I just couldn’t help it. In an interview with the Guardian about the free school he is about to set up, Peter Hyman says: “I think there’s nothing worse [than] dining out on the fact that you once did something.”
It’s an interesting piece. I give it to him for starting at the bottom as a proper teacher, rather than, like that Toby Young, thinking that a career in failure is all that is required to run a school.
But unfortunately, the fact that Hyman is prepared to buy into Michael Gove’s pet project says a lot about the mindset of what I like to call the “far-centre”.
Never mind the fact that these schools will compete and divert money from existing schools struggling to survive in a climate where middle-class parents, whose pushiness is sometimes exactly what each school needs its fair share of, opt out and choose more exclusive options.
Never mind the fact that free schools have greater flexibility over their admissions policy. And when any new school is struggling to prove itself, who would turn down the opportunity to get better results at GCSEs and A-levels in the first years of exams?
Never mind the fact that our democratically-elected local representatives will have little power to keep the school in check.
Of course, some will say it’s alright. Because Hyman will never subscribe to the full Gove ideal. He probably won’t. But on that basis, we could appoint a benevolent dictator rather than have a general election every five years.
The model is just plain dangerous. Less accountability and a divisive and damaging impact on the local area.
Others will say that in certain areas, in certain circumstances, we have to live with the fact that its not our preferred model and accept that a free school will be beneficial.
But can ideology be optional? No, as far as I’m concerned.
I know that that position isn’t universally held. So “for practical purposes, in a hopelessly practical world”*, I’ll give another argument:
How on earth is the left supposed to challenge a policy when we have Labour supporters promoting it. It’s embarrassing.
I’ll finish on a slightly different note. Hyman does seem quite sincere. But by the end of the interview, he was onto true Blairite education jargon. Maybe he wasn’t a teacher for the last eight years after all. Maybe he was a “project-based-learning facilitator”.
I should have known this from the start, from the name of the planned school: School 21. Sounds a bit like that failed private train operator which used to operate out of Liverpool Street…
*A beautiful and poignant phrase stolen from The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.