The Spectator

The Tory lesson

There is something distinctly Orwellian about Ed Balls’s latest wheeze.

There is something distinctly Orwellian about Ed Balls’s latest wheeze.

There is something distinctly Orwellian about Ed Balls’s latest wheeze. As of this week, parents requesting that their child be sent to a particular school are being informed by text message if their application has been successful. It is amazing how technology gives governments so many new ways to show contempt for citizens. This rejection-by-text system could only have been designed by a bureaucracy that has no idea how much of a blow it is for parents to be told that their child will not, after all, escape the local sink school.

Just as shoppers in Soviet-era Moscow could not imagine full supermarkets, today it is hard for British parents to imagine a system in which they are the ones doing the choosing. Yet this power flip is precisely what the Conservatives are pledging to introduce: a voucher system, where every child is credited with, say, £5,500 a year, paid for by the government to any independent school that can educate for the price. It is a system that has transformed education in Sweden. And it promises to do the same in Britain.

This week The Spectator hosted a one-day conference to discuss the coming schools revolution. We flew in experts from Stockholm and New York to share their experiences and tips with teachers and would-be school providers. It is a conference which will, we like to think, nurture the beginnings of an English education industry: one which not only has the potential to export our teachers’ expertise around the world, but which will bring new school choice to those who could never dream of being able to afford it.

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