The Progressive Conservatism Project is back from Madchester and the Conservative Party conference. All in all a useful week, the delegates were enthused and energised (even without the motivating power of champagne). What’s more, actual policies emerged from the Shadow Cabinet on a range of issues, from Osborne’s pledge to freeze public sector pay (and maintain the 50p tax rate) to Grayling’s proposed crackdown on binge drinking.
Most exciting for the Progressive Conservatism Project were Michael Gove’s proposals to allow all succeeding schools to become academies – free from interference from Local Authorities. They will have greater flexibility to innovate in terms of teaching methods and to build deeper links with the community, with business and with the voluntary sector. In addition, because all academies must have a specialism (in one or two subjects), expanding the academy programme will make our education provision more diverse and expand choice for parents and pupils. Gove also promised to boost powers to sack failing heads and allow their schools to be taken over by successful academies.
These policies were proposed in our recent report Leading from the Front. If enacted, these proposals could revolutionise British education; schools would be free to succeed but never free to fail. Champagne or no champagne, that strikes me as cause for celebration.