Opening up provision of state-funded education to a range of providers has been a hugely controversial step.
It’s not a new issue. Concerns which have been raised about the current government’s free schools programme were also raised when the previous government promoted academies and trust schools.
Education could be handed over to businesses concerned only with making a profit, or religious groups keen to force their beliefs on the nation’s youth, the argument went.
But the hope of reformers who opened up the nation’s education system was that organisations would emerge that could run a school as successfully, and with as much genuine commitment to excellence, as any local council.
The University of Birmingham’s exciting plans to launch a 700-pupil school are exactly the type of thing they had in mind. This is an example of education reform going right, and should be welcomed as a major boost of the city’s education system and the prospect of its young people.
As we report, despite being non-selective, and non fee-paying, the school will aim to get children into university – and one of the top universities in the country at that.
Youngsters will be encouraged to consider the University of Birmingham, but if that doesn’t suit then they will be steered towards other universities in the Russell Group, which includes 20 leading universities across the country.
The location of the school is being kept under wraps but the university says it is committed to reaching out to children from a range of backgrounds and incomes.
In other words, the University of Birmingham School and Sixth Form will serve children who may not all be among the most privileged in the city, and won’t necessarily have been academic stars at junior school.