Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Across the Pond, Parents Take Charge of Kids' Schooling

Part of the fun of interacting with our friends across the pond in Britain is finding the small differences in their use of the English language and ours. For example, our “garbage” is their “rubbish,” and their “jam sandwich” is our “police car (seriously!),” among other gems you can read about here and here.

But did you also know that our “charter schools” are their…“free schools”?

While they don’t have the same process of opening charters as we have here, many of the basics are the same: parents desperate for choices or who yearn for options with specialized learning structures can create their own schools, hence the “free” in their name (which refers to their freedom to specialize). They do it all themselves—securing the building, funding, enrolling children, etc.—and do so at a fraction of the amount it would cost the state to open a new facility, according to Toby Young, an English parent and free school founder. Says Young:
“If [the state] wanted to create a new school, they would do it themselves, and it would cost between 27 and 30 million pounds on average to set up a new secondary school. It will cost between one third and one half of that to set up our school.”
Young’s school is set to open this September, and there are already more interested parents than spaces available. Young and other parents preparing to open schools have taken advantage of the “New Schools Network,” which provides guidance and assistance throughout the process of getting a school up and running. The German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (the equivalent of our Voice of America) recently aired a segment on the proliferation of free schools in Britain:

We’ll see in the coming months whether these schools succeed at giving kids a better education than their alternative, but we appreciate the fact that British parents are willing to go a different route when it comes to schools for their children. Education reform movements cannot be afraid to try new methods in places where the status quo is not working. And, make no mistake—some of those methods might not work, and if that’s the case, we should stop using them. But we need to give smart and innovative reforms a try before we demonize them.

Click here to read our post discussing school choice in the international community, as well as how one of our programs is characterized abroad.

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MAG

1 comment:

  1. My colleagues and I are trying to open a school whose description exactly matches that of Toby Young (in the video), and are looking for support. We are trying to locate in northern California. With California's allocations to charter schools so shabby, a voucher program like that of DC would be most welcome.
    We can be reached at www.oneworldschool.us