School vouchers revisited

by Stephen Tall on May 28, 2007

An interesting idea courtesy Kenneth Baker in yesterday’s Torygraph:

We should introduce an education credit equivalent to the amount the state pays for a primary education place, £3,150, and a secondary school place, £4,070, to those parents whose children attend a school that is designated by the Department for Education and Skills as failing, and who are dissatisfied with the education provided for their children. The parents of pupils in such schools would have the cash to purchase better education for their children, either in a local state school or at an independent school. This would achieve greater social mobility than undermining the grammar schools. Education at independent schools costs more than this, but such a change would encourage the start-up of new schools, particularly at the primary level, geared to that level of funding.

I have argued before in favour of school vouchers; with some misgivings, as I’m not sure their introduction would usher in a problem-free panacea. Lord Baker’s proposal does at least side-step the usual first argument against vouchers: that they will simply subsidise those parents who already pay for their kids to have a private education. I suspect, though, that introducing such a partial scheme would simply shift the inequalities between different catchment areas within a locality.

However, it does at least attempt to grapple with the key educational problem facing us today: how to offer equality of opportunity to young people in a society which segregates according to who can afford to buy a house near a good school. Those who oppose school vouchers need to suggest a practical solution to remedy this very real problem.

PS: as an aside, are ‘staff inset training days’ still known as ‘Baker Days’, as they were way back in my day?