Our education proposals are closely integrated with our proposals for a Basic Income + Flat Tax.


We propose that £3,900 of each child's Basic Income should be earmarked for education costs. Parents would choose where to spend that money. For every place that a school offers at this price, central government would pay to the school an additional £1,800, maintaining the current level of expenditure per child, but putting parents in control of where that money is spent for the first time, and schools in control of how that money is spent.


We would abolish the Local Education Authorities. The savings would be distributed between the schools to cover their additional management and administration costs. Each school would become an independent school, setting its own priorities, and prospering according to the level of demand it attracts.

Ownership and investment

Shares in the newly-independent schools would be offered to all households within the school's catchment area, priced according to an independent valuation of the school divided by the number of households. Any shares not taken up by local households would be sold at auction.

Schools would be subject to normal competition laws. Businesses and other organisations would be free to try to buy existing schools or establish new schools. Schools would be treated as normal businesses. They would be free to make profits and pay dividends. Investment would be attracted to the sector in a way that it would not under proposals (such as those of the Conservatives) that prohibited profit-seeking.

Schools would not be protected by charitable status. However, schools would be allowed on a one-off basis to split their investment assets (other than the school property itself) into a separate charitable entity, which would be allowed to continue to accept bequests and provide funds to that (or any other) school. Schools without investment assets would be entitled to establish such an associated entity for the purpose of fund-raising.

Public schools

Public schools could participate in this arrangement like all the newly-independent state schools.

Schools would be free to offer more expensive places, but for each more expensive place, they would not get the top-up. Public schools would thereby be encouraged to offer as many affordable places as possible. Rather than a few wholly-funded scholars, their bursaries could support many more partially-funded scholars, whose places were charged at the standard rate (£3,900) that ensured to the school an income of £5,700.

Bridging the divide

State schools would be freed from central control and would be able to develop and apply their own ethos and specialities on a more equal footing with public schools. Removing the chasm in freedom and incentives between, on the one hand, public schools and some privileged, independent, state schools, and on the other, the vast majority of centralised, homogenised, depersonalised state schools would be one of the most important elements in reducing the persistent divide in this country between those who can afford private education and those who cannot.

Home schooling and new schools

Parents would be entitled to home-school their children, and to use the education allowance within each child's Basic Income to support them in their efforts. They would not receive the top-up from central government that schools do.

This would make it easier to setup new schools. Parents could progress from home-schooling to cooperative home-schooling, to the formal establishment of a school. The powers of planning authorities to prohibit the use or conversion of buildings for this purpose would be tightly limited.

It would be necessary to prevent the risk that unscrupulous parents might keep their children out of school in order to keep the child's Basic Income, but not provide an adequate standard of education. Children undergoing home education should be tested on an annual basis. If they do not achieve an appropriate standard for their age, the parents will be obliged to place the children in a school.


Headmasters* would have complete discretion (within the constraints of the law) to set and apply the rules of conduct, up to and including exclusion. The Board of Governors would have the sanction of sacking a headmaster about whose disciplinary approach they had concerns. Shareholders (if they agreed) would have the sanction of replacing members of the Board including the headmaster at AGMs or EGMs. Parents would have the sanction of moving their children to another school. Parents of excluded children would have the right to appeal only on the grounds that the exclusion was inconsistent with the headmasters' own rules. This is directly analagous to the relationship between a Managing Director, the Board of Directors, the shareholders and the customers of any company. Whilst a headmaster is responsible for a school, he must have the power to impose his ethos.

There is a risk that headmasters with more disciplinary discretion might be tempted by the soft option of excluding troublesome students too easily. In practice, teachers do not like to admit defeat and rarely take this option lightly, and this professional inclination would be reinforced under these proposals by (a) the immediate loss of the fee and top-up payment, and (b) the risk that repeatedly taking the soft option will lead to dismissal.

Intensive education establishments for unruly children

Intensive education establishments would be funded to take those students who are excluded, and cannot gain admission to another school in the area.

These establishments would be boarding schools, to take troublesome children away (in term-time, and optionally during the holidays for those children that choose) from the chaotic home environments and poor diets that are often the cause of disciplinary and academic problems. They would have a higher ratio of teachers and carers to children than in normal schools.

They would employ former members of the military to impose discipline and to run the activities outside the classroom, and would employ military standards of discipline. This would be good not only for the children, but also for the ex-soldiers, for whom opportunities to apply their skills are often limited when they leave the military. There could be no expulsion, so sanctions as strong as confinement would have to be available.

They would provide activities in which the children could engage at all times of day, lest the devil make work for idle hands, whilst aiming gradually to inculcate the value of self-discipline. For those children who are less academically inclined, they would focus more on basic skills and vocational training.

The cost would be significantly higher than for normal schools. The child's full Basic Income (not just the part earmarked for education costs) would be transferred from parent to school for the periods that the school was in loco parentis, along with the small proportion of each parent's Basic Income that is earmarked for provision for each child. This would provide both parents and child with the incentive to avoid exclusion from mainstream schools if possible. Whatever additional money was required to support these facilities would be funded by central government. The cost per child might be high in the short-run, but the cost to society of allowing yobs to disrupt classrooms and streets is higher.

Rewards for maturity

A child's Basic Income is controlled by their parents (or carers). At some point, control has to pass to the young adult. To provide incentives to study, reward effort, provide disciplinary leverage to parents, and start to learn about financial responsibility, we suggest that small proportions of the child's Basic Income (pocket-money quantities initially) transfer from the parents to the child on achievement of certain educational thresholds. These amounts would be from that part of the child's Basic Income that is not earmarked for education.

Control of the full Basic Income should pass to the child at the earlier of:

  1. achievement of C grades or better at GCSE-level in maths, English and science (or a similar vocational qualification for those pursuing less academic studies), or
  2. the end of the school year in which the child turns 18.

Again, this provides incentive to study, but allows those who want to escape to the real world the opportunity to do so as soon as they are equipped to do so.


Schools should have the freedom to determine their admissions policy and to select their intake accordingly.

However, complete freedom in this regard could result in some children being unable to find a place in any school in their area. As a fallback, parents should have the right to demand that their nearest school admits their child, if their child is initially rejected by all the schools in the area.

Whilst some element of selection is inevitable if schools are to be free to decide their numbers, selection by academic performance (in tests of a limited subset of skills at a given moment in time) is divisive, prejudicial and impractical (if parents of children below a certain standard may be able to demand admission of their child in some circumstances). Schools should be able to cater to a range of abilities.

The benefit to a school of selection by academic ability would anyway be reduced under these proposals, as there would be no reward according to results.

In any case, we propose that children should be tested on admission to schools (at entrance to primary and at transition from primary to secondary level) rather than prior to admission, which would make academic selection impractical. The tests would be part of the initial assessment by a school of a child's needs, carried out to inform initial streaming choices and other tailoring of provision. Testing on entrance rather than departure would remove the pressure on teachers to "teach to the test" and on parents to assist their children in their assessed work or to provide tutors to cram for early-stage exams. Only at GCSE and A-level would children be tested within the framework of their established school and with the aim of assessing their academic capability for the longer-term record.

Secondary schools may provide an aggregated assessment of the average capabilities of children arriving from the various primary schools from which they draw, for the purposes of informing parents' choices of primary schools. And primary schools may provide an aggregated assessment of the average capabilities of an intake, for comparison with the secondary schools' assessments. But the individual assessments would be a matter of record only for the school, the child and its parents.

Standards and regulation

Independent schools dependent for their funds on the custom of local parents will thrive or fall according to their reputation in the local community. Underperforming schools will come under pressure from activitist shareholders. Where shareholders fail to get a grip of a failing school, it may be subject to a takeover by better management, or if the shareholders will not sell, to competition from new schools established to take advantage of the dissatisfaction in the market.

In a diverse and competitive market, some schools will always be doing better than others. Competition does not prevent failure, but it does provide the tools to identify failure and to correct it. This is a more reliable guarantor of quality than regulation. Ofqual would still be required, to monitor and enforce standards at GCSE and A-level, but Ofsted could be abolished.

Religious freedom

Religious schools would enjoy the same freedoms and same funding mechanisms as other schools. They would be free to apply admissions policies and rules of behaviour that were consistent with their beliefs.

To maintain cross-cultural understanding within a framework that allows for independent religious schools, all schools should teach awareness of other moral codes than their own, in Moral Philosophy classes that should replace Religious Education classes to encompass the humanist tradition that (like Christianity) is such an important part of the British tradition. Schools may choose which, but they should teach at least three alternative perspectives, including Christianity and humanism, and at least one other, which will probably be the religion of the school for non-Christian religious schools.


Schools should choose their own curricula within loose constraints that ensure that essential subjects are taught, though not the precise content and manner of teaching those subjects.

Each school's curriculum should include maths, English and Moral Philosophy (i.e. right and wrong) from starting primary school to GCSE level. It should also include a foreign language, either a generic science course or at least two of the individual sciences, and history (to understand where we come from and what it means to be British), at least to the age of 14, when some schools may offer less academic children opportunities for increased vocational training, reducing the academic part of the curriculum to the essential skills of maths, English and Moral Philosophy.


The inflation of grades has reduced the value of qualifications as a means to identify how children are performing and their suitability to one or another course in life. It is essential to restore the gold standard within GCSEs and A-levels, so that a top grade reflects a standard of relative ability that does not vary from one year to the next, however much teaching may have improved (or standards eased). On the other hand, there is a benefit in reflecting good teaching and effort by less able pupils with a grade that they can be proud of.

The A* grade should be offered for both sets of exams, and be awarded only to that proportion of the students that would have been awarded an A grade under the "norm-referenced grading" system that applied to A-levels from 1963 to 1984. A, B and C grades can now encompass such a large proportion of the population and such a wide range of abilities, that B* and C* grades should be introduced to distinguish between the top performers in the B and C grades and the rest. Information should be available publicly about the proportion of students achieving each grade in each year, to assist with comparing results. To some extent, this would retain the confidence-boosting and criterion-referenced benefits of the current system, whilst allowing potential employers and universities to distinguish between students whose results would otherwise be indistinguishable.

Attempts to make exam questions less abstract and more relevant to "the issues" in some subjects have resulted in the subjectification and "simplistification" of some tests, to the point of indoctrination. "The issues" and our understanding of them will change from year to year. Education should equip us with the abstract tools to understand the principles underlying whatever is the latest hot topic. These attempts, and any associated teaching, should be reversed, returning science in particular to the study of fundamental laws. Teaching and testing may refer to real-world applications, but students should be assessed on their understanding of the principles that underlie the example, and not on simply knowing what is the received wisdom on that real-world example.

Vocational qualifications

There is an increasing move to introduce vocational qualifications into the secondary as well as the further education sector. We suppoort this move, and the introduction of schools that will offer this option, such as promoted by the Edge Foundation. The freedom we would grant to schools should allow some existing schools to expand their vocational offerings, and others to be founded specifically for this purpose. This would be at schools' choice, rather than by central government deciding which schools should offer these qualifications, but the likely demand from a significant proportion of children, and the freedom to establish new schools where no existing school wants to adopt the role should see their rapid appearance.

We do not see the need, however, to establish some sort of equivalence scale between vocational diplomas and academic qualifications.

Making the most of school facilities

Schools are some of the most extensive facilities available in a community, but they are badly under-utilised. They are hardly used outside of school hours in term time. With a reduced emphasis on full-time higher education and an increased emphasis on part-time further education, we can get better use out of schools by using them as the locations for evening classes and day-time further-education classes during school holidays. Lessons from specialists could be brought to the community, inviting increased participation at all stages of life and for all backgrounds, rather than being limited to those who can afford to take the time to pursue higher education full-time in the limited number of university towns. It would also serve to provide more employment for teachers in higher education, who are otherwise only partially-employed.


* or headmistresses. The male encompasses the female wherever relevant on this page.

Norm-referenced grading allocated grades according to where a student's score stood in the distribution of all students' scores. The top 10% would get an A grade, the next 15% a B grade, the next 10% a C grade, and so on. The current system (known as "criterion-referenced grading") awards a grade to all students who achieve a certain score, e.g. 80%+ for an A grade, 70-79% for a B grade, 60-69% for a C grade and so on. With exam-simplification accompanying grade-inflation, the number of students achieving A, B or C grades has increased significantly from the days of norm-referenced grading, making it difficult to distinguish between two students of very different capabilities.