Frustrated pupils 'bored by their factory schools'

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The Independent Online

Pupils are being turned into "a seething mass of bored, frustrated, alienated children" by today's education system, a leading professor will claim tonight.

James Tooley, a professor of education policy at Newcastle University, will say modern state schools are built on a "factory model" which denies students the chance of an individual education tailored to meet their needs.

"The innovation required to transform education is dismally lacking in current schooling," Professor Tooley will say, as he presents one of a series of lectures on education policy, jointly sponsored by The Independent and the Learning Skills Foundation.

"One of the most startling deficiencies of schooling today is that the majority of it is still carried out with 20 to 30 children of the same age in a classroom with one teacher. It is the factory model that was there when I was a child and my father and grandfather before me."

Professor Tooley advocates the dismantling of the current system and says private providers should be encouraged to set up their own schools. Children should be urged to learn at their own pace through the internet, where they could access curriculum material prepared by academics from elite universities such as Oxford and Cambridge.

The Government, Professor Tooley believes, has over the years "crowded out this sort of entrepreneurial thinking from education".

"It is a truism, but nonetheless again worth repeating, that many children are languishing in schools where education standards are far too low and their educational and life prospects are dramatically hindered as a result," he will claim. The academic says the advantage of a "competitive market" system of education is that it automatically sets up accountability "between sellers and buyers".

He says it is wrong to assume that parents from poor homes will not contribute financially to their child's education – citing examples from Africa, India and China where even the least well-off parents are prepared to pay.

Professor Tooley advocates a state-funded voucher system which would let parents buy a place for their child at a school of their choice.

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