Friday, 18 June 2010





No, it is not 1 April, this is not a hoax, neither is it an intellectual game nor a thought experiment. This is for real. 'Free schools' are a central commitment of the the UK's new Coalition Government for educational reform in England (not Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland),

Check for yourself with Reuters and the BBC:


The Government's official announcement of this expected development was made only an hour or so ago.

Details of application will be announced today.

The first Free Schools are expected to open in September 2011.


Start by completing the application form that is to be published on line.

Is there a catch?

At first sight this looks like it could solve at a stroke the problem of establishing free-access Conductive Education. Awkward questions immediately arise.
  • Are the compromises to be made to meet the requirements of Ofsted (the state schools-inspection agency) too great to permit the genuine manifestation of an alternative educational philosophy (the 'conductive essence)?
  • What is a 'conductive school' – are the models so far established robust enough to meet aspirations?
  • What about the rogues and charlatans – and the fools – who might look to exploit this possibility?
  •  Is there energy or talent around in the conductive movement to make the most of this apparent opportunity – and avoid the pitfalls?
Etc., etc., etc?

Negative thinking! The first step will be to consider the form. Watch out for it. Travel hopefully.


More questions. The Government cites Sweden and the United States as its model for this policy.
  • What is the genuine track record of Sweden in respect of conductive schooling – where has this been reported?
  • The one attempt to establish a Charter School, Rising Star's in Ohio, came to naught – what happened?
  • What is the honestly expressed experience of school-based Conductive Education already in England of accommodating to the philosophy of the state's educational system?
  • How are Montessori, Steiner etc. managing – and what are their better organised infrastructures going to do in this new situation?
Such a lot of questions – already!

Parents and professions, and freedom

Michael Gove, Secretary of State has been on the radio, and admitted that this policy initiative is directed primarily towards teachers rather than parents –

We're talking primarily about liberating teachers and other professionals.

And do take note that henceforth in England the term 'free school' will now mean something very different from what it did a generation or so ago (and may continue to do elsewhere). It could even turn out to mean altogether the opposite! It is to early in the game to say yet for certain but perhaps 'freedom' here in reality might not run to alternative educational philosophies, and to the independent pedagogy, goals, curriculum methods etc. that stem from these. What will define the limits of the new freedom?

Asked how the the new system will be policed, Mr Gove replied –

Ofsted. At the moment there are clear measures to ensure that before any new school can be established it has to be inspected by Ofsted, once these schools have been set up they will be rigorously inspected and we know that, if an academy fails, just as Charter Schools have failed in America, that's it, the funding agreement will be terminated, the school will close.

Let's be clear. These are schools of choice. The schools that we are setting up will be schools set up by people who want to enhance what is already there. I am not anticipating failure, I am anticipating success, but we will be rigorous in ensuring tat those who do go down this road will be equipped for success. But if things go wrong, if there's any degree of failure, schools will close

'Free' may prove no licence for liberty!

Another source of questions for the future conductive movement...


  1. ** Toby Young's battle to set up a new school **
    Journalist Toby Young tries to set up a new school giving access to good education regardless of income...


  2. Andrew, on behalf of Paces, I have been involved in investigating this option as it has developed both before and after the election.

    I understand that applications proposing "groupings of schools" (definition not yet clear) would especially be welcomed.

    If there are conductive education services in the UK interested in either (a) going down the solo-school route, I'd be willing to share our expertise and experience or (b) coming together to consider a joint application, I'd be pleased to hear from them.

    I can be contacted on or 0114 284 4488.