The Apollo Project
Liberal Ideas for the 21st Century
Monday, August 08, 2005
Muscular Liberalism and the playing fields of England
by Peter

The Apollo Project is not made up of a singleminded group of like-thinking Liberals, doing nothing but exchange views on SVT and STV, on flat taxes and proportional reporesentation. In between such exchanges you'll find us talking of rugby, cricket and rowing, and even the (elusive) pleasures of long-distance running and football.

Nor does our commitment to finding Liberal ideas for the twenty-first century preclude us looking into the past. Some problems have been around for a long time. The old solutions may not always contine to work - but they're worth considering.

Take schools, for example. Failing schools have been around for a long time. One or two of us - you can call us Muscular Liberals - take an interest in the way a failing Midlands comprehensive (admittedly, fee-paying) was turned around two hundred years ago. A new headmaster introduced uniforms, a house system, modern language teaching, and put greater emphasis on games. His name? Thomas Arnold.

For the Muscular Liberals among us, the last few weeks have seen both good and bad news. The bad news came from the National Playing Fields Association, which told the world that the loss of playing fields is far higher than anyone had expected. 34,000 sports pitches have gone over the last thirteen years. This is what they said:

"Since 1992, when the figures were collected, we have had five years of Conservative government, and eight years of Labour,” said Mrs Moore-Gwyn. “Mr Caborn says he is beginning to turn the tide, and we welcome that. But the tide he is trying to turn has been running far more strongly for the last thirteen years than anyone in government has appreciated. It has devastated our stock of playing fields.”

The Government has estimated previously that 40 sites a month were being lost under the Conservatives – a total of 2,400 sites over their five years in power. That means that according to Mr Caborn’s figures, 2,540 sites have gone while Labour has been in control.

“This is the first time that the Government has released figures like this, and it shows how urgently we need to have regular, reliable, and transparent statistics about the loss of playing fields. Mr Caborn will continue to have our support in anything he does to try to reverse this trend – but neither Labour nor the Conservatives have anything in their record to be proud of so far. In 13 years, this country appears to have squandered nearly half of our children’s inheritance.”


More on this here.

One point of interest is that, in order to tease out these figures, the NPFA had to break through the coded language of New Labour spin. More power to the NPFA, say the Muscular Liberals in our midst. Selling off the occasional playing field may be prudent financial management. Selling off half of them looks rather like selling off the family silver.

The good news came from Edward Davey, by all accounts a Muscular Liberal from the Rowlingite wing. This is what the Guardian said:

Edward Davey, the Liberal Democrat education spokesman, has jumped on JK Rowling's coat-tails. "With the fierce debate about discipline in Britain's schools," he says "perhaps the most important lesson from Hogwarts is its traditional house system, where the students mix with different age groups, gain a sense of community and benefit from old-fashioned pastoral care."

Edward's copy of Tom Brown's Schooldays is in the post, but this is a promising start from the new Education Spokesman.
posted by Apollo Project @ 9:47 am  
1 Comments:
  • At 14 September, 2005 19:54, Blogger peter said…

    Edward Davey, the Liberal Democrat education spokesman, has jumped on JK Rowling's coat-tails. "With the fierce debate about discipline in Britain's schools," he says "perhaps the most important lesson from Hogwarts is its traditional house system, where the students mix with different age groups, gain a sense of community and benefit from old-fashioned pastoral care."

    There's a Manchester phrase for this sort of stuff: bobbins.

     
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"What is Liberalism?: I should say it means the acknowledgment in practical life of the truth that men are best governed who govern themselves; that the general sense of mankind, if left alone, will make for righteousness; that artificial privileges and restraints upon freedom, so far as they are not required in the interests of the community, are hurtful; and that the laws, while, of course, they cannot equalise conditions, can at least avoid aggravating inequalities, and ought to have for their object the securing to every man the best chance he can have of a good and useful life." C-B.

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