Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Schools of Thought

A recent BBC Question Time panel was asked what their opinion was on selective schooling and not a single member of the panel came out in favour of it.
This seems to prove that our professional politicians are out of touch with what the mass of ordinary people want, in this respect as in so many.
It was Labour who forced the whole state education system to go comprehensive. This has merely meant that elitism takes different forms. For those children whose parents can afford to move into the cachement area of a successful school, and those whose families can afford private school, a good education is usually available. For those who cannot, the comprehensive offers only a sink-or-swim education in a miscellaneous class where everything has to be "dumbed-down" to the lowest level. Well, nearly the lowest. Labour did everything it could to close down schools for ESN pupils, and incorporate them in the mainstream, insisting that "one size fits all". This was a nightmare for teachers and it was useless for the ESN pupils as well.

In the post-war period, Britain had a series of Prime Ministers who had been to grammar schools. The last one was John Major. Since then, there has been a noticeable lurch back in direction of rule by public-school educated leaders. The reason is obvious - pupils from comprehensives are far less likely to get into university and develop the sort of skills needed to become an MP. The comprehensive system has actually reduced social mobility. We have had to resort to imposing quotas for state-school pupils admission at universities. There could be no stronger proof of the failure of the comprehensive system - unless it is that the new academies and "free schools" being set up across the country are finding that they are swamped with applications. They are not called "grammar schools" but what does that matter? A selective school, or a streamed school, does not have to follow an old-fashioned curriculum. It does not have to teach Latin or Greek. It would be something if we could at least raise the study of modern languages above the abysmal level to which Estelle Morris and the comprehensive system have let it sink.
The parents who are jostling to get their children into the new academies and free schools should ask why they have no politicians who represent their views. The LibLabCon are unanimous in supporting the comprehensive system (although most of them get round it when it comes to their own children. Tony Blair and Nick Clegg wriggled out by sending their offspring to Catholic schools - slick move!).
If you want to vote for a party that will give back a chance of first-rate education in the state system and social mobility for the bright child of poor parents, vote UKIP.

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