Writing exclusively for the JC, Prime Minister David Cameron has said Jewish free schools can be a leading part of the "biggest shake-up of education in this country in a generation":
Like many Jewish Chronicle readers I’ve seen my children go back to school this week. And when I drop them at the school gates what I want for them is simple: to go in and learn from enthusiastic teachers, teaching interesting subjects, in an atmosphere of respect for the grown-ups, in a place where learning is inspiring.
I want them to come home talking about the science or history they’ve been taught that day, excited about how they’re getting on. This is what all of us want – because a good education is critical to our children’s chances in life.
And this week something big is happening in education around the country– a new set of schools are opening their doors. These aren’t ordinary schools – they’re Free Schools, set up by individuals with a passion for education.
Let’s be clear what these schools are. There are no fees. They are not private schools. They are independent schools within the state sector – free for the children who go there. And this Government is the first in British history to let this happen.
People in the Jewish community in Leeds are opening the city’s new Leeds Jewish Free School, Meanwhile, parents in Barnet have set up the Alma Primary.
We also call them Free Schools because those who run them are free to innovate – free to do what they think is best for the education of their students. Take the new Mosaic Jewish Primary School in Wandsworth, which is going to run a comprehensive Jewish Studies programme alongside the National Curriculum.
It’s so different to how it used to be. In the old days, all state schools were precisely that – run by the state with rules set from upon high. Free schools put teachers in the driving seat instead.
We’re not doing this for the sake of it. For too long under Labour, we had an education system that failed our children. There was a curriculum that was far too soft. Discipline that was far too weak. An attitude in many schools that second best was good enough.
Countless young people were left with barely any qualifications and even less confidence. We came in with a burning desire to change things around, and we are.
Free schools work– 75 per cent of those set up so far have been rated as ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ after inspections. The objective is very simple: more good, local school places.
Taken together with our toughening up of the curriculum for schools run by local authorities, overhaul of exams and drive to recruit excellent new teachers, they amount to the biggest shake-up of education in this country in a generation.
I don’t want a decent education to be the preserve of the better off, I want it to be something that is a reality for everyone.
I went to a great school, and so should everyone. Free schools are a critical part of this mission – helping all our children learn and get on in life. Nothing could be more important than that.