Get your Eton hands off my school


12:01 pm - February 19th 2010

by Guest    


      Share on Tumblr

contribution by Sam Bumby

An article in yesterday’s Independent highlighted the failings in the Conservative school policy. Personally I think it was a rubbish idea to start with. Allowing parents, charities and trusts to run schools?

It sounds to me just like an idea to privatise the school system, an idea which allows any idiot with a ton of money to influence and indoctrinate youngsters with their own opinions.

Obviously that is still the case today, but in small isolated specialist schools which provide top quality education for the highest fee payers. Imagine if that was the only choice for your kids (minus the massive bill of course)?

The wonders of a central education system mean that every child has access to the same basic education and whilst it may vary regionally, what is taught is practically the same.

And anyway, how would people not trained in education be able to make the right choices about curriculum?

This whole process (if it went ahead, which I very much hope it doesn’t) would have to be closely followed by government inspectors and the cost involved in shutting down the public schools would be colossal.

For a Tory government promising to cut spending and reducing the deficit, how does the party justify this?

By the time these “gradual” changes have been put into place, the Conservatives will probably be voted out of office anyway, if they get in in the first place. There is widespread opposition when one local school is closed, could you imagine the uproar when these plans become publically known?

This is certainly a point to campaign about in the upcoming elections and certainly something I’ll be asking my local Tory candidate before I shut the door in his face next time.

The results of the system in Sweden haven’t been too rosy either. The head of Sweden’s school inspectors last week said that the system hadn’t significantly improved results in their country anyway, so why on earth do the Tories want to implement it here?

As someone still in education this worries me and will worry parents of young children, teachers and union representatives. Typical Tories of course, deny the whole thing.

————-
Sam Bumby is 16 years old with a big interest in politics. He has just started blogging and is on Twitter @sBumby

    Share on Tumblr   submit to reddit  


About the author
This is a guest post.
· Other posts by


Story Filed Under: Blog ,Conservative Party ,Education ,Westminster

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


Reader comments


1. J Alfred Prufrock

Good shouts and agreed, but the effect is slightly dampened by the typo in the headline… unless it’s ironic? 😉

1 – we dont need no educayshun…

@1 Oops 😉

Parts of the school systems in the Netherlands and in Sweden are run by private-sector organisations of various kinds but with school places paid for by parts of the state out of taxation. I’m told this is also true of the religious schools in France.

In principle, I’ve no insuperable objections to more of this kind of arrangement in Britain.

What worries me is that I think an “initiative” to introduce more faith and private sector schooling will tend to relax pressures upon low-achieving and failing local authority schools to improve standards and quickly on the assumption that some shadowy group or organisation will eventually materialise in localities with bad local authority schools.

The fact of the matter is that some bad schools have taken years to turn round – or to close down – and meanwhile the school careers of hundreds of their pupils have been permanently blighted.

In Britain, up to the education act of 1870 it was presumed that schooling could be safely left to charities and the churches. The 1870 act provided for basic primary education up to 12 for all, maintained out of taxation, because it came to be recognised that general education standards in Britain were lagging those in western mainland European countries and that despite Britain being a more affluent country at the time. In short, charities and the churches in Britain were not up to the challenge of ensuring an acceptable universal standard of basic education, which is why the state intervened.

This link gives details of the 1870 legislation:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elementary_Education_Act_1870

5. John Meredith

The Swedish scheme has been a succes by just about any , measure. The standards issue is a red herring. The system has raised satisfaction hugely and that is a good measure of how much education has improved regardless of ‘standards’. And the ‘new’ school shave proved popular with the middle classes as thw rticle claimes, but the article forgets to mention that they have also been popular with immigrant communities. Also, we should factor in the other less spoken apout effects of the system: it has become much harder for the government to close schools and ‘consoilidate’ into larger ones, something that is always unpopular with parents and pupils.

6. Richard Blogger

To be fair, the head of Sweden’s “Ofsted” said that the results in the “free” schools went up, but the overall results for the entire country went down. He said that reason is that the parents who take an active interest in their children’s education sent their kids to the “free” schools, hence why the results were high. But those kids would have done well anyway. More concerning is that when a child goes to a “free” school that money is taken away from the state school that the child would have gone to. This is a real cut in funding of the state school, and hence they have fewer teachers and worse results. This policy widens inequality and opportunity, and it is no wonder, then, that the Tories are so enthusiastic about it.

Worth noting how this kind of things work in the developing world where state schooling is really really bad. There parents vote with their feet and go to one of the many private schools for the poor. Even in shanty towns this is seen as a better option than state education.

There are nascent moves in the same direction here, with the growth in home ed and private initiatives like the New Model School (now new model schools)

“The wonders of a central education system mean that every child has access to the same basic education and whilst it may vary regionally, what is taught is practically the same.”

Sam,

I presume you have been through one of the good bits of said central system. Not all of us were so lucky, and in my case I’ve worked in far worse schools than I went to since.

A central education system may sound fair, but a centrally-managed system (which is to a large degree what we have got) just means that the same measures apply everywhere, regardless of effect. So a school that might identify the needs of its largely English as Additional Language pupils as being extra English tuition so that they can access the curriculum finds it is obliged to instead teach the rest of the curriculum to children who cannot fully access it, and thus fall behind. Unfortunately I have seen this in action.

Note that there is a national curriculum, which will presumably be compulsory for all schools receiving state funding, but this does not require local management.

Also this raises an interesting moral quandry: if this measure will improve the schooling for some children but not all, can you justifiably hold back the education of those children to produce a less bad outcome for the others? I am not sure that I could accept a government that would say yes to that, as it would imply that the statistics override the rights of the child (who has no choice as to their background remember).

Richard,

“This policy widens inequality and opportunity, and it is no wonder, then, that the Tories are so enthusiastic about it.”

Hang on. Aren’t people more likely to vote Conservative if they are well off and have opportunity (read middle class if you want). So why would reducing the number of potential Conservative voters work in the Conservative’s favour? I doubt a fairly machine politician like Mr Cameroon is that stupid myself.

Tory economic plans are dumb, their crime policies are knee-jerk and unworkable, they prioritise foxhunting and inheritance tax breaks over some of the more pressing issues facing the country right now, and their schools policy is bizarre and hopelessly muddled.

There is nothing drastically wrong with Britain’s education system – one of the top twenty in the world – as the author of the piece says here. There is no pressing requirement to implement radical, untested, systemic change as proposed by the Tories.

What is required is more funding (which, yet again, is what this Tory policy is really designed to avoid), and the final abolition of the Grammar Schools which rob comprehensives in LEAs like Kent from having a strong cohort of bright children who can incentivise their peers.

I really don’t get this weird Tory antipathy to LEAs (in truth I don’t get much of Tory thinking, I guess). Reading some of the vein popping invective over the bodies charged with ensuring all children in a locality get access to good education always provokes head scratching from myself.

Gove’s proposals simply do not guarantee rises in education standards. They’re half baked, untried, carry heavy ideological baggage and point to the further, standard eroding atomisation of Britain’s education system.

11. Richard Manns

Well, firstly, what an unpleasant tag-line; full of prejudice towards someone because of their parents’ choice of school, and secondly the failure to spell a three-letter word properly. Excellent.

As for @Richard Blogger, I’d like to see those results in detail.

You also presume that money is inextricably linked (if so, then why are those independent schools doing so well with less money per pupil?).

You complain that there is a funding cut in real terms to the schools that lose pupils, but surely there is also a outgoings cut? Why should funding levels be maintained to pay for a school so bad that the pupils are leaving in droves? And why not pay more to a school apparently so good that the parents are hammering on the doors?

And if there is no real difference to the children, whether they go to a worse or better school, then why are these Swedish alternatives so popular? By extending this argument, it does not matter where a poor child goes, their results will be the same, which annuls any argument that they should receive preferential treatment for university places. And for what it’s worth, your view is contradicted by my partner, an English teacher in a North London comprehensive, who has talked to good pupils with falling standards, to discover that they refuse to work or learn for fear of being targetted by the others.

In short, your argument presumes a number of things, not least of which is that the education and environment of a child does not affect their attainment, in which case I advise not bothering to teach at all.

A few thoughts:

* The Tory proposal is definitely a staging post towards vouchers for all private schools (sucking funding from inner city comps to Eton and other bastions of privilege) and the privatisation of education with profit-making companies (read up on Edison in the States to find out how this works)

* We already have lunatic fringe groups in the State system – a good chunk of our schools are Faith schools)

* Tories hate “social engineering” except when you talk about Grammar schools. Funny that.

* The Tory hostility to LEAs is very interesting, especially as they mostly have business backgrounds. You don’t get many large private sector organisations operating with no central HQ managing, just letting individual stores get on with what they want to do. Why such hostility in the public sector? Maybe it’s that they are small businessman and wrongly take their attitudes shaped by this into large organisations that need far more managing?

* We can expect to see school admissions regulations abolished to allow schools to choose pupils. But I have yet to hear convincing arguments for why thiswon’t
distort incentives for headteachers away from quality towards selecting clever white middle-class kids. Schools are still measured on absolute league table performance (value-added – while a good measure – is just too complex and too distrusted by the Tories) and parents often choose schools on the basis of how white, middle-class and intelligent it’s students are.

Spelling fail 🙂

the spelling mistake was all mine as editor – not sam’s.

“It sounds to me just like an idea to privatise the school system, an idea which allows any idiot with a ton of money to influence and indoctrinate youngsters with their own opinions.”
So nothing like Creationist Sir Peter Vardy teaching the literal truth of the Bible in his City Acadamies then…

@14

Sunny, you need a capital ‘T’ for ‘The’: it’s the beginning of a sentence.

And you need a capital ‘S’ for ‘Sam’s’: it’s a name.

Apparently they still teach grammar at Eton as well. What dinosaurs, eh?

“an idea which allows any idiot with a ton of money to influence and indoctrinate youngsters with their own opinions.”

What, like the Labour party has?

The Quakers and Non-Conformists who set up their own schools produced the educated craftsmen and merchants who created the Industrial Revolution .
Under the Clarendon Codes any non -Anglican was forbidden to hold a position in the universities , local government and civil service. The Dissenters , especially the Quakers and Unitarians advocated systems of education geared towards excellence and success. The curriculum was modern and aimed at providing the best preparation for industry. Birmingham was a major centre of Dissenters.

Perhaps we need a return of the type of school created by the Dissenters , geared towards industry so we can greatly increase our manufacturing base? The education system run by the Anglican Church of the 18 C has certain similarities to the white collar arts biased middle class labour influenced LEAs , teacher training establishments and Whitehall Civil Service- both produce people who lack skills to work in high value high tech manufacturing. The Labour run LEAs appear very poor at educating children to a standards such that they can read science, engineering, technology, maths and medicine at the top 10 universities.

Master Hundal,

I note with interest that the URL remains:

get-your-eton-hands-of-my-school/

Attention to detail, dear boy.

Why should the rich be the only ones to send their kids to independent schools?

Why should the rich be the only ones to choose which school their kids go to?

Under the Tory plan, parents will be able to choose an independent school for their child – and it will be free!

This Conservative policy extends to the many what ’til now have been the privileges of the few.

“an idea which allows any idiot with a ton of money to influence and indoctrinate youngsters with their own opinions”

As opposed to, say, any idiot who happens to be Secretary of State for Education?

Sam, the fact is that the National Curriculum is a terrible, terrible idea. It means that the government is directly involved in deciding what every child within the state sector has to learn. If that isn’t indoctrination and brainwashing, I’m not sure I know what is.

And before you leap to the defence of democracy, bear in mind that Japan, a flourishing democratic state, has been frequently criticised for its state-sanctioned history textbooks that deny many of the crimes committed by the Imperial Army during World War II.

Allowing the set-up of schools by the people is surely far more democratic than being limited to sending your child solely to those schools which the government provides. Why do you think it is that so many parents pretend to pray in Church every Sunday just so they can get their child into a Church school? It’s because the schools provided by the state, generally speaking, are just not up to muster.

No matter how much you lefties may despise the concept of private education, you cannot deny that year on year, private schools consistently outperform their state school counterparts. Instead of dragging them down to the same level as the state sector, why not open up the benefits of private education to all?

But the quality of private education is good because they can afford to pay top fees to their staff and that wouldn’t happen if the schools were run by a couple of parents. What children want and what they need is a totally different matter entirely.
Also, how are these groups meant to know what the children need to be taught? Even in terms of basic Maths and English, you’d have to employ teachers with specialist knowledge to run the schools. Basically you’d have teachers but instead of being run by the headteacher, a school would be run by parents with no idea of the education system.

Sam,

Nobody is suggesting that a school set up by a group of parents (for example) would be directly run by those parents. There would be a headteacher, just as there is in any school, private or comprehensive. The parents would be in charge of the school, they would not literally run it. This is the same as a private school – the school itself is run by the headmaster, but a board of governors takes overall responsibility for the school and makes certain executive decisions about the school’s direction and long-term plans.

Also, as someone whose parents have taught at a private school, I can assure you that it is not the rate of pay which attracts them – it is the working environment and the fact that they are given the freedom and flexibility to teach in the way they see fit. To be sure, the money is a factor, but it is not the overriding one. The majority of teachers are attracted by the school itself rather than the pay cheque. That is what makes them educators rather than simply mercenaries.

24. J Alfred Prufrock

The National Curriculum was set up by the Tories to stop left-wing teachers telling kids about fairness and sharing and other such crazed notions. Hence section 28.

@ 24

Exactly. To stop “telling kids” and start teaching.

26. J Alfred Prufrock

@25

Or to stifle creativity of teaching methods and instill learning by rote [hence how kids now learn how to pass exams and little else]. Depends how you look at it, eh.

My local (in a Labour constituency) comp is now part of some sort of scheme set up in 2000, I can’t remember the name though, hang on, it’ll come to me in a minute…

Oh yeah. Oasis Academy. I wonder why it’s called that?

(Luckily, living in Lincolnshire, I get to take the 11+ and got into a Grammar School)

@ 26

Though not in Independent Schools which are not bound by the National Curriculum – which brings us full circle eh, J Alfred?

29. J Alfred Prufrock

@28

The quirks of the British education system and political discourse never fail to border on the absurd.

This is the way the world ends…

26. J Alfred Prufrock. If one wants to become a top scientist or engineer , then one will have to pass exams. Not to keen flying in an aircraft unless the engineer has an excellent understanding of maths and physics. The recent cases with Toyota and the BA plane crashing at Heathrow demonstrate the problems when engineers get it wrong.

@ 29

Yes, J. Alfred.

But there will be a time to murder and create.

[March is looking increasingly like the favourite… we’ll know tomorrow]

32. J Alfred Prufrock

@30

Nothing against exams per se, but it’s a fact that British kids are over-examined (see: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/education/article3330575.ece ) and it doesn’t seem to do much by the way of raising standards – something like 20% of 11 year olds leaving primary school can’t read or write to the minimum standard for their age.
Ergo: exams are not a panacea and learning by rote is an awful way of educating.

Eton hands? George Orwell was educated at Eton. Works wonders.

34. J Alfred Prufrock

@33

Yeah but he got in on a scholarship. I presume the “Eton hands” referred to by Sam are Cameron’s, who, what with being the Queen’s 5th cousin an’ all, probably had the family funds to afford it.

I think David Cameron isn’t technically part of the Royal Family; he’s descended from one of William IV’s many bastard childs.

36. J Alfred Prufrock

Be that as it may, he’s still got a helluvalotta family wealth

Sam Bumby @ 22

Just as charities and NHS trusts are run by boards of trustees, so these new schools would be run by trustees. Some would be parents, some teachers or educationalists, others would have useful skills: law, accounting, property development etc. Many will have extensive experience of the local community.
At the moment most of the big decisions about our schools are made by bureaucrats in Whitehall or bureaucrats in the local education authority. Most schools can’t even decide how much they pay their teachers. That’s why some vacancies stay unfilled for months or even more than a year.

You ask why parents should be allowed to run schools.
Think of it the other way around: who the hell is the state to tell parents how to educate their kids.

The people you seem to think of as the ‘experts’ are making a bad job of it: 40% leave school without decent exam passes.

“But the quality of private education is good because they can afford to pay top fees to their staff and that wouldn’t happen if the schools were run by a couple of parents.”

The fact is that that two selective maintained schools, within easy walking distance of where I sit, achieve better average A-level results than Eton. Readers can check out from this schools league table on the BBC website, based on A-level results last year, showing that there were quite a few “maintained” (meaning non-feepaying) schools achieving better average A-levels than Eton:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/7827223.stm

Btw whatever advantages are gained from attending private schools, those advantages don’t seem to be carried through to the degree results of students who attended fee-paying schools:

“The UK’s most expensive private schools are producing pupils who achieve the worst grades at university, according to research. An eight-year study of graduates’ results by researchers at the University of Warwick suggests that the more parents pay in school fees, the less chance their children have of getting a good degree.”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/2552523.stm

According to official statistics, just under 7 per cent of all pupils at school are at “non-maintained” schools.

Fer fucks sake! We should require all schools to be as good as private schools so that choice is irrelevant. Its not as if we’re a poor country, we could do it if we wanted to.

Do away with private schools, secularise the whole lot and give them the resources, funding and management to make them work. Its not been tried before, we should at least agree to give it a go.

I was at an education seminar once when some striped-shirted looney from the DoE (as it was) told us, straight faced, that we should remember that government subsidised education by 100%. Whose money? Investment in our future generation? Nope, With fuckwits like that at the top what hope have we?

As mentioned above @4, in the early part of the 19th century it was presumed that schooling could be safely left to charities and the churches but that prescription failed and the state was motivated to intervene with the education act of 1870 to ensure provision of a basic elementary education for all.

This is not just my eccentric assessment but that of heavyweight academic researchers in a review of the literature for the economic history society:

“We have noted a substantial body of original research . . . which found that stagnant or declining literacy underlay the ‘revolution’ of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. . . Britain in 1850 was the wealthiest country in the world but only in the second rank as regards literacy levels. [Nick] Crafts has shown that in 1870 when Britain was world economic leader, its school enrolment ratio was only 0.168 compared with the European norm of 0.514 and ‘Britain persistently had a relatively low rate of accumulation of human capital’.”

Source: Sanderson: Education, economic change and society in 1780-1870 (Cambridge UP, 1995) p.61

On the matter of selective schools: I can’t really speak from much more than anecdote, as a selective school student for seven years, but I should note that there’s a danger with associating the schools’ high results with them actually being a genuinely good school.

These schools will usually be taking all the very best non-upper-class students from an area – and this area will often be very large (my own school draws all the top ‘uns from several London boroughs). There is no way that a school isn’t going to get good results based on this. This isn’t necessarily because the school is actually good – it’s just because it has the best students.

Also, this is again mere anecdote, but here’s a theory of mine – the reason you’re seeing this drop-off from private students is because they ARE getting a far better education. Specifically, they’re getting taught better for the bollocks that matters in exams nowadays. It’s not about knowledge so much as it is about exam technique – it’s dominant even at my selective-and-not-perfect-at-teaching-it school. Exams haven’t gotten easier so much as they’ve shifted their focus. With the internet increasing knowledge, and a continuous battle between top teachers drilling things into students’ heads and the exam boards despairing at how to make it even harder, the focus is on things that are just even slightly less possible to easily drill than what’s currently the case.

Should we really be furthering this by saying ‘OK, we’ll give independence to schools to have a shot at this.” (assuming that those schools would be able to do it with the resources in question)? In reality, such drilling represents a degradation of the actual quality of education; should we actively attempt to reinforce this? Or should we be trying to think how we can fix the system so we can exclude that technique section as far as humanly possible?

Anyway sorry for the random derail; as to the article, I’ll add what I always ask about this sort of scheme – why? What advantage is going to be gained from these proposals? Putting completely unqualified groups in charge – yes, even parents – doesn’t have any advantage whatsoever for the standard of the school, and will probably make it worse. Surely, that’s the most important thing to consider here?

Flowerpower makes the argument that the ‘trustee’ model is better for the schools. My question is this: how can putting people who know nothing of education in charge be at all helpful? We’re not talking about putting teachers in charge here, who at least could bring informed insight to the table; we’re talking about putting people who whoever skilled in whatever other walk of life don’t actually know how to run a bloody school.

There’s no advantage for the children from this; the only ones who benefit are the people now running the schools. That’s what bloody matters.

32. J Alfred Pufrock. The foundation of science and engineering is largely rote learning of the facts; once these have been mastered , then one can start to understand the concepts. Britain needs more scientists and engineers if it is going to increase manufacturing which will mean far more people passing exams.

43. J Alfred Prufrock

@32

Again, I’m not disputing the need for exams. But other countries are doing fine for scientists and engineers without over-examining the schoolchildren. And a more rounded education – not just learning how to Pass or Fail – ie giving kids a thirst for knowledge and learning – would make a hugely positive difference to the culture of the UK imho.

44. J Alfred Prufrock

*oops, I mean @42 of course.

43. J Alfred Prufrock. Historically Britain was the best country for science and engineering , followed by Germany. The German Gymnasium System , which was similar to that in Austria and Hungrary was very similar to the British Grammar School System. An Austrian Gymnasium teacher has told me of the decline in the gymnasium system is keading to a decline in education standards. If one looks at universities the top ones are American and British . American universities have the money to buy in brains from all over the World. The advantage of the public and grammar school systems is that it enables bright children to reach standards far in advance of the national curriculum at younger age, which is especially important in maths and physics. Most major scientific breakthroughs are achieved by those younger than 30-35 yrs old, the rest of the career is refining the new knowledge i,e Newton, Einstein , Crick Watson, Durac .

What I agree with you, is that we have a useless vocational system so that those who lack the academic ability are turned off by school . Germany has a very good vocational school system for those who do not enter the gymnasium system.

Yurrzem! @ 39

Fer fucks sake! We should require all schools to be as good as private schools so that choice is irrelevant.

Yep, and while were at it let’s require all football teams to be as good as Arsenal and Chelsea so the Premier League is irrelevant.

Not to sound harsh but that comparing education to football is a serious and epic fail.

Joseph Edwards @ 41

What advantage is going to be gained from these proposals? Putting completely unqualified groups in charge – yes, even parents – doesn’t have any advantage whatsoever for the standard of the school, and will probably make it worse. Surely, that’s the most important thing to consider here?

But why do you think that?

In almost every other sphere of human activity enterprises run by ‘real people’ are more successful than those run by technocrats or bureaucrats.

By your measure MPs and local councillors would be ‘totally unqualified’ too.

Anyone who has ever worked for ,or has to interact with, a state body knows how useless and incompetent they are. Private enterprises, cooperatives and charities are generally better run than government or council departments.

In the education field, NOBODY is suggesting that our major universities be brought under the same sort of bureaucratic state control as schools. Not even Mandelson believes Oxford and Cambridge would remain world-class institutions for long if he was running them. The Tory schools plan is essentially proposing giving schools the same independent status as universities.

What’s not to like about that?

@ Flowerpower

“What’s not to like about that?”

That it’s a sensible Tory policy, and endorsing it would essentially admit that Labour’s education policies have been a failure?

Sam, this is a well argued piece from someone at school, although I disagree with the conclusion profoundly. All I can really suggest is fairly short book, called the Road to Serfdom, that might introduce you to the idea of why central planning by government never really live up to their billing. It is available for free in a digested form here: http://www.iea.org.uk/files/upld-publication43pdf

I’m entirely familiar with Hayek’s Road to Serfdom but the state in Britain came to intervene to ensure universal primary education for all with the 1870 education act precisely because it came to be recognised that schooling could not be safely left to charities and the churches – see my posts @4, @40 above.

Kenneth Baker, a Conservative education secretary in a Thatcher government, introduced a national curriculum for schools in 1988 because of pervasive concerns then about the quality of state schools and education standards.

Less than 7 per cent of pupils at school attend fee-paying schools. Surviving local maintained grammar schools close to where I live gain better average A-level results than Eton, as well as a raft of other fee-paying schools, at much lower costs and with inferior teacher-pupil ratios. My son went to one. It was only after he had left to go to uni that I learned Chris Woodhead, the somewhat notorious chief inspector of schools when Blunket was education minister, had attended the same school. He famously kept making the telling point that schools with broadly similar catchment areas were achieving very different results in school leaving exams. Why that happens is a large part of our problem with schools.

50
How ironic that the digested form of Hayek’s ‘Road to Serfdom’ was provided by a company which has just gone into administration.
45
Although you make many references to science on threads which discuss educational content, I don’t believe that your approach is very scientific., Indeed the whole concept of considering why certain schools fail’ while others succeed,whithout considering the different cultural/sociological/economic circumstance of the student population,renders comparison pointless.
Changing the way schools are financed or whether private interests could set-up schools is tantamount to moving the deckchairs on the Titanic before it sinks.

Bob B @ 51

Surviving local maintained grammar schools close to where I live gain better average A-level results than Eton

Nothing very remarkable about that. Grammar schools select 100% on ability. Eton selects on ability for about 20% of its intake, the rest is economic/social selection and the aristocracy has traditionally produced its fair share of thickoes who go on to vocational training at the agricultural college at Cirencester. Eton does however send a heck of a lot of boys to Russell Group universities too.

I am a governor of a very successful private school. Despite not being selective (academically) we get superb academic results from a mixed ability intake. Currently around a third of our pupils are paid for via a scholarship/bursary scheme which pays out typically 85-90% of fees and in some cases 100%. We had hoped (before the recession hit) to get that up to 50%. Fat chance of that now – for a few years at least.

The 33% of our pupils who get free places come from prety disadvantaged backgrounds, but do much better with us than they ever would in some statist sink school. And frankly, our way of re-distributing income from the rich to the less well off is a damn sight more direct and effective than taxation.

Our governors have an eight year term limit. Accordingly we could fill a pretty large room with ex-governors who have the experience and expertise to run at least two of Mr Gove’s new schools and make a real difference to the lives of childeren from disadvantaged backgrounds.

But the Left, of course, would prefer to keep kids on council estates, send them to crap schools on council estates, maintain them on survival benefits half a percent over the official poverty line and let them die on council estates to provide cannon fodder for their ideological class war and bolster Labour’s client vote. Hypocrites.

@46

I think its too easy to rationalise away one’s ambitions and do the righties job for them. Why be coy about wanting the best for everyone instead of the wealthy few?

Remember public schools are so-called because they were founded for public good when those who could afford schooling paid private, home tutors. They proved so good the rich nicked them.

54
So you think that the left would prefer to send children to crap schools where they (the children) live on benefits which are just over the poverty line?
Your lack of insighfu’lness and arrogance makes me glad that you’re a school governor rather than a teacher. Do you really believe that children in those circumstances have chosen to be there or indeed the children that attend your school have chosen? Why would it benefit the left? ideologically, it is the left who have, on the whole, received a good education, it is the right (see the post about the BNP) who attract young males who have failed in the education system.
And historically, within the modern world, it has been the well-educated, middle-classes who have brought about revolution.
Your reference to socialism and the way you/your school/ex-governors could make a real difference to disadavantaged children is vomit-inducing.

@52
“Of” again? Damn typos!

Flowerpower @54: “But the Left, of course, would prefer to keep kids on council estates, send them to crap schools on council estates, maintain them on survival benefits half a percent over the official poverty line and let them die on council estates to provide cannon fodder for their ideological class war and bolster Labour’s client vote. Hypocrites.”

Having been an elected member of two local authorities and worked as a senior official in a third, I know a little about this.

The fact is that Labour controlled Leicester City Council hung onto its selective grammar schools through to the reform of local government in 1974 while the then high Tory Leicestershire County Council approved a policy to go comprehensive in 1957, with the first school – Oadby Beauchamp Community College – opening in 1958. How you think the good grammar schools of Birmingham survived? Where many Labour controlled councils went badly wrong was in opting for structures of comprehensive schools for ages 11-16 feeding sixth form colleges.

On the evidence, the “Left” is not homogeneous on education – or much else. As someone remarked to me decades ago: Why are a disproportionate number of teachers Welsh? The answer is that when 11+ selection prevailed, parts of Wales were unusually well endowed with grammar schools and grammar school places because “getting educated” was at one time seen as the escape route from the otherwise inevitable alternative of working in the local coal mines. To my knowledge, in some places in Wales, 11 year-olds were allowed several attempts at the 11+ if they failed to start with.

OTOH it’s certainly my impression that some Labour controlled councils – or their electorates – like to discourage any unnecessary ambitions about getting an education for all sorts of reasons. Among those reasons is a wish to entrench Labour control of the local council but there’s also an apprehension that educating lads is likely to result in the best ‘n’ brightest moving away to live and work elsewhere.

George Orwell wrote this in 1936:

“The time was when I used to lament over quite imaginary pictures of lads of fourteen dragged protesting from their lessons and set to work at dismal jobs. It seemed to me dreadful that the doom of a ‘job’ should descend upon anyone at fourteen. Of course I know now that there is not one working-class boy in a thousand who does not pine for the day when he will leave school. He wants to be doing real work, not wasting his time on ridiculous rubbish like history and geography. To the working class, the notion of staying at school till you are nearly grown-up seems merely contemptible and unmanly.” [Road to Wigan Pier, chp.7]
http://www.george-orwell.org/The_Road_to_Wigan_Pier/6.html

One of life’s deeper mysteries is about how a relatively affluent city like Bristol manages to remain near the bottom of the local education authority league table for England:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/8439650.stm

Steve B @ 55

So you think that the left would prefer to send children to crap schools where they (the children) live on benefits which are just over the poverty line?

Yes, the evidence is plain to see. Under Labour very poorest have actually got worse off. The families previously just under the poverty threshold that Gordon Brown boasts have been ‘lifted out of poverty’ have mostly been set down again at 50-60p per week above the line. Some rescue!

Why would it benefit the left?

As trade union membership has declined and the middle class has expanded, Labour has been desperately trying to maintain its client voters. See Bob B above for related reasons – stopping people moving away to a better life etc.

There is nothing ‘vomit-inducing’ about providing a good quality education for kids who would otherwise have to attend some Labour-council managed 2,000 pupil comp with drug dealers in the playground and crappy left-wing teachers in the classroom.

55

it is the right (see the post about the BNP) who attract young males who have failed in the education system.

Although I don’t completely buy the Norman Tebbit line that the BNP is a left-wing party, not a right-wing one – the analysis does have some merit. Certainly, the BNP is collectivist rather than individualist. But also the BNP is culturally working-class. (You don’t see many beer-swilling skinheads at Eton and Winchester). You seem to suggest that the BNP has the same relationship to the Tories that the SWP has to Labour – but the Tories and the BNP have practically nothing in common socially or ideologically.

58
Who said anything about Labour, they are not left or indeed socialist, in fact Bob B refers to George Orwell, who was from a middle-class background and also a socialist. But, without trying to be a Nulabour apologist, under Thatcher the gap widened between the poorest and wealthiest. The problem here is that most bloggers on LC seem to believe that socialists have some kind of affinity with the state, in fact, socialists are more anti-state than the libertarians who post on this site. I will re-state what I have said in post 55, the left need well educated middle-class people, the left, at least socialists, also wish to see an environment where all children can participate fully and be able to access good education not (with respect) your charity. BTW, how many children do you take from these so-called drug infested council estates. And could I also advise you that my wife went to an ordinary Comp in a working-class area and went on to attain a BA and MSc from a Russell Group university, she is also a socialist
59
I don’t really understand what point you are trying to make, I have already said that it is males who have failed in the current education system who are attracted to the BNP (in case you don’t already know, it is white working-class males who are failing within the education system)
It is a matter of opinion about whether the BNP:is left or right, but I don’t know where I have compared them, ideologically or otherwise, with the tories.

“50
How ironic that the digested form of Hayek’s ‘Road to Serfdom’ was provided by a company which has just gone into administration.”

Not really. Unlike bureaucracies, companies ought to die out every now and then. It is how markets evolve to create greater efficiency.

e.g. Newspapers die out. Bloggers rise. Journalism prevails.

There can’t be many informed observers who believe that the recent global financial crisis was caused by too much authoritarian regulation of financial institutions and markets.

The broad consensus among policy makers seems to be that financial markets require more macroprudential regulation, not less, to reduce the likelihood of new crises downstream. Try Lord Turner’s proposals for regulatory reform of financial services:
http://www.fsa.gov.uk/pages/Library/Communication/PR/2009/037.shtml

The idea that Lord Turner is some sort of crypto-fascist intent on reintroducing serfdom is laughable.

61
I suppose the invisible hand didn’t wave its magic over them or the price signals were just too weak, or maybe the fairies at the bottom of the garden hadn’t spinkled fairy dust in their direction.
Let’s face it, recommending a pro-market treatise published by a company that’s just gone into administration is farcical to say the least.

It’s not privatization, it’s far worse than that.
Gandhi Speaks! :: Uncooperative Quangos

Nice post. The views of those in education should drive the education system we have, keep doing what you are doing. Keep thinking and learning too though. Watch out for indoctrination it’s attempted all over the place.

“privatise the school system, an idea which allows any idiot with a ton of money to influence and indoctrinate youngsters with their own opinions”

Yes, I agree this is as dangerous as it sounds

“The wonders of a central education system mean that every child has access to the same basic education and whilst it may vary regionally, what is taught is practically the same.”

But this is more dangerous than the above, it’s not just a selection of people running schools but one body running one system. You say “what is taught is practically the same” as though that’s a good thing, different people want and need to know different things, we won’t make much progress if we all learn the same stuff.

“And anyway, how would people not trained in education be able to make the right choices about curriculum?”

People trained in education can have 9 months “training”. All people have evolved to learn, every person can make very good choices about their own curriculum.

Charlie2:

Perhaps we need a return of the type of school created by the Dissenters , geared towards industry so we can greatly increase our manufacturing base?

This, and all the remaining commentary depending from it, just makes no sense. We’re not a pre-industrial economy reaching for more;that’s when you educate for industry. One should be teaching kids what they’ll need in 20-50 years. Your suggestion is to educate them for the prevailing economics of their great-grandparent’s generation or older.

We’re a post-industrial economy; it is never going to be cheaper to make things here than it is to make things in a place with much lower social education, and therefore much lower wages. Manufacturing employs less than a fifth of our population. Do you really want to gear our national education system towards a task which will only be useful to 20% and falling of the kids you force through it?

You’re completely right as you start; we need an education system which trains people who are children now, for the lives they will face in a post-industrial, information- and service-driven economy. That’s a pretty radically different paradigm from one which trains kids for the mills. Our current system, since the end of the War, has been steadily restructured to train people for office work and, since Thatcher, cubicle hell (where most of them were going to end up spending their working lives regardless; see?). Even that is more useful for a modern economic life than a pre-industrial, pre-literate scheme.

So much for the easy stuff. What shape should such a paradigm be? I have opinions; so, I suspect, does everyone else so I’ll stop there.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Elrik Merlin

    RT @libcon: Get your Eton hands off my school http://bit.ly/b9Iohe —*Do* fix that headline typo, won't you.

  2. Sam Bumby

    RT @libcon: Get your Eton hands of my school http://bit.ly/b9Iohe

  3. Liberal Conspiracy

    Get your Eton hands of my school http://bit.ly/b9Iohe

  4. Ben Cooper

    RT @libcon: Get your Eton hands of my school http://bit.ly/b9Iohe

  5. 97Reasons

    RT @libcon: Get your Eton hands of my school http://bit.ly/b9Iohe

  6. Steph

    RT @libcon: Get your Eton hands off my school http://bit.ly/cGOgsQ





Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.