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TOBY YOUNG may have resigned from his grotesquely unsuitable appointment to the board of the new Office for Students regulatory body, but this vile man and his vile ideology remain a threat to the country’s education system.
After days in which he scrambled to delete over 10,000 of his past tweets, failing miserably to destroy the evidence of his bone-headed sexism, class prejudice and contempt for the disabled, he has thrown in the towel.
The sordid episode is another demonstration of government ineptitude, taking place alongside the botched Cabinet reshuffle that saw Tory HQ announce fictional appointments and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt keep his job despite days of briefing to the right-wing press that he was about to be moved — apparently simply because he begged the Prime Minister to let him off the hook over an NHS crisis which is, to be fair, her government’s fault as much as his own.
It may be small comfort to patients waiting for hours in A&E and suffering cancelled operations, and to staff struggling with record vacancies and chronic underfunding, but removing Hunt would not have ended their problems.
That would require the revocation of the Health and Social Care Act, pushing through what Jeremy Corbyn has called the “renationalisation” of the NHS through the removal of predatory profiteering companies from service provision and the forced renegotiation or repudiation of PFI contracts — in short, it requires the election of a Labour government with a radical socialist programme of national renewal.
Similarly, Young is an insufferable bigot; Theresa May’s refusal to demand his removal, padded with irrelevant asides about how unimpressed she was with his record and would expect him to step down if he did it again (not exactly a tough stance on a 10,000th offence) shows at once how unprincipled and how desperate her creaking administration has become.
But Young has not resigned in disgrace, repudiated by government. He has stepped down voluntarily “to get on with the work I have been doing to promote and support the free schools movement.”
Top Tories were effusive in their praise for his record in peddling the free schools project, which is still at the heart of government policy with hundreds more of these unaccountable institutions due to open by 2020.
And as National Education Union joint general secretary Mary Bousted points out, Young keeps his more dangerous role as director of the New Schools Network, a “charity” in receipt of taxpayer funds which champions and assists the creation of more free schools.
In contrast to Tory claims, there is no evidence that free schools improve standards; Ofsted concluded in 2015 that “inspection outcomes are broadly in line with those for all schools.”
What they do do is remove schools from local authority accountability, preventing councils from planning education provision in line with the needs of the area.
They allow enthusiasts to set up new schools in areas where they are not needed, drawing funds away from existing schools in the same area and exacerbating a shortage of places elsewhere.
They employ unqualified teachers at four times the rate of other schools and evidence suggests they take in fewer disadvantaged children than maintained schools, entrenching class divisions.
Young, their most aggressive cheerleader, actually resigned as chief executive of his flagship West London Free School in 2016, admitting that running a school was harder than he’d thought and that perhaps his scathing attacks on the teaching profession had been “arrogant.”
It’s time he — and his Tory cheerleaders — learned the lessons from both his resignations, stopped promoting free schools and started listening to education professionals when formulating education policy.
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