There is no marketplace in British education

Philip Booth in the Catholic Herald on Archbishop Nichols' lecture on education

The Church should not be afraid of a true ‘Educational Market Place’

Archbishop Vincent Nichols' lecture on education last week is certainly to be welcomed. It points to a number of disturbing features of education in Britain which we would like to see reversed.

However, it is wrong for the Archbishop to argue, as he did, that these are the trends of an ‘educational marketplace’. Specifically, he said: ‘once this [approach to education] really takes hold, then education has truly entered the marketplace and its entire ecological system is threatened with pollution…In effect what is happening is that the patterns of the market are flooding over all aspects of life and we are finding ourselves considered as nothing more than consumers and suppliers’.

Yet there is no real concept of a market in the British education system. There was something a little closer to a market (especially in Scotland) until 1976 when direct grant schools were abolished and those schools I suspect, were much less utilitarian than today’s state controlled schools operating completely outside the market economy.

There is currently much discussion about how schools should be funded and an imprecise use of terms in other contexts could potentially cloud that debate. One aspect of that debate is whether schools could be much freer from state control yet still be state funded and possibly be profit