"Education, education, education" went the pre-9/11, pre loans for peerages mantra. As Tony Blair's priority for domestic policy, the education system should be the one area where Labour has no excuses. They have had both the time and the money to show us exactly what their "third way" can acheive.
Here in Scotland they have had it even easier. The Scottish education system is widely held (among Scots at least) to be superior to the English. It's broader, and less prescriptive and doesn't suffer from the imposition of a national curriculum.
So Scottish parents should, by now, be pretty impressed by ten years of focus, focus, focus on education, education, education; right? Well, actually, not entirely.
The Scottish Executive today publishes a report into the extent of homeschooling in Scotland. The press release and links to the data are here.
In 2005/06, 580 children were known by local authorities to be receiving home education as a result of parental choice, who had at some point in the past been in local authority school education. This figure had risen by 163 (39 per cent) from the previous year, although this varied between local authorities.
We should be clear about two things. Firstly 580 is only the number of children the authorities know about. Children who have never attended school in the first place are not known about and are not counted. But secondly, the figure is dwarfed by the number who remain the (ahem) beneficiaries of state education.
This said, the growth in homeschooling is startling. The number of people who are trying state education and are getting out has risen by the best part of 40%. Expect the number to grow further when the new Scottish Charities Commission starts attacking the charitable status of private schools.
Whichever way Labour spins it their policies aren't working.
Education, education, education?
Failed, failed, failed.