Sunday, May 20, 2007

No Escape For You, Ashley.

David Willetts, the Conservative education spokesman announced last week that his party did not support any kind of academic selection and that Grammar Schools were the instruments of the Devil. (Conveniently forgetting that he wouldn't have had a chance of ever getting his own job if he hadn't been fortunate enough to go to one himself.)

David Cameron (Eton) hurried to enthusiastically support him. He certainly doesn't believe that some children should have a better chance than others.

It's all about as convincing as me claiming to be off with stress. No doubt it is just some clever political move, as these announcements always are.

Read the third paragraph in this article to see just how bright this Willets bloke really is. If you happen to be a Head in a crummy school, nervously expecting a visit from on high, then simply hire a string quartet for the day, get them to wear your school's uniform and you will have no difficulty pulling the wool over the visitor's eyes. Money well spent.

Academic selection is the only way out of the slums for many poor but bright kids. It really is the only chance they will ever have. Academic schools attract academic teachers, inner city hell holes do not; they attract those who are very good at controlling unruly pupils and those who simply could not get a job anywhere else. Let's not pretend that anything other than riot control and baby sitting go on in these places.

I'm not big on personal anecdotes as they are rarely significant. However here's one for you.

In 1952 my father passed his eleven plus and went to a grammar school where he was given an education that was better than I received from my Comprehensive 25 years later. He was from a working class background as were many others in his school. If I had stayed in the same area my children would have to go to a school which is now far worse. This neatly sums up the decline over the last half century.

For 99% of people nowadays their future is sealed from the moment they are born. Infant schools now have behaviour problems unheard of thirty years ago which disrupt their efforts to teach reading, writing and basic sums, all that young children really need. A much broader curriculum which insists on them being taught unnecessary gumf further hinders the teachers' efforts. Therefore it is left to the parents to teach the basics, which further increases the divide between those with good ones and those whose parents couldn't give a toss.

The kids who are bright at 5, 8 or 11 would benefit from an academic education and ought to be given the chance of one. The ones who aren't should be given the chance to do non academic stuff that might at least hold some interest for them, rather than the present system of ever larger schools trying and failing miserably to cope with an ever greater range of abilities. However, it doesn't seem like anyone likely to get into power in the near future agrees.


Anonymous said...

the children of this country are well and truly fucked.

Anonymous said...

To see how bright this Dave bloke is, remember that according to a Telegraph survey, 70% of Conservative (i.e. his) voters support the idea of Grammar school. Many of us would still be living on council estates if we hadn't gone to them, and then to university.

My children go to a Grammar. Thank goodness Kent still has the "evil" of the 11+, although the children get no help from the primary schools with it. Strange, they get loads of help with their SATs. Can't think why...


jerym said...

I get pissed off saying this but if you get the infant and primary schools right the rest of it will be infinitly easier. The bloody problem is that as far as the politicians are concerned the long distant results about fifteen years,will be claimed by the next bunch of anal sphincters we elect.

john said...

I support the Grammar Schools in Birmingham which are an effective way of ensuring social mobility particularly in a city which is very ethnically diverse.

David Willets was in the year above me at KES (Edgbaston) at a time when it acted as a form of regional "super grammar" (direct grant) school.

I am quite surprised at this policy. I may be in the minority of Lib Dem MPs that sees a role for Grammar Schools. However, I think failing to recognise the role of the KE Foundation in Birmingham is sad for an ex-KE pupil.

Anonymous said...

Spot on. None of our so called leaders dare argue with the stupid entrenched idea that we are all somehow equal.

They wonder why everyone who can afford it (and many who can't) send their kids to private schools.

Anonymous said...

There you go. That's the nearest the elite have come to letting the cat out of the bag.


They want to continue the destruction of opportunity for state educated children. The likes of Willetts, themselves products of state education, are being fooled by the puppet-masters.

timmy said...

The answer is clear to me. Most schools, at least in my area, have around 300 pupils per year. Simply stream all pupils and advertise positions within departments as teaching individual streams. This would allow high calibre teachers to teach high calibre pupils within an environment where pupils can always move up and down streams.

Anonymous said...

Mr Chalk I think you will find that Mr Willets attended, with the aid of a grant, an independent school, not a grammar

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Hill said...

Mr Willetts attended King Edward's School for boys in Edgbaston when it was a direct grant grammar school.

He then went on to Oxford University and is keen to prevent any nasty working class people from following in his footsteps.

Tom Welsh said...

If you take a pragmatic view, by far the most important thing is identifying those children with most potential and giving them the best possible education. By "potential" I don't just mean academic intelligence, but any kind of potential. Most progress has always come from a small minority, and that minority is a scarce resource that should be treasured.

From a political/moral point of view, every child deserves the best possible education. But what does this mean? Universal education is limited by the resources "society" is willing to allocate to it. Also, it is limited by the values of "society" at large. When most of us value knowledge of mathematics, engineering, history, philosophy, art, and literature more than money, privilege, social status, and gadgets, our education system may have a chance to teach those subjects properly.

Mary said...

Kids from sink estates most probably DO have much less chance of getting into a grammar school than a middle-class kid with pushy parents who will pay for coaching and so on.

But the kid from the sink estate has no bloody chance at all of spontaneously getting a private education.

I refuse to believe that calling the sink comp an "academy" will somehow make it a place where a child gets a decent education. I also don't think that having four students capable of playing instruments is the essence of a good school, either.

The Tefltradesman said...

Oh, you poor humble innocents! Ain't you seen the light yet? It's just a ploy to get more well-off parents to send their kids to private schools.

No more, or even less, grammar schools, means even more scope for the private outfits to suck in extra fees from an even bigger potential customer-base, and expand their activities by building more Pay-As-You-Play/Learn centres.

This is the modern reality of privatisation in education, and the Tories are doing no more than than playing their traditional role - or their new one, whichever you prefer!

Stu Savory said...

That's gumPf, with a P, your fatrher would have known that!
Educational standards are going downhill, mumble, rant, etc.

GUMPF Gas, Undercarriage, Mixture, Propellor, Flaps.
WW2 pilot training landing-mnemonic for 'the essentials'.

Anonymous said...

I'm from a council estate and went to grammar school, which effectively changed my life. My only niece was, like me, always top of her classes at primary school, but unlike me there was no chance of her going to grammar school, and no way her mother, who by this time was a single parent, could afford to pay fees to an independent school. She went to the local comp which was destroying her. I sold my house and bought a small flat, and with the profit (which was quite tidy)she got an education that has allowed her to become the young woman she should be, working her way up the career ladder to a bright future. Best money I ever spent.

lilyofthefield said...

That was nice of you anonymous. My mother did the same for my youngest. The local comp had gone right down the pan by the time she got there and she did not have the hardness or laziness her brothers had to help her accept the waste of her talents and willingness to learn.

apdavidson said...

David Willetts is no grammar school boy - he went to King Edward's independent day school in Birmingham.