Francis Beckett

Yesterday I saw the shiny new privatised schools which politicians of both main parties envisage for the next generation, and I wondered why we hate our children so much.

First I went to hear Tory education spokesman Michael Gove and his New Schools Network. Gove explained how wonderful the KIP – Knowledge Is Power – schools are in the USA, and how, if only we can get rid of the dead hand of local authorities, we can have private education providers doing the same terrific things here. You can tell how good KIP is, he told us, from the hours children work in their schools. It’s 7.30 in the morning until five at night, Monday to Friday, and four hours on Saturday. There’s strict discipline, teachers are on call 24/7 and all pupils have all teachers’ mobile numbers. Children must wear uniforms, and the uniform code is strict. (Neo-liberals are terribly keen on forcing children into uniforms.)

Then I trotted along to the Anti-Academies Alliance meeting in the House of Commons, where I heard what privatised education means here. Mossbourne Academy, whose head Sir Michael Wilshaw is the hero of all privatised schooling advocates, is already well down this road. There’s a “no hugging” rule – you never know what it leads to – and uniform discipline is so strict that a child who had hurt her foot was not allowed into the school playground because she was not wearing the correct shoes.

But – I hear you cry – it works. Mossbourne gets wonderful results, and its predecessor school got bad result. No: the predecessor schools closed four years before Mossbourne opened, and the intakes of the two aren’t the same. Mossbourne is only the successor in the sense that if I take my car from a car park, and you put your car in the same space a few hours later, your car is the successor of my car.

Part of the agenda of privatised schooling is a miserable, gradgrind regime for our children, designed to ensure they are turned into well-trained and well-disciplined worker-bees. Education is being taken back to the 1950s at breakneck speed. And no senior politician seems to be interested in any other agenda.