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“Billy Elliot” Boys’ Ballet School May Open In London

Aspiring Billy Elliots in London may soon have a school of their own, says the BBC. To be called the “Class Free School,” the school for boys 11 to 16 hopes to open in London in September 2013.

School reform is moving quickly in the UK.  Under proposals from the coalition government, teachers, principals, community groups and parents can apply to open the British equivalent of charter schools: free schools with a distinct mission and approach. People with ideas for new schools are invited to apply, and the Class Free School for Billy Elliot wannabes is one of the applications in contention.

The Class application is led by Tim Stirrup, a former inner London maths teacher, whose interest in dance education stems from the experiences of his son, now a pupil at a vocational boarding school for young dancers.

This may or may not be a good idea; Via Meadia is not in close touch with the 11-16 male dancing demographic and we have no idea what kind of school suits them best.  But this kind of creativity and innovation is what we need more of on this side of the water.  We hope the day is not too far off when American education escapes from the big box, one size fits all model that dominated most public educational systems in the 20th century.

When parents are free to choose the right school for their kids, and teachers are free to organize schools and teaching programs that can compete to attract parents and students, we will be well on the way to the kind of education reforms we so desperately need.

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  • Paul Graham

    “…this kind of creativity and innovation is what we need more of on this side of the water.”

    It is certainly an interesting and exciting time to be involved in education policy in the UK. Setting aside reasonable concerns about babies and bath water, the vibrancy and inclusiveness of debate about education in the UK is very strong at the moment – and has benefited from a broad cross-party consensus since the Blair government’s reforms in the early 2000s.

    I would note two points:

    Firstly, the idea for “Free Schools” was in no small part inspired by the Charter School system in the US.

    Secondly, there is an irony in the UK system that before reformers could give power back to teachers and parents to run their schools independently, the central government first had to grab-back control of the schools system from local administrators. How the entrenched and stultifying interests of school boards and unions could be broken in the US system is an interesting question.

  • Lorenz Gude

    One is reminded of “Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself. Examples in education would be teachers who work and sacrifice to teach children, vs. union representative who work to protect any teacher including the most incompetent. The Iron Law states that in all cases, the second type of person will always gain control of the organization, and will always write the rules under which the organization functions.”

  • Andrew Allison

    “When parents are free to choose the right school for their kids, . . .” But there’s the rub. Parents are probably only marginally better at picking “the right” school for their kids than teachers. How about: “parents should have the right to choose the school to which they send their kids”?

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