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Michael Gove: Making Opportunity More Equal

In a speech to the think tank, Centre Forum, Shadow Secretary for Children, Schools, and Families, Michael Gove, said:

"Thank you very much for granting me this platform today.

Since its emergence on the think-tank scene just a few years ago Centre Forum has established a reputation for clear and principled liberal thinking.

On housing and planning, Tim Leunig has done great work for you - which has helped make the case for more housing alongside more local accountability.

On higher education, you have made the case for a more equitable approach to funding which recognises the benefits university confers on graduates.

And, crucially, on early years provision and school reform you have been right and principled. You have argued persuasively for funding to be more effectively targeted on those most in need. And you have advanced the case for extending more freedom to schools and more choice to parents and students.

That's my kind of liberalism.

If there's been one theme which, it appears to me, has characterised Centre Forum's work it's been a determination to be true to the real liberal spirit - of properly valuing the individual. So your commitment to tackling inequality springs from a belief that individuals suffer when they lack the resources, or opportunities, to take control of their own destiny.

And your ideas for addressing inequality reflect a faith in the power of decentralisation, freedom and choice to drive forward progress.

THE WIDENING GAP

In that spirit of liberalism I want to consider today how best we can tackle one of the central inequalities which blights modern Britain - the inequality increasingly generated by our education system.

I say generated, not perpetuated, because one of the saddest aspects of life in Britain today is the way in which state action currently deepens inequalities.

Schools should be engines of social mobility. They should provide the knowledge, and the tools, to enable talented young people to overcome accidents of birth and an inheritance of disadvantage in order to enjoy greater opportunities.

But that just isn't happening in Britain.

If our schools were merely entrenching social division rather than promoting social mobility that would be bad enough.

But it's worse than that.

We actually have a schools system which widens the gap between the fortunate and the forgotten -

which makes society progressively less equal over time -

which deepens our country's divisions.

In Britain today the schools system constitutes an Opportunity Block. And that is a profound political and moral failing.

Because we are denying talent its chance to flourish.

We are condemning individuals to lives less fulfilling because of their background.

And we are condemning Britain to a future which is less prosperous for us all because we're not making the most of each one of us….

Britain is already failing to prepare its citizens for a world economic climate which is growing more competitive, and less forgiving of failure, with every month which passes.

In the most recent PISA surveys - the international league tables of school performance - we fell from 4th to 14th in science, 7th to 17th in literacy, 8th to 24th in maths.

While ministers tell us, like the board of Northern Rock, that their figures can be trusted and their phenomenal achievements are soundly based - the external audits tell a very different story. When we judge our performance against the reality of what other nations are achieving we're falling behind.

And we know that, even on the basis of the Government's own figures there are a very significant number of students just not achieving what they need to be competitive in the modern employment market.

More than half of pupils - that's over 350,000 young people every year still fail to get five good GCSEs including maths and English.

128,000 - more than one in six - don't even get a single C grade at GCSE.

But most shocking of all are the figures which underline how the gap between the performance of those who do well, and those who are left behind, is growing wider.

In 2006, the number of pupils in the 10% most deprived areas gaining 5A*-C at GCSE including English and Maths - the basic measurement of school achievement - was just 29.2%. By contrast, in the 10% of least deprived areas 57.6% of pupils secured five good GCSE passes - an attainment gap of 28.4 percentage points.[1]

In 2007, however, pupils in the 10% most deprived areas actually fell back - with just 25.3% gaining five good GCSEs including English and maths. In the 10% of least deprived areas students pulled away - with 68.4% gaining five good GCSEs including English and maths.[2] The gap between the poorest and the richest actually widened in the last year from 28.4% to 43.1%.

These figures are disturbing in themselves and the more closely one examines the effect of the education system on achievement the more one sees the same pattern of diverging outcomes - with the poorest consistently falling further and further behind.

Eligibility for free school meals is not an infallible measure of a student's economic need - but it is clear evidence of disadvantage.

If we track the progress of pupils eligible for free school meals over the past five years, and comparing their progress with pupils not in receipt of free school meals, we can see the gap between their achievement widening as both sets of pupils go through the school system.

In 2002, at Key Stage 2, when they were aged 11, the gap between FSM pupils and non-FSM pupils reaching level 4 was 26 points for English, 16 points for maths and 10 points for science.[3]

In 2005, for the same pupils at Key Stage 3, when they were aged 14, this gap (for those reaching level 5) had grown to 27 points for English, 27 points for maths and 30 points for science.[4]

And in 2007, by the time pupils came to take GCSEs, 21.1% of FSM pupils gained five good GCSEs including English and maths, compared to 49% of non-FSM pupils- a gap of nearly 28%[5] School does not close the gap, it merely exacerbates the trend.

Even though this gap has widened as pupils have progressed through school, one might expect that some progress might have been made from pupils who were 11 five years ago to 11 year olds today. But again this has not been the case.

The gap between the performance of free school meals pupils and non-free school meals pupils leaving primary school has widened particularly in maths and science in the past five years. In 2002, the gap was 10 percentage points; it now stands at 15. And the gap has widened to 20 percentage points in maths - up from 16 points in 2002.[6]

This growing divergence between the educational achievements of the poorest and wealthier children is a standing rebuke to the Government's record over the last ten years.

But what makes this failure particularly tragic is the increasing divergence between the burgeoning economic opportunities open to those with good qualifications and the very limited opportunities open to those with few, or poor, qualifications.

THE COST OF FAILURE

Since the early nineteen seventies the gap between the economic return earned by those with high levels of skills and the wages secured by those with lower levels of educational achievement has been diverging - and it continues to diverge.

This change - a social evolution which has made educational achievement more important than ever - has been driven by the development of modern economies.

The decline of traditional manufacturing industries in the most advanced economies, the refinement of production methods, the shift towards services and the drive to add value through ever more sophisticated ways of working has had profound consequences.

In the UK there are fewer jobs in manual labour, fewer for those with no or low skills, and few avenues to prosperity for those with little by way of qualifications. Working on estimates set out in Lord Leitch's report on skills the Government has predicted there will only be around 600,000 jobs for manual workers in 2020 - in contrast to the millions employed in manual labour in the seventies.

I am personally very wary of attempting to predict with any sort of precision the likely demand for a specific type of labour in an open economy so far in advance. But it's specifically because we are an open economy - and because the world is changing so rapidly - that the opportunities for individuals in this country with low levels of educational attainment will be so bleak in the future.

Jobs which require few skills will increasingly disappear from our shores, and the growth-generating industries of the future will increasingly depend on high levels of intellectual attainment on the part of every member of the workforce.

The opportunities for those who have enjoyed great educations and possess strong qualifications will be huge. We know particularly that individuals with a rigorous maths or science education can generate huge rewards for themselves and the organisations they're working with.

That's why it's so particularly regrettable that access to the very best scientific education is, again, overwhelmingly concentrated among those who're already better off.

Across large parts of the country state school pupils, in our poorest areas, are simply denied the opportunity to take GCSEs in physics, chemistry or biology.

In the whole of Islington in the school year of 2006-7 not a single child took a GCSE in one of those sciences.

Studying physics, chemistry and biology as individual subjects at GCSE gives students the best possible chance of securing the best places at university to study science, engineering medicine or vet medicine. But for many children today in our poorest boroughs that opportunity simply doesn't exist.

And that means the dynamic towards yet greater inequality is accelerated.

Children from poorer backgrounds, who are currently doing less well at school, are falling further and further behind in the qualifications race every year - and that in turn means that they are effectively condemned to ever poorer employment prospects, narrower social and cultural horizons, less by way of resources to invest in their own children - and thus a cycle of disadvantage and inequality is made worse with every year that passes.

I regard this dynamic as chronically, profoundly, wastefully wrong.

It's wrong - to me - on moral grounds because I think the only sustainable ethical foundation for society is a belief in the innate worth and dignity of every individual. Accepting that the opportunities of some children are narrowing because of the economic circumstances of their birth is plain immoral.

It's wrong - to me - on economic grounds because it is self-defeatingly wasteful to see talent and potential checked and squandered in this way. At a time when the world is generating growth and stimulating progress by harnessing brainpower we cannot afford to let our stocks of intellectual capital run down.

We will only generate the maximum level of prosperity if we ensure that every individual is not just allowed - but expected and challenged - to achieve their full potential. A situation where being born into disadvantage means that talent and potential is crabbed and confined is manifestly foolish.

And this dynamic - of greater inequality ahead - is unacceptable to me on social grounds too. The wider spread of knowledge and the accumulation of greater learning across society doesn't just benefit those who acquire more skills and qualifications themselves - it also creates new opportunities and the potential for more fruitful collaboration across society. The richer our collective intellectual life the more chance that connections will be made, knowledge will pooled, insights shared, breakthroughs stimulated, innovations encouraged and progress, generally, advanced. I regard action to make our society richer intellectually as both a central aim of government and a pre-eminent social good.

But if we are to realise that goal then we need to ask why so many are being failed so badly at the moment - where is our educational system failing? And why?

THE AREAS OF FAILURE

The areas of greatest failure in our educational system can be clearly identified. There are more than 630 schools across England which can't even generate five decent GCSE passes for 30% of their students.

The Government has defined these as the schools where special attention needs to be focussed. And they're right. It's simply appalling that you can educate children for eleven years, with the state devoting more than five thousand pounds every year to every child and then have schools where more than two thirds of children cannot even secure a basic portfolio of qualifications where the pass mark, for example in GCSE Maths, is just 20%.

Indeed beyond these 600 schools there are more than 1,500 schools, teaching over 1.75 million pupils, which fail to generate five decent passes for 50% of their students.

In these schools more than half the pupils fail to get the minimum acceptable standard - the effective school leaving certificate. By definition these are schools where under-performance is the norm - the majority of students aren't achieving as they should - success is the exception not the rule.

And what is both unsurprising and yet also deeply depressing is that so many of these schools should be concentrated in areas of real material deprivation. The poorest are being failed by schools which have been allowed to make failure their defining feature.

And who has presided over this failure - who should take responsibility for this record of underachievement and deepening inequality? The buck has to stop with the local authorities in whose areas failure has been concentrated.

In Manchester where there are just over thirty comprehensive secondary schools, 13 schools have below 30% of their pupils getting five good GCSEs and 18 have below 50% getting five good GCSEs.

In Sunderland, where there are twenty secondary schools, 6 schools get below 30% and 12 below 50%

In Knowsley where there are ten secondary schools, 5 schools get below 30% and all 10 below 50%.

All of these local authorities - run by Labour as it happens - and in most cases run for a generation by Labour - have condemned successive intakes to lives less fortune, opportunities less rich, horizons less broad.

We need to find a better way so that the talented teachers in these areas can flourish and the parents who want support get it.

Faced with educational failure of this sort in the past some have, understandably, tried to find escape routes.

They have opted for what you might call the Oliver Twist solution. They have sought out those children who appear to have the most promise or potential and offered them a way out from a tough situation. Just as Oliver was scooped out of trouble by the kindly Mr Brownlow so the state, or individual philanthropists or some other source of charity, is invited to pluck the most deserving children out of failing schools and transport them to successful ones.

The impulse behind this kind of initiative is laudable. Anything which extends opportunity, which gives one child a chance they might not otherwise have enjoyed, is worth celebrating.

But for every Oliver your rescue there's an Artful Dodger and a group of other neglected children left behind. Providing a route out of failing establishment for individuals helps them - and that is great - but it leaves the establishment in which the others remain to fail again and again.

HOW TO TURN FAILURE ROUND

If we are to put in place a long-term answer to educational failure, if we are to provide opportunity for all, and not just for a few, if we are to close the immoral achievement gap between the fortunate and the forgotten we need to go much further. We need to ensure that our policies don't just airlift out a few - but transform the environment on the ground - so that you don't need to escape your community to find yourself in a good school.

And it can be done. We have seen in the last fifteen years how schools which parents would have done anything to help their children escape from have become schools which parents fight to get their children into. We have seen how schools which were in the bottom ten per cent of achievement have soared into the top ten. And, crucially, these are schools where the one thing which hasn't really changed is the nature of the intake.

The success of the schools I'm going to point to proves that deprivation needn't be destiny. They operate in areas of disadvantage, they have intakes which are truly comprehensive, drawing in a broad range of abilities from a diverse range of backgrounds. Most of them fully reflect the complexities, challenges, and rich potential of multi-ethnic Britain.

And all of them succeed because of two things - the fusion of two factors.

They have an ethos, a culture, which is, in the best sense of the word, conservative.

And they have been able to make the changes to embed that culture and give effect to that ethos because of structural factors which are truly liberal.

The schools I'm talking about are schools such as Mossbourne Community Academy in Hackney, the Harris Academies in South London, Haberdasher's Aske's Hatcham in Lewisham and the United Learning Trust's Academies.

There are schools which were once doing appallingly - where fewer than 10% of pupils were getting five good GCSEs - and which are now improving rapidly…

There are schools which have hugely challenging intakes and are coming top in the value added key stage three results…

There are schools which were once in desperate straits now generating performances where more than 80% of pupils get five good GCSEs…

And there are schools in the middle of local authority areas where aspirations have been low for generations which now ensure that university entry is the norm for school-leavers.

One of the factors which helps these schools succeed is that they are run along principles which most of us would recognise as conservative or traditional.

They have strict uniform and behaviour policies with respect for authority embedded in their culture.

They set by ability from an early stage and do not have mixed-ability teaching for academic subjects.

They believe that an academic curriculum - built around traditional subjects - can be accessible to a wide range of pupils if they are well taught and challenged to succeed.

There are high expectations for every pupil and while teaching is tailored to ability no excuses are made for those who won't try or want to opt out of achieving

Purposeful activity isn't restricted to the normal school day. Teaching and learning goes on further than in many schools - with breakfast clubs, after-school homework clubs, Saturday morning schools and rich extra-curricular activity.

Cultural horizons are broad and every child is introduced to excellence - whether it's through participation in drama, classical music, competitive sport or other activities.

Teachers are respected - their professionalism is reflected in every aspect of the school's life - and they introduce children to the best of what has been thought and written with an enthusiasm for their subject and for knowledge which is inspirational.

These characteristics are, I would argue conservative, but they're much more than that. They are tried and tested, successful, enriching for all. They are the qualities which mark out the sort of school the rich pay to get their children into - and they are the characteristics of the sort of education which generates the richest range of opportunities for the poorest.

But whether or not you call these characteristics conservative - what allows these schools to operate in the way they do are structures which are truly liberal.

These academies, and the city technology colleges which came before them and on which they were modelled, were designed to be free.

Free to choose and shape their own curriculum.

Free to hire and reward their own staff in their own way.

Free to co-operate and collaborate with who they wanted, in the private and public sector, in the way they wanted.

Free to exclude disruptive pupils and set their own discipline policies.

Free, above all, from local authority control.

Talking to the headteachers who have presided over such dramatic improvements and such superb results in these schools and one thing resonates as they explain their success.

They were able to transform their schools because they were liberated from the bureaucracy. And the bureaucracy from which they were liberated was - in Lewisham, or in Hackney, or in Manchester - the Labour-run bureaucracy which had presided over, tolerated, entrenched failure for years.

The liberation of these schools from local authority control - the freedom that gave their leaders to entrench a new ethos of excellence - has helped liberate some of our poorest children from a cycle of failure and freed them to win the sorts of qualifications and enjoy the kind of opportunity denied to so many.

And these schools - once they have shown what can be done outside local authority control - have shown they can secure improvements not just for their own students but for the whole community. In Hackney the presence of a brilliant school such as Mossbourne and other academies has provided much needed competition to what was previously a monopoly supplier of education. From having been one of the weakest of London boroughs in terms of educational performance Hackney has become one of the best - because new entrants have created competitive pressures - given parents real choice - and forced the existing providers to raise their game.

NEW SCHOOLS DRIVING PROGRESS

It's because I believe that we should use every lever at our disposal to raise educational standards that I'm so determined to encourage more new entrants into the state-funded education system.

When David Cameron launched our Opportunity Agenda at last year's Conservative Party Conference his aim was to see the same virtuous dynamic in education that we've seen in Hackney - and we've been inspired by in Sweden - entrenched across the country.

That's why we've published a green paper outlining, among other reforms, how we can lower the barriers to more new schools being created. As a matter of principle we should want more diversity and choice for parents within the state system.

And as a matter of proven fact that choice can help raise standards by generating innovation and allowing competitive pressures to stimulate improvements all round.

The dynamic we would create is quite simple.

I think that all parents should be able to choose schools instead of schools choosing parents.

Now, richer parents can either go private or move house in order to get the school they want. Poorer parents can't do either. This means that failing schools with bad management in poorer areas just keep failing - there is no way for parents to do anything about it because their complaints can just be ignored.

We set out three steps which will change all that.

First, we will remove the huge amount of red tape which bureaucrats use to stop people setting up new schools, from planning laws to building regulations. We will change the law so that all sorts of organisations, including those which currently run independent schools, other charities, cooperatives and new education providers can set up new state Academies, independent of political control. These schools will receive the same government funding as other schools in their community for every pupil they teach. All Academies will be free and non-selective.

Second, we will give parents control of the taxpayers money that the government spends on each child - now over £5,000 per pupil. Parents will have the power to take their child out of a school they think is failing, apply to a new Academy, and automatically transfer the taxpayers money being spent on their child from the failing school to the new Academy.

And, thirdly, we will give extra capital funding, on top of the annual per pupil funding, to help fund new Academies in the most deprived areas. This will mean at least 220,000 new good school places under a Conservative government - I stress, this is a minimum number, there is no upper ceiling on how far this dynamic can extend.

What will happen? We expect that the same will happen here as happened in Sweden. Hundreds of new schools have been started. Thousands of children have been saved from failing schools and given a chance in life. In particular, thousands of children from the poorest areas have been able to escape failing state schools. Standards have risen for everyone - the new schools are good but they also force the other schools to improve otherwise they lose their pupils and have to close.

Under our proposals schools would have to work harder to attract the funding some take for granted - because parents would be in control. Schools would be actively seeking out parents and pupils, leafleting their communities with prospectuses showing why they deserved your support.

And because the need to improve standards is most pressing in areas of economic disadvantage we would give parents from poorer backgrounds another additional advantage.

The amount the state would give to fund the education of every child from a disadvantaged background would be specifically increased.

That means schools would work particularly hard to attract children from poorer backgrounds.

And for those people who say that poorer families don't want choice all I can say is - why should the poorest be denied what the rich manifestly enjoy?

Working class parents care just as much about their children's future as anyone. But at the moment the system doesn't respect their voice, or give them a choice. We would change that.

The idea of weighting pupil funding to reflect disadvantage has been championed by various people over the years. One of them - James O'Shaughnessy - made the case so well at Policy Exchange that we persuaded him to come and work for the Conservative party. But I should say that the case for a pupil premium has been made with particular force and fluency over the last year by CentreForum and David Laws - and I believe both deserve huge credit for it.

For new providers the additional resources which come from setting up a school in an area where more pupils come with a premium attached will be a compelling reason to locate in those communities where they are most needed.

And new providers also know that it's in precisely these areas - where the quality of education has been so low for so long - that the greatest demand exists for good new schools.

One of the clearest indicators of dissatisfaction with the quality of education on offer is the number of parents disappointed in their first choice of school.

Earlier this month we discovered that more than 100,000 children - around one in five - had been denied their first choice of school. In some London boroughs such as Lewisham, Southwark and Lambeth almost as many as half of parents were disappointed.

If we look beyond those disappointed to those who take the trouble to appeal - parents strongly motivated to secure their child a better school than the one the bureaucracy allocates - then the figures show that in 2005/6 there were 58,000 parents who failed to get their children into a preferred school on appeal.

And of that 58,000, over half - nearly 32,000 - were in the 25 percent of local authorities with the highest level of deprivation. Once again, opportunity denied to those in greatest need.

In these areas there is clearly a demand for a better level of provision than we currently have. And by both making it easier for new schools to set up, and by giving the poorest a premium payment they can use for their children's education, we can be certain new providers will arrive where they're needed most.

NO ALIBIS FOR FAILURE

But today I want to emphasise that we want to go further.

The Government is currently talking about its plans for the more than 600 schools which have fewer than 30% getting five good GCSE passes. It's set a deadline for improvement four years from now and asked local authorities to take the lead in securing the necessary improvements.

I don't think their approach is anything like good enough.

I don't think it's right to give these schools another four years in which they can fail, and fail another generation of pupils.

And I don't think it's right that local authorities which have, in so many cases, presided over these failures should be regarded as the best agents of reform.

After all, we know that in those schools which have generated real improvements, in areas of deprivation, in short order it's been freedom from bureaucratic local authority control which has been the absolute precondition of making progress.

By 2007, for the 36 academies with underperforming predecessor schools, the proportion of pupils gaining 5 or more GCSE at A*-Cs had almost doubled , from 22% in 2001 to 43.7% in 2007.

For the 20 Academies with results in both 2006 and 2007 the percentage achieving 5+ A*-C increased by 8.1 percentage points which is more than three times the increase of 2.6 percentage points seen nationally in state funded schools.

Schools such as those in the Harris Group of Academies in South London have gone from the bottom ten per cent in performance on value-added league tables to the top - with amazing rapidity.

And in each case it was freedom - over the curriculum, over staffing, and freedom from the local authority which enabled the improvement to be made.

But instead of going in the direction of more freedom for schools - and more diversity and choice for parents - the Government is reversing on reform.

We know that the Government has already restricted the freedom of new academies over the curriculum, over staffing, over control of their buildings and it has given local authorities a key blocking, constricting role.

As the Financial Times reported last week, fully one third of the academies authorised by Gordon Brown have proceeded with local councils as co-sponsors. Academies were supposed to challenge complacent local authorities and provide an alternative to their rule - now this challenge is being co-opted, and neutered.

When I asked the head teacher behind the success of the Harris academies if he thought local authority co-sponsorship would allow academies the freedom required to bring about reform and improvements he was emphatic - allowing local authorities back in was precisely the opposite of what was needed to maintain progress.

Instead of neutering the reform dynamic we should be extending it. Instead of giving failing local authorities the chance to evade real competitive pressures we should sharpen them.

That is why I think we should take those schools in the most difficult circumstances, where the local authority is clearly failing, out of local authority control and hand them over to new management with the freedom to get results.

If a comprehensive has been consistently incapable of getting more than 30% of its pupils to pass five good GCSEs, if it shows no signs of real improvement, if it can't demonstrate that it's adding value and, crucially, if it's been run by the same local authority, with the same party in control for the last ten years, then why should the local authority be allowed to continue failing our children?

As one academy sponsor told the Financial Times last week, when asked if he would welcome local authority co-sponsorship of new academies: "… if you have a failing company, are you going to ask the old management team to take over?"

Why shouldn't we take schools out of the hands of those who've been failing and allow them to be run by those with a proven record of success.

The board of a football team wouldn't let a failing manager run his team into the ground, until there was no-one left in the stands. So why do we let failing local authorities run schools so badly that people go out of their way to avoid them?

We should allow organisations in which every school is successful - like the United Learning Trust, ARK, the Girls Day School Trust, The Mercers Company and the Harris consortium of academies - the chance to compete to take over our most badly failing schools now.

Why not get every one of these schools out of local authority control - into the hands of an outside organisation with a great track record - and give that new organisation the freedoms - over curriculum, over staffing, and freedom from bureaucratic control - which have been the precondition of success elsewhere.

Some of these schools, I know, currently have great heads and good leadership teams struggling to overcome years of underperformance. There should be no barrier to them seeking to take over management themselves. The only barrier should be to the local authority trying to maintain its monopoly.

Give the new teams running these schools a system of per-pupil funding, and a slice of the local authority's budget, to give them the flying start they need - and you give children who're currently being failed a second chance.

My instinct is that we need to spread school freedom much more widely, we need much greater pluralism and diversity in the state system, choice needs to be much more meaningful and these suggestions are only the beginning.

But it's because we need to help the poorest most that the case for reform in these areas is most pressing.

CLOSING THE GAP

Closing the opportunity gap I've described is my central mission in politics. It's at the heart of the task David Cameron has set the next Conservative Government and its driving all our campaigning activity.

Chris Grayling's welfare reforms complement our plans for schools because they also seek to tackle poverty and deprivation by learning from abroad and providing new opportunities for those who've lost out in the last decade.

Andrew Lansley and Maria Miller's recently announced proposals on health visitors and child care seek to extend opportunity to more families by providing the poorest with the sort of support in the months around childbirth which are currently restricted to a few.

And later this week, on Thursday, the Conservative Party will hold an open seminar in which we'll discuss frankly how we can tackle growing inequalities and put fairness at the heart of our politics.

This work is necessary, and urgent, because of the scale of failure this Government has presided over.

Whatever else one expects a Labour Government to deliver social justice and increased opportunities should be at the heart of their programme.

But as I've laid out - inequality is growing and opportunity narrowing for the poorest.

And the individual who cannot escape responsibility for that opportunity block is Gordon Brown. In office, as Chancellor, he allowed factional calculation to over-ride the national interest and he stood in the way of the education reforms Andrew Adonis and Tony Blair wished to introduce.

Now, as Prime Minister, he is stifling the reform dynamic by putting the interests of Labour town hall bureaucrats before genuine freedom for teachers and real choice for parents.

Whether he's acting out of ideological pride, or political weakness, as he stands in the way of reform those losing out most are those who can afford it least.

I see education as an emancipating force - a truly liberal good. I want to give individuals control over their lives and mastery of their own destiny. I want people to be the authors of their own life stories.

Change is increasingly being driven, across the globe, by individuals designing services to fit their needs rather than simply accepting what the centralised machine has dictated should be delivered.

Decentralised decision-making, adaptation to change and a continual process of learning from one another are the characteristics of what David Cameron has called the post-bureaucratic age.

And our education policy is driven by our belief in innovation, in free rather than coercive collaboration in new networks generating improvement and the maximum flexibility.

By contrast the Brown approach is to treat education as a matter for bureaucratic control in which the poorest take what they're given, excellence is rationed by the state and the establishment always knows best.

I want a Britain in which we ensure that the complacent educational establishment recognise failure won't be tolerated anymore.

I want a Britain in which working class children have the same freedoms and opportunities the rich currently take for granted.

I want a Britain in which opportunity is more equal.

And all of that requires a change of Government - so we can give Britain a more truly liberal future…

We can give Britain a more truly liberal future…"

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