I've always found quite repugnant the fact that French schools are so tightly centrally regulated that at any time on any schoolday officials in the Quai d'Orsay know exactly what is being taught across France. In England, at this time of year, the only certainty was that on a Wednesday afternoon bats and pads, stumps and balls would be roused from the sports store and boys would learn the mysteries of this peculiar English religion. Girls, I suppose, went on Byronic walks with poetically inclined mistresses or some-such. Or played tennis. No doubt these days the vulgar striving for GCSEs has put paid to Wednesday afternoons.
Poor Michael Gove, a deeply sincere man, who, as Simon Jenkins points out this morning is attempting to run some 24,000 schools from his Whitehall desk, is at great risk of introducing not the British values that he genuinely supports but the French tyranny of central control. Localism is no universal panacea, and critics will rightly point to the democratic failures both in Tower Hamlets and Birmingham where incomers have brought all the worst characteristics of their own cultures to befoul local governance. But generally, across most of the country, small, local Boards of Education, the employment of parent governors, and school purse strings held by a truly local authority that can exercise probity and oversee stewardship of public funds must surely be the right way.