With acknowledgements to The Daily Telegraph, 2 October: Anders Hultin wrote: At the heart of the Conservative reform agenda â and perhaps its single most radical element â is the idea, borrowed from Sweden, that parents who are unhappy with their child's education should be allowed to create new schools. It is a plan that has the potential to transform education in Britain â but already, the same doubts are being raised that I heard in Sweden back in 1992, as an adviser in the education and science department. Who on earth, we were asked, would want to set up their own school? Surely low-income parents don't want choice â they just want their local school to improve? The opposing parties thought the policy such a dud that they didn't even bother to attack it. Even we had our doubts. Our proposal was fairly simple: anyone could set up a school, and be paid the same per pupil as state institutions (actually, to begin with, a bit less). But in our heart of hearts, we did not expect a rush of applicants. This is a symbolic policy, I was told by a colleague. It was in our manifesto, so we have to honour it. Perhaps governments should have a bit more faith in the people whose lives they seek to organise â because once we put our "symbolic" policy into practice, and handed power from government to communities, the effect was extraordinary. A thousand flowers bloomed. Or, more accurately, the number of independent schools grew from 80 to 1,100 â educating 10 per cent of all pupils in compulsory education and 20 per cent of sixth-formers. The drive and energy came from outside government: we in the education department just paid the bills. This, perhaps, explains the success: it was a grassroots revolution. Where communities were unhappy with their school, they did not need to petition parliament or local government. They could find a school provider, and set up a new one. So far, so good â but the Tories are making a crucial mistake. Of our new breed of "free schools", 75 per cent are profit-seeking. That's because schools that are paid per pupil tend to expand as fast as demand requires â if they are oversubscribed, they will open a sister school rather than build up waiting lists. But in order to expand, they need to have money. Without the profit element, the research showed, most of our new independent schools would have been very small, and most would have had a religious purpose. The Swedish model that gets so much international attention today â not least from David Cameron and his education spokesman, Michael Gove â would not exist without the acceptance of profit-making organisations. The Conservatives, however, are planning to keep their "Swedish schools" profit-free and rely on charities, voluntary groups and other philanthropic types. It would certainly buy a little political protection from their ideological enemies, who would otherwise accuse them of trying to privatise the education system. But is it really the Tories' ambition to create a small number of very good schools with long waiting lists? Such schools may be free to the users but, like the best state schools today, they would be exclusive, luxury destinations for a few privileged people. Is that really the education revolution Cameron has planned? The truth is that, having lived in England for some years now, I can think of no country better suited to the Swedish system. Reading the newspapers, I am stunned at the lengths parents go to in order to place their children in good schools, or save them from bad ones (and the lengths councils go to in order to stop them, for example by spying on parents whom they suspect have given false addresses). This huge â and unmet â demand for quality education is one of Britain's untapped resources, and the Conservatives will find a great appetite for new schools. But Mr Cameron has a choice. Does he want to roll out the supply of these schools quickly or slowly? That is to say, will he allow profit-making schools, or leave their management to groups who regard waiting lists as a badge of honour? If he is really worried that allowing schools to make money will mark him out as Right wing, he shouldn't be. Just a couple of weeks ago, Sweden's Social Democrats dropped their opposition to profit-making schools, saying that their sole concern is whether schools are performing well or badly. They could hardly do otherwise. After 17 years, it is clear that the chains of for-profit schools â one of which I founded after I left government â have greatly helped social mobility, giving low-income parents a choice of school available in England to only the rich. It would be odd to think that the Swedish Left is more relaxed about profit-seeking schools than the British Conservatives. Mr Cameron has spoken eloquently about how school reform can change the balance of power between the government and the people. And so it can: but only if he moves quickly, and makes the tough decisions in his first few weeks in power. Among the most important will be to realise that "profit" is not necessarily a dirty word.