Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Free schools are not really free

Free schools are in the news again - their costs have risen higher than expected. Should anyone be surprised? Once a company, union, quango, or ministry has access to the government's credit card (i.e., the taxpayers) is it any wonder that costs grow? And if anyone, politician or otherwise, does not understand about incentive structures when spending other people's money, I suggest a quick short lesson in growing up. Don't be so naive!

In my practice I have many parents who want me to set up a school following our ethos at Classical Foundations of 100% focus on the pupil, encouraging them to reach their potential, finding out about their dreams and actually connecting their dreams to their learning. I am honoured that so many wish me to set up a school, and when the UK coalition government brought in free schools, which could be set up be parents and teachers keen to bypass local authority control and gain direct access to the department of education's funds - it was tempting. For a moment.

I'm well versed in political philosophy and economics and I know what would happen. A change of political wind and the whole system would be shut down; a few hiccoughs in some schools and the regulators would be down there in a shot.

The question for me is what is the ethical thing to do? To take other people's money (who have not been asked about the systems of education we use and may indeed not agree with them) and set up a local school paid for by the central government, or to rely on the market place in which parents choose to spend their money on our services voluntarily? The latter wins hands-down.

When you're tied to the government's funds - it may seem like a free lunch - but get this idea, one of the oldest and wisest ideas in our cultures: there's no such thing as a free lunch.

Free schools are paid by other people's taxes. That's not freedom. The teachers are not free. They are dependent on continued government funding. And given the debt levels the UK has, that funding can never be assumed to continue.

The school I wish to create is based on true principles of freedom - but that means the price has to be paid. Just as I sell my tutorial services in the market place and people pay me for doing a good job, I believe that the new school I'm planning, should also be fee paying - it should answer to the parents and pupils and to the laws of the land. Not regulators'  fashions or politicians' gripes and peculiar visions.

Does paying for education cause society to split between haves and have nots? Again, it's the question of the naive. Some people put more effort into learning, others don't. It's really not a matter of resources, it's a matter of will. If you wish to get fit, you take action. If you wish to get more educated, you take action. If you wish to be a welfare dependent, you don't take action.

The school I have in mind is all about teaching independence and action from the word go. More on that later!
Dr Alex Moseley

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