NICK WRIGHT in the Morning Star on the Minister of State for Education Michael Goves grand plan for the reduction of our world class system of education.

Breaking up patterns of local authority support for schools, moving huge tranches of secondary, and now primary, schools into "academy" status, a pledge to recalibrate teacher education the better to reinforce his concept of teaching as a "craft" rather than a graduate profession and plans to break up national pay and conditions so as to allow schools to pay teachers at different rates have all been mooted by Gove.
He intends to create new "facts on the ground" - construct a new architecture - and in doing so level many of the existing structures.
His iconoclasm is sweeping in its scope. Perhaps in emulation of the Bolshevik factory workers sent to the steppes to collectivise the feudal farming of tsarist Russia, he has created a corps of capitalist-ethos "commissars" - advocates for academy status - charged not with strengthening collective working but its opposite.
Teachers and school leaders' organisations, broadly speaking, are opposed to the secretary of state's direction.
Interestingly, a powerful current of concern is also emerging among local authority politicians of both government parties.
Given the diminution of local authority responsibilities that has flowed from several decades of bipartisan privatisation and outsourcing, the disposal of council housing stocks and the migration of some powers to the Scottish and Welsh parliaments, education remains one area where local politicians can exercise real power. Gove's agenda threatens to reduce this.
Following Gove's bonfire of the agencies - created by the last government to give national direction to curriculum development, early years intervention and the integration of education and children's services - the new climate is calling into being a new orthodoxy.
Radical policies command new thinking - above all from those whose duty is to oppose.
The parliamentary opposition has so far said little, although shadow education minister Andy Burnham has initiated a policy review and appears to be open to both new ideas and the reworking of some traditional concepts.
What should we expect of the opposition? First it has a constitutional duty to oppose.
But simple opposition to an ideologically driven agenda such as that emerging from the Department for Education and its constellation of right-wing think tanks will not prove effective in narrow parliamentary terms nor will it develop a broad consensus between people and politicians, educationalists and policy-makers.
If a convincing alternative governmental programme for education and children's services is to emerge before the coalition is compelled by the parliamentary timetable to face the electorate - and seek a mandate to continue the changes it has wrought - the opposition needs to ground its policies in a secure theoretical and practical framework.
Gove has borrowed boldly from foreign experience.
He cites both north American and Scandinavian precedents for his new policies. He has drawn on French nomenclature, if not exactly on French experience, in revising the examination system and proposing curriculum change.
In considering alternatives, he has given us permission to take account of the experience of other countries comparable to ours in social structure and cultural development. So where do we look?
According to the Organisation for Economic and Economic Co-operation and Development, the Finnish education system is ranked the best. The Netherlands, Denmark, Australia and New Zealand closely follow.
The Finnish education system starts early with a highly developed network of free voluntary daycare facilities for babies and early years leading to a one-year "pre-school" kindergarten for six-year-olds.
There is a subsidy system of supervised "home care" for parents who want to spend the first three years with the child at home.
Primary and secondary education is firmly comprehensive, set almost completely in the public sector - non-state schools exist but cannot charge fees nor can they select pupils but must accept them on the same basis as neighbouring local authority schools.
There is an emphasis on providing a local school within easy access on foot, by bicycle or, in rural or sparsely populated areas, by bus.
At age 16 the secondary school system divides into academic and vocational sectors although the boundaries are loose enough to allow for a substantial migration.
The curriculum is set at national level but classroom teachers and school leaders have great freedom in its implementation.
The contrasts with the British reality are striking.
There are no league tables and no school inspections. Class sizes are rarely larger than 20. Pupils must learn two foreign languages but on average speak four.
Testing regimes are relaxed and informal. Stronger students are paired with weaker and the best and worst-performing students are taught together.
In earlier years books and materials, school trips and a midday meal are free. There is hardly any homework and the summer break is three months. The school week is the shortest in Europe.
Teachers are well-paid, all hold masters degrees, are drawn from the top 10 per cent of graduates, belong to a single strong union, are highly regarded as professionals and are only loosely appraised.
This is not to argue that Britain should mechanically copy Finland or model its education system on any other country.
It is important to preserve and develop the best features of the English system and draw on the distinctive features of the Scottish and Welsh education traditions.
But the contrasts between outcomes in Britain and in other countries, especially Finland, are so compelling as to command attention.
The discussion in Britain is based on assumptions about "social mobility" in which education is often seen as the key to "escape" from the vocational sphere.
"Failure" in educational terms means consigning students to subordinate positions in a class structure.
The dysfunctional element includes an enormous waste of human potential and the disabling effects of excluding millions from the world of educated rational enquiry, science and technology that the separation of "popular" and "elite" culture entails.
Alastair Campbell's label "bog standard" demonstrated just how the term "comprehensive" has been devalued since the heroic '60s when raising the school leaving age and the partial dismantling of selective education opened new vistas for a whole generation.
A truly comprehensive school cannot exist in a system defined by status, cash and privileged access and in such a system the term is irremediably associated with subaltern status.
The determinations of class and social position are just as powerful in Finland as here.
The difference is that the education system is designed to mitigate them, is effective in doing so and produces a measure of social cohesion unimaginable here.
A recent Sutton Trust report demonstrates just how powerful are the factors that entrench the most dysfunctional features of the British system.
Five elite schools send more students to Oxford and Cambridge than 2,000 comprehensives or sixth-form colleges combined.
The Sutton Trust survey shows that the privileged trinity of Eton, Westminster and St Paul's now account for more than one in 20 students at Oxbridge.
Privileged privately educated students are approaching seven times more likely to get into Oxford and Cambridge as those from comprehensives. They are also twice as likely to be admitted to the 30 best-performing universities.
The facts demonstrate how a system that permits paying for a private education dramatically improves a student's chance of entering an elite university and thus securing a better job, aggregating financial and social capital and conferring these advantages to successive generations.
None of this is new information. The striking factor is how in British political culture and educational theory and practice it is naturalised, taken for granted and accepted as immutable.
Despite its "fairness" rhetoric the government speaks little of this.
The boldness of Gove's project demands an equally clear-sighted response grounded in a clear prospectus.
The most productive basis for reforging that post-war alliance of progressive opinion and trade unions - professional and proletarian, working class and middle class - is around the goal of the "common school."
Such a break with consensus would allow the Labour opposition to transform formal opposition into concrete policies.
In resetting the educational debate around this default position a truly productive programme can emerge in which the fullest individual development of each child's potential is bound up with the interests of society as a whole.
The public discourse around "fairness," to which all parties seemingly subscribe, allows us to pose the issue in ways that make sense to both the millions who do not have privileged access to education and the rather smaller number who do.