Despite all the lip service paid to education during this election campaign, there are two important school policies that none of the main parties have wanted to tackle openly.
Let’s start with Building Schools for the Future (BSF), the secondary schools rebuilding programme that the government launched with much fanfare in 2004. ’Twas a noble aim, to rebuild or refurbish all English secondary schools, but the job has been handled by a quango called Partnerships for Schools (PfS). It’s poorly structured and wasteful, with grand aims that are likely to disappoint.
I know this because last year I researched and wrote a comprehensive report about BSF for the think tank Policy Exchange, interviewing around 50 of the major players. A number of them made serious allegations about the culture within PfS, in particular the quango’s attitude towards local authorities. Yet the programme spluttered on regardless, and remains a jewel in Labour’s crown, much mentioned in its manifesto.
Yet the Conservative and Liberal Democrat manifestos don’t mention it once either. Why have both of them have been so unforthcoming about its fate? After all, schools are expecting the money, and many local authorities have given up repairing school buildings while they wait for it, meaning that pupils are learning in very poor conditions. Whatever I think about the programme–and I think it spends too much time rehearsing grand ideas, and not enough concentrating on building decent schools–voters (and schools) should be told what’s going to happen here.