It may seem strange for me to start a blog post with praise for the Prime Minister but the strength of Cameron is that he has successfully managed to hide the traditional right-looking ugly face of the tory party and shake its 'Nasty Party' image. His weakness however is that you do not have to dig too deep to uncover that both he and his party are driven by a sense of superiority and ownership of government, rather than a sense of equality and stewardship.
The Prime Minister has shown the true image of himself and his party on a few notable occasions. Early on and when pressed on detail at PMQs he resorted to angry personal attacks, he has subsequently tried to hide his 'Flashman' school bully side. Another not very well hidden aspect of his character is his sexism. I have not forgotten his disdainfully sexist tone in the calm down dear episode. He was arguably worse in the way he spoke to his own MP, Nadine Dorries, when she tried to raise her well-publicised abortion amendment. Sexism combined with ineptitude; he joked that she was 'clearly frustrated' and then laughed at his own joke as he refused to answer her question. In his return to blogging Malcolm Clarke wrote quite correctly that on this occasion Hansard will not tell the full story.
The most worrying aspect of Cameron’s character, for me at least, is his and his government’s attitude towards Education. They have taken the academies agenda which was a policy designed to give fresh starts to struggling schools and are using it as a means to take even small schools out of local authority control. Academies have been criticised and I do think that local authorities are sometimes better placed to make decisions than individual schools in that they have an overview of primary, secondary and further education in a region. The Tories have kept the academy system but they seem to be intent on making primary schools academies. There are 239 nursery and primary schools1 in County Durham. I do not believe that having this many autonomous schools acting independently of each other would increase the standard of education in the county.
The Tories have added publically funded 'free' schools to the mix which are an unknown quantity. With management being able to do what they want, pay what they want and not follow nationally agreed pay structures you can see why teachers and their Unions are worried. What is most revealing however is Cameron’s elitist attitude: He opened a free school in Norwich at the end of last week and in his speech talked about an intolerance of failure and reinstating discipline, typical, meaningless sound bites from the tory leader but he also added this...
"If you can get 70% of children to get five good GCSEs, including English and Maths, in parts of inner London, you should be asking why aren't we doing that everywhere in parts of the country that are wealthier like Oxfordshire where I represent."
He really thinks that 'wealthier' kids in Oxfordshire should do better than kids in inner London. I am aware that economic background is still the best indicator of examination performance but I was not aware that kids in inner London were automatically less able than kids in Oxfordshire.
Education is the driving force of social change and has the potential to vastly increase social mobility. Good, inclusive, comprehensive education can achieve this lofty ambition. Free schools will not, perhaps because they were never intended to.
1. Thanks to @LynneyJC for the info