles will already be enshrined in 10 per cent of our state secondaries. That's reform at hyperspeed.