Mr. Heffer finally says something I agree with wholeheartedly.
Nor can the Tories brook the dirty word "vouchers", even though that is what the system cries out for. Their policy should be simple. Abolish local education authorities and charitable status, zero-rate all schools for VAT by law, and then hand out a voucher that would not only be a small compensation to fee-paying parents for the loss of charitable status, but would reward them for taking such a burden off the state.
Under such a plan, the state system as we know it would vanish. All schools would be independent, freed of LEAs. The voucher could be used in all of them, whether formerly state or formerly independent.
If you really want to break down the barriers between the two systems, want to drive bad schools out of business, raise standards in the rest, take the politics out of education and give everyone a crack at "elitism", that is the way forward. It would allow choice for parents, and choice for schools too: they could select by whatever means they wanted, or not at all.
Some schools would be more expensive, just as some shops are. Why should the market, which can do so much to improve education, be kept out of it? And why should the Tories be so embarrassed and fearful?
With the sole excecption of the ability to top up the voucher that is indeed roughly what happens in such disgustingly inegalitarian places like Sweden, Denmark and Holland. Finland, usually appearing as the top school system globally when such things are measured, also has a variation. So why are people so opposed to it?
Why is it that people cannot understand the most basic truth, that some things are simply too important to exclude them from the market?