September 04, 2003
Too few too big

Every problem in education is an excuse for a new central initiative. And this one is really going to spread happiness everywhere.

Headteachers are being urged to stagger the start and end of lessons to reduce traffic congestion created by the school run.

The move will be part of a government offensive against parents who cause jams during the rush hour when they ferry their children to and from school.

The proposal could have pupils starting and finishing school up to an hour earlier or later than they do now.

But, the plan is likely to be unpopular with parents who have arranged their work schedules around their childen's existing timetables. Some could be forced to make several journeys every day if they have children at different schools.

Other measures will aim at persuading parents to abandon the school run by improving pedestrian crossings, cycle lanes and bus services.

I believe that the central folly here is one that was perpetrated a long, long time ago and which is going to be the devil of a job to unscramble. Basically, there are far too few schools. They are far too big. And the typical home is far too far away from the nearest one. (See also: cottage hospitals. Now also mostly closed down.)

Number two hundred and sixty three of the seven hundred and forty eight and climbing fast reasons why I believe in a totally free market in education is that I believe that a free market in education would have supplied schools for small children – especially small children – which are but an easy walk away from home, for just about everyone. I think there would have been a smooth path trodden historically, from the old Victorian Dame Schools, which were primary schools for one classroom of kids taught by one Old Biddy, to Tescho Primary, Safeteach, or whatever they would be called, which would be competing nationally franchised chains of educational excellence, for quite small sums of money, with very flexible hours, masses of terrific centrally supplied technology for teachers and children to choose from, and just would generally be fabulous compared to anything dreamed of now.

I was on the radio yesterday trashing the public sector, and it got me thinking, again, that one of the very worst things about a seriously nationalised industry, such as education now is, is that people stop even imagining how much better things might be if competing tradesman and charity workers and parents were running the show instead of state teachers harrassed into daily near insanity experiences by maniacally fusspot London bureaucrats, such as the geniuses who are presiding over this staggered school hours initiative.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 03:46 PM
Category: HistoryThe private sector