Freedom and responsibility

If you subscribe to the principle that freedom for individuals and institutions and the devolution of power means that better and more appropriate decisions are made, then why should that principle not hold true for schools?

On 22 September 2012, David Laws, in his first speech to the Liberal Democrat Conference as Education Minister, said: “Greater autonomy is a characteristic of high performing school systems”.

He made it clear that he had confidence in schools – in headteachers, teachers and governors – to do the right thing for their pupils.

He said that every school can, and must, be a good school but that this cannot be achieved by trying to run all schools from Westminster. It requires a partnership with headteachers, teachers and governors; proper funding and innovation in the system; and devolving power and letting go.

He said that he does not wish to micro-manage 25,000 schools from Whitehall, as that “would undermine innovation and undermine informed decisions of heads and teachers”.

However Mr Laws stressed that with freedom there needs to be accountability and described it as ‘freedom to do’ not just ‘freedom from’.

He said he did not want to be heavy handed with schools, but that they had to deliver. Schools spend tax-payers money and are the guardians’ of our children’s education, therefore they should be held to account, and must be able to demonstrate that they are spending our money effectively, improving standards and opportunities for children.

Schools, who say they are keen to be in charge of their own destiny, must accept that with autonomy comes responsibility, and politicians, if they mean what they say about freedom and innovation, must learn to let go.

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