Next week

I’m off on a break for the next week, and have no idea yet whether I’ll have decent internet access, so updates for the next week may be infrequent (or absent!). In the meantime, have a good bank holiday weekend one and all.


192 Responses to “Next week”

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  1. What an interesting article by Alan Milburn in today’s Times.

    He picks up the theme of Michelle Obama’s trip to Oxford Uni with the children from an Islington School.

    He refers to yeterday’s article ( also in The Times) by one of those pupils -Aneesah Siddiqui-describing the effect that that visit had on her. ( One of the most uplifting things I have read in a very long time-if politics is about anything -this is surely it)

    He concludes -in the headline of his article ” For a British Obama we need better schools”.

    He argues for the Academy system,( improved results by four times the national rate under Labour) ,& for Free Schools ( provided they can prove that they are established in less well-off areas as well as better-off ones).

    He argues strongly for parental rights to quit poor state schools & take their funding to a better performing school of their choice..

    And following Michelle Obama’s effect on those schoolchildren, he argues for “taster sessions” at UNiversities to be built into school social mobility programmes.

    Perhaps then, he says ,we might get a council estate kid to rise to be PM.

    Interestingly he contrasts Tony Blair’s approach-“aspiration” with GB’s approach-“equality” in his appraisal of Labour’s record.

    Seems to me that sums up the dilemma of the left on schooling -& social policy in general.

    I read the stuff from the far left on how wicked “aspiration” is, how “equality of opportunity” means nothing, how “equality” is the thing to achieve-and I see a gulf a mile wide between them and that Islington schoolgirl-between them and thinkers like Milburn & Gove, and between their ideas for this country and a country which can put a working class descendent of slaves in The White House as a President’s wife.

    I have thought from the outset that the two key ministers in DC’s cabinet are IDS & Gove. Not for their political skills -but for their ideas & their determination.

    Michelle Obama’s effect on those children & Milburn’s article make me even more certain that Gove is one of that duo.

    ……..in the short term however, they both take second & third spot to Andrew Lansley.
    If he really means to resign on principle if his NHS reforms are trashed, DC & indeed the coalition itself will be tested as never before., if NC pushes his macho posturing too far.

    NC or Lansley?-quite a choice for DC-one Conservative backbenchers have already made their minds up on.

  2. @Colin – Thank you, I did read Obama’s speech.

    Good for Michelle Obama, but co-opting a miniscule proportion into the elite is no substitute for better outcomes across the board.

  3. ‘He argues strongly for parental rights to quit poor state schools & take their funding to a better performing school of their choice..’

    Of course research throughout the western world continually shows that the key influence on educational outcome is home background (scored in lots of ways; parents have Uni background then child gets to Uni, amount of books actively used, educational trips done by home, sorts of holidays undertaken, language use in the home, sort of tv watched, lack of tvs in bedrooms etc.) In other words, just about any school can get students to jump through the qualification hoops, what schools rely on though is children with educational skills developed at home; language, listening, sitting, already used to discussions etc. School have an influence and occasional schools have a marked influence but countrywide it is the home which matters far more in terms of educational output.

    Impact for schools? Dont overate yourself. Why do new academies and free schools work; middle class parental influence get private schools on the cheap. Why does rebranding of schools fail? Same kids. Politicians don’t like noting that it’s is their own voters who have failed when their children fail at school. It NEVER gets mentioned.

    Way to improve education? Make curriculum better. For example, in most countries the point of English in primary is to get everyone to read and the point in secondary is to make it a habit. Not in the UK where the point of reading is to turn kids off reading by forcing them to read books which really only suit Arts graduates.

    Grove complains that everyone does’ Of Mice and Men’ ; it’s popular as it is an example of a book that has enough topicality to interest all ranges of ability. He wants them to do Hardy etc. NO! That’s for University.

    Get people reading modern books, such as Marjorie Blackman which is about racism in the UK–make reading a habit at secondary school and watch all subjects improve. Leave Literature for A level literature and get it out of the rest of the secondary schools (I’ve even heard Primary now do Shakespeare–how stupid is that!) But get more books in which students would enjoy into schools. Look at Australian schools for examples. ‘English’ in this country suffers from a fundamental misapprehension as to what secondary schools should be doing.

    Robert SWindells books should be in every home in the country which has an adolescent. Paul Jennings short stories should be in every late primary school home…

  4. BILLYBOB

    I’m not surprised at your 2nd para response.

    It’s what people like you always say.

    Try reading Aneesah Siddiqui’s article-she is no “elite” -she is an ordinary schoolgirl-who got inspired to up her A level objectives & try for a Science Degree.
    She said ” Before I met Mrs Obama, I thought that I would have an ordinary job. But now I want to be something that really makes a difference in the world. My name is Anessah Siddiqui. If I hadn’t met Michelle Obama, you would probably never have heard it. But now -just watch this space”

    So try it out on the parents of the Elizabeth Garret Anderson School for Girls, Islington-they’re the ones to answer you.

    But don’t try telling Anessah Siddiqui that she is from an “elite” when she is qualified.

    Try reading about Elizabeth Garret Anderson-then try another approach ………how can we make schools like this more widely available?-what does it take?…….how can we inspire more young girls to achieve what Elizabeth Garrett Anderson achieved?-what does it take?

  5. Jack

    I’d agree with most of that..

    “Look at Australian schools for examples.”

    We did. It was clear that our curriculum wasn’t doing the best for our kids, so after inviting an external analysis by OECD, Australia’s “Productive Pedagogies” model was used as the basis for the Curriculum for Excellence.

    Now embodied in Primaries, it’s being introduced into Secondaries (My daughter was teaching in NSW and I spent some time working with her on an Australian History module.)

    England seems obsessed with changing the structure of schools. If the curriculum is poor that will do nothing.

    Am I right in thinking that you still put all schools into league tables? That system that ensures that schools with lots of University educated Mums are at the top, and those with none are at the bottom?

    We compare schools with similar establishments, based on a basket of factors which measure affluence, poverty, remoteness and Mum’s educational level). That way you can pick out those schools which are underperforming in affluent areas and those doing much better than similar schools serving areas of deprivation. It still has problems, but is a basis for much better identification of schools that need to improve.

  6. OldNat

    To what extent will the factors you mention address the criticisms of the Scottish Education system set out in the 2009 Report by HMIe-“Improving Scottish Education” ?

    This was a BBC summary :-

    ht tp://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/7828500.stm

  7. Colin,

    “He argues strongly for parental rights to quit poor state schools & take their funding to a better performing school of their choice..”

    A fascinating endorsement from a man of 1997, who (I assume) supported the abolition of assisted places. Perhaps, after 13 years of supporting the rich’s monopoly on private sechooling, there is some realisation in the Labour party that a system of selection on the basis of income isn’t very progressive, even if it does mean that Labour politicians like Diane Abbott can be MPs in safe Labour seats and still send their kids to a nice private school.

    What Alan Mliburn is essentially proposing is a (dun-dun-DUHHHNNN!) voucher system on the Milton Friedman model. Labour would never, ever introduce such a model because of the NUTter influence over the party. However, with a few modifications (e.g. extra incentives for private schools to take on problematic children like mentally disabled children) I think it would be a fantastic egalitarian policy. Why should private schooling be a privilidge of the rich? Why not put the money in the hands of the people who love the children the most- the parents?

    There are lots of other good ideas for reforming education (free schools are on my list, but hardly high up) but the idea of a Labour party member proposing a radical aspirational reform from which even Margaret Thatcher and John Redwood quivered is astonishing. The country has changed a lot since 1997, when even assisted places were rejected outright by the left.

  8. Colin

    That is precisely what the new curriculum is designed to address.

    The report you quote was a summary of the position over 2005-8, but the problem was already known and had been highlighted by HMIe themselves.

    Hence why the Lab/LD Government commissioned the OECD report in 2006, it was written in 2007, but the search for alternative models was already under way, hence the creation of the new curriculum.

    Scottish Education had suffered deskilling of the profession through an uncritical adoption of the Tory top down application of an input model of education delivery, then an over application of a target bound output model from New Labour.

    To their credit McConnel’s Government were willing to change direction, and the CfE is not a partisan policy, but agreed by all except the Tories.

    It is true there is some criticism of CfE from Secondary teachers, but a lot of that is because thay are being asked to do a much more professional job, instead of just delivering what someone has told them to teach.

  9. Presumably the US is as good at education as it is at health

  10. OldNat

    Thanks :-) :-) :-) :-)

    Bill Patrick

    Thanks.

    Re your comment about private school involvement, I was very interested to read about the project in which a new Free School in Newnham London will be run by Brighton College. Harrow School and King’s College School in Wimbledon.They will lend teachers on secondment,. 16 comprehensives in Newham are also supporting the proposals.

    The proposed new school would not accept any students whose parents earn more than £26,000. It is designed to help inner city teenagers get into leading universities, it will be highly selective and only teach academic A-level subjects.

    Currently, schools are not allowed to select pupils according to social background , but the Government is reported to be considering changing this to help pupils from poor families.

  11. “If Labour/SNP/Plaid/Green/Respect/(Possibly SWP)/(Possibly LDs) formed a Popular Front movement and held primaries before sending the PF candidate to stand in the GE to represent that constituency.”

    And now I’ve heard it all. I can imagine an SNP/Plaid primary (were such a thing ever necessary) but that’s it. Even a Respect/SWP primary or a Labour/LD primary are out of the question, even if Labour were to go back to 1997 (which is about as far left as they could go without splitting up AGAIN). The SWP will never associate with bougeosis parties like Labour and the LDs. Respect will never associate with liberals or the party of Iraq. The SNP and Plaid will never have primaries with their natural rivals. The LDs will never forgive or be forgiven for the 1980s. The Greens will never give up their hard-won identity for a Front in which they wouldn’t be respected.

    Also, re: the 2010 election, a 7% lead is historically good in the post-war period. It’s only really been exceeded in the big election wins: 1945, 1979, 1983, 1987, 1997 and 2001. So 6 out of 18 elections since 1945.

    But that’s more indicative of Labour’s unpopularity, rather than the Tories’ popularity, because 36.1% would have been a near-record low for a governing party, exceeded only by Labour in 2005. Reverse the percentages for the various parties and Gordon Brown wins a record fourth term with a big majority.

    Which reminds me: the price of primaries even with the LDs would be PR + various other LD goodies, which is why Labour would never accept it. Endorsing PR would rightly condemn a Labour-leader to Ramsay MacDonald status in the party. Even AV was only endorsed out of total desperation in 2010.

  12. Colin,

    That idea makes sense to me. Labour have gradually changed the education system over the past half-century to one in which basically the only selection is on the basis of wealth: the wealthier you are, the better education you can get for your kids. I endorse any attempt to end such a system and selection on the basis of lack of income is a small but significant step in the right direction!

    If we had a voucher system, like Alan Milburn suggests, we could have schools that specifically catered for working-class children with aspirational parents. I’m sure there’d be a market there and private schools are profit-seeking companies. In my experience, I needed special support to get round certain aspects of getting into university (e.g. learning to speak clearly and correctly in admissions interviews) which I got because I was in a typical position in my high school. I’m hugely impressed by people who manage to go from a predominantly working-class comp to a good university, but I’m not sure I could have done it and I don’t see why I should have been expected to do so simply on the basis of an “egalitarian” ideology.

  13. Bill
    Thanks.

    Your last sentence is very interesting.

    I hadn’t thought of it that way before-but you must be correct.

    The barriers are much wider than just family income.

  14. Education vouchers – brilliant starter for a better idea: i.e. Have fully funded placings & force the fee paying schools to be open to competition.

    Have an externally assessed entrance exam. Those who score highest get the places. The state will pay for the most disadvantaged; better off parents can have a loan on the same basis as university tuition fees – when parental income exceeds £x, they begin to pay back the loan.

    Allowing pupils to compete, fairly, for places at these schools would simply be the fastest way to ensure social mobility. Eton etc. filled with middle & working class students there on merit. The mere thought makes me smile. :-)

    David Cameron said he wanted an Eton for every child. I wonder, would he be back this & smile, were Labour to bring in the scheme I’ve suggested?
    8-)

  15. Bill Patrick

    One of the reasons for the different patterns of schooling structure in England and Scotland is simple geography.

    In Scotland only 36% of school age kids live in large urban areas.

    In England 65% of the population (couldn’t see the age breakdown) live in large urban areas or bigger.

    Even in many of Scotland’s larger towns, with more than one Secondary, the catchment areas don’t split along “social class” lines. The Scottish system does break down, I think, in cities with over large areas of socially segregated housing, but I don’t think that importing systems designed for very different geographies would necessarily be useful here.

  16. Milburn has no business being in the Labour Party – he (and Blair and various others on the right of the party) would sit much better in a CD-type party, and in the days pre-Thatcher would probably have been Tories. So it’s no surprise (and of no interest) that he promotes this sort of model.

    Academies (and probably Free Schools, eventually) only get better results because (a) they are better resourced (including new/refurbished shiny buildings); (b) they tend to attract students with committed parents; (c) they have covert (and sometimes overt) selection, either for able students or committed parents; and (d) they tend to exclude students who will drag down their stats.

    i.e. they don’t actually do anything to improve education, they just shuffle around the success.

    This type of politics is all about reassuring the ‘haves’ that they won’t lose out. It does little or nothing to address the problems faced by the ‘have-nots’.

    On the other hand, the example of people like Michelle Obama does provide a demonstration that education is a viable route out of poverty. The problem is that the government is hell-bent on making that route more and more difficult.

  17. Ah well-I see the great Labour Party Schism rears it’s head, so will go & get in the mood for the match.

    Hope United can do it-but so long as Messi, Iniesta & Xavi turn on the magic, my evening will be complete. :-)

  18. These days it’s regarded as heresy to suggest that the quality and quantity of public services is closely related to the funding available to support them. Throwing money at the problem, so the argument goes, is not the answer as, public srvices being what they are, too much of the money will be wasted and management will inevitably be poor.

    This is manifestly not true. Looking at Scandinavian countries it’s not at all surprising that high quality public services are supported by a high tax regime. For people on the right to complain that inefficiency and waste are key characteristics of the public sector but do not normally feature in the private sector where market forces ensures maximum efficiency is much too broad brush. I’ve no idea how the research could be undertaken but it woiuld be good to see a comparative analysis of the relative efficencies of the public and private sector.

    I’ve had conversations with middle class folk in Denmark about their reactions to high taxation and, in general , excellent education, a reliable and comprehensive health service and free care for the elderly (amongst other things) were regarded as a fair return for the tax take.

    We need to have a serious look at whether in fact we need to explain to people that if they want better services (and in particular an NHS which keeps up with the demograophics) they need to pay higher taxes because any amount of tinkering around the edges by the likes of Lansley and Gove will not deal with undrlying situations.

  19. Colin

    I’ll be watching the match as a total neutral

    Visca el Barca y Visca Catalunya!!!!!

  20. Why force competition and stratification (even if that stratification is based around external assumptions/judgements of merit rather than wealth) upon chidren?

    We can argue about different types of educational establishments, I myself was educated at a grammar school, and privately (briefly, and thanks be, I escaped relatively unscathed from the objectionable ethos), however, the members of my family who received the best all round education imo, went to a (good) comprehensive.

    To be honest, teachers provided a framework, but in the latter stages of education especially, the contribution of fellow classmates is equally important, as are the prevailing wider (youth) cultural influences.

  21. AMBER STAR

    For starters threaten to withdraw charitable status and other tax benefits from places like Eton unless they fund full bursaries for 25% of the annual entry to be from state primary schools on the basis of ability and need (the latter could relate to the need for a boarding education). With reference to the latter point I think back to the days of the Inner London Education Authority which maintained several fully funded boarding schools for the children who had problems at home amongst others,.

  22. @David B – Funny you should mention Denmark in this context.

    In my expirience many “high performing” private and grammar schools concentrate to such an extent upon exam passes/university entrance that the result is a rather hollow education overall.

    After leaving university I spent some time with Danes who had finished their education at age 18… and to broad and high standard compared to many a graduate in this countrry.

  23. DAVIDB

    Are you quite sure that you are up to date with the political changes in Sweden?.

    This from an article in DT this month about Sweden’s approach to funding its Health Service :-

    “Last week, I attended a presentation by the Swedish finance minister, Anders Borg, to the Ifo Institute’s Munich Economic Summit. Though he was plainly putting Sweden’s best foot forward, it was hard not to be impressed. Many of the things Britain has been getting wrong, Sweden is getting right. The economy is growing strongly, labour market participation is at record levels, poverty rates are some of the lowest in Europe, and despite tax cutting, the public finances are comfortably in surplus.

    Mr Borg attributed these successes to the enduring strengths of the Nordic model, yet the most striking thing about his presentation was quite how much of the best bits of the Anglo-Saxon way of doing things this model now incorporates – labour market reform, fiscal conservatism, tax cutting, and so on. Believe it or not, government spending in Sweden is now lower as a share of GDP than in the UK. The country has adopted an approach to economic management which is both pragmatic and ideologically agnostic, and it’s plainly working. We should be learning from this success. ”

    OldNat

    Natch – I wouldn’t expect anything different from “johnny foreigner” :-)

  24. @Robin – ” ..the example of people like Michelle Obama does provide a demonstration that education is a viable route out of poverty.”

    Yes, but before advocting the US model it is salutary to watch, for example, a recent Channel 4 documentary about what life is like for the overwhelming majority of people left behind in those Chicago neighbourhoods

    .

  25. @ Colin
    Ah well-I see the great Labour Party Schism rears it’s head…………..
    ———————————————–
    It’s a bit much, when debate about the direction & policies of a Party is characterized as “Schism”.

    There are Tories who are against Lansley’s bill; Osborne’s cuts (particularly regarding defence); Ken Clarke on short-sentencing; I could go on & on.
    8-)

  26. Billy Bob

    I don’t think you need to say role models, who encourage people to aspire, to be a bad thing (not sure if you are doing that, but it sounds a bit like it).

    There has been a lot of research suggesting that “poverty of aspiration” holds many people back from improving their life, not just “poverty of talent” or “poverty of opportunity” or just “poverty”.

  27. All comparison to countries with dual education system (Denmark, Germany, to a large degree Sweden) is meaningless in the UK (including Scotland) context which operates a largely generalist education system.

    Education is a social, therefore political, issue and nice plans have no use (the UK has been struggling with introducing proper technical eduction for about 50 years and apart from some marginal achievement it largely failed exactly for the reason of education being social/political issue.

  28. Amber

    Perhaps you are right-would you accept “rift” ?

    Yes of course there is policy difference across all parties.

    But I respectfully suggest to you that the Blairite-Brownite difference is of a different magnitude.

    It is a difference about the role of the State & the place of the Individual in it. It is indeed a difference about who is , or was, entitled to call themselves socialist.It is a difference which permeats all major policy philosophy.

    It has given rise to three factions-colour coded for the avoidance of doubt!.

    Have you read TGB lately?-or its interestingly named offshoot GEER?

    LibDems have their Orange Book I grant you-& it may be that the rift between it’s adherants & their SocDem tendency will widen. But at present-whilst the coalition holds, one couldn’t call it a Schism.

    I will agree that until EM sets out his policy agenda, Labour Party Schism is a bit premature. But the tensions are certainly visible & the jockeying for influence vocal…………one of the three colours is going to be disappointed. Maybe we will see a schism then.

    :-)

  29. @Old Nat – Take Courage, as the sign painters used to exort.

    The worry is that when once those not deemed worthy of a place in the select and hallowed halls could bemoan the fact that they came from a deprived background, now they will be able to comfort themselves in the knowledge that they did not “merit” a chance. Let’s hope that does not dampen their aspiration.

    A broader variety of aspirations being valued would help.

  30. Billy Bob

    “A broader variety of aspirations being valued would help.”

    Absolutely. I taught a lot of kids who had aspirations in a wide range of aspects of life. Not one, however, had an aspiration to go to Eton.

  31. Oldnat

    I agree sending ordinary working class kids to eton would be cruel and unusual punishment, we should send young offenders there instead

  32. RiN

    Reminds of a former Headteacher of mine who said that he was strongly in favour of young offenders being returned to the community …..

    …… and the community should be Bearsden.

  33. oldnat @ Bill Patrick

    “One of the reasons for the different patterns of schooling structure in England and Scotland is simple geography.

    I don’t think that importing systems designed for very different geographies would necessarily be useful here.”

    Which is why we have devolution and why the UK parties need to Bavarianise.

    For those who do not understand just how irrelevannt everything you have ever heard from UK education ministers to Scottish conditions look at h ttp://mull-escape.co.uk/self-catering/save-mull-ulva-primary
    for an account of a recent successful campaign which hasn’t stopped merely because they have won their battle.

    We have stupid ignorant unimaginative people in local government in Scotland too.

    The video gives a completely different perspective on the debate about different sorts of school in England.

  34. Oldnat

    I reckon the SNP should be very co-operative on a pre-election pact with UK Labour. They could agree to support Lab on any foolish thing that only applied to England, which would wind up the tories somewhat.

    The problem SLAB would have coping with the Scottish Parliament consequenses would finish them off completely.

  35. wolf

    “Presumably the US is as good at education as it is at health”

    Google Elizabeth Warren or copy h ttp://www.google.co.uk/search?sourceid=navclient&aq=0&oq=elizabeth+warren+the+coming&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1T4DSGJ_enGB366GB366&q=elizabeth+warren+the+coming+collapse+of+the+middle+class#q=elizabeth+warren+the+coming+collapse+of+the+middle+class&hl=en&rlz=1T4DSGJ_enGB366GB366&prmd=ivnso&source=univ&tbm=vid&tbo=u&sa=X&ei=dU3hTa_GFYnQhAeBncToBg&ved=0CDgQqwQ&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.&fp=44e99e206e621cd1&biw=1259&bih=494

    Adult literacy falls year by year.

  36. @ Colin

    It [Brown v Blair] is a difference about the role of the State & the place of the Individual in it.
    ——————————————————
    That’s a reasonable view, Colin.

    The broad distiction being:
    Blairism: The State pays for public services out of taxes but they are provided by the private/ charitable sector with the state being the provider of last resort. i.e. when the private sector fails to provide relatively equal services to all, the state should step in & provide high quality services directly.

    There has been too little emphasis, IMO, of the role of the state as provider of last resort to an equivalent standard. The Blairites ought not to be allowed to gloss over this unchallenged.

    There was also, amongst the Blairites, a stubborn refusal to acknowledge that Unions (i.e. employee representatives with real power) should have an equal – or perhaps even greater role – within private sector companies who provide services on behalf of the state.

    There would also need to be an end to ‘commercial secrecy’ being permitted for entities bidding for state contracts in respect of their bids. All should be open to public scrutiny; & the proposals for employees’ terms & conditions should be an important factor when scoring bids.

    The Blairite model would also require talented stand-by teams of experts who could move quickly to establish state provided services, if the private/ NGO sector failed.

    The Blairites are loathe to admit that their model would likely be (much?) more expensive & require greater tax payer contribution. Some do admit this to be the case & say people would be willing to pay more for ‘better’ services.

    The Brownites: The state sector is the most effective & efficient provider of public services. Any apparent savings that are gained from private sector providers is the result of:
    1. Poorer employee terms & conditions generating a profit for the provider, often at the expense of quality &/or equality of provision.
    2. Lack of investment for the future which the state will end up having to pay for via expensive mechanisms like PPFI.

    I have tried to bullet some very complex issues & concepts into a very short comment. It would take an entire book to do any kind of justice to this topic.
    8-)

  37. Colin
    Nat would never support Man U. Not only are they English, the manager supports Scottish Labour
    When M U won the European Cup one Aberdonian, D Law missed playing but I think another did with whom I went to primary school. It was a very rough school and he was the roughest in it. Fitzpatrick was his name.

  38. Barney

    Don’t be silly. I’d support Man U against Real Madrid.

    If it’s a contest between two imperialists, I’ll support my local one. :-)

  39. Man U and Barcelona are two of my absolutely favorite European teams (the others being Juventus in Italy, Olympiakos in Greece, PSG in France and Benfica in Portugal), so I was already happy that it was them in the Final and not (God forbid!!) Real Madrid, Milan, Bayern or Panathinaikos. That said, one must admit that Barca is terrific and deserved to win.
    So, to my Catalan friends in Barcelona and Paris, congratulations!!

  40. Fabulous game. Barca are reminiscent of Brazil in the 70s.

    However, for anyone who thinks this game is about national skills – there were only 4 Catalans in the Barca team, and only 3 Englishmen for Man U.

    Both are international teams (in a real sense). Globalisation on the football pitch.

  41. Old Nat,

    I had only a brief experience of a rural Scottish comprehensive school, but if I’d stayed there I wouldn’t have been able to study at a top university, except MAYBE in the sciences if I was in a big year. There typically just simply weren’t sufficient numbers of smart students in the sixth form to have advanced classes.

    And while that school didn’t split straightforwardly down class lines, it was a purely working class/middle class school, whereas the private school to which I went was primarily middle class/upper class except for those who could get scholarships from the state and the school. These days, I imagine, there are probably only a handful of working class kids at that school, because successive governments have now abandoned the idea of opening up private education.

  42. Amberstar,

    You assume too little greed on the part of private schools. If you offer them fully funded places, you won’t have to do much forcing in order to get good private schools catering for all income groups.

    While I also like the idea of an opened-up Eton and I would very much prefer focusing funding on parents from poor backgrounds, there’s an old saying that “A programme for poor people tends to be a poor programme”. It would either wither, like social housing, or be abolished for more political profitable spending.

    Just look at assisted places: as soon as Labour got into power, they redistributed that money into general state education including for the middle classes. The pre-NHS system, which provided free care for the poor, was abolished in favour of a universalist system that gave free healthcare for the middle classes.

    If a scheme such as you had described was introduced, it would get slowly stripped of funds or get abolished like assisted places because those benefiting from the scheme wouldn’t have the political capital to support it. No-one who matters in education (the middle classes, the NUT and local authorities) would like it. The only people who would benefit would be working class children, who don’t have a record of successfully pressuring governments.

    Unless the middle classes are on board, it won’t happen. There’s no other sort of coalition that could possibly stand up to the NUTters on this one, who would rip into any government that even suggested a voucher system (let alone full funding!). It would take a prime minister would Thatcher’s testicles to see through even a return of assited places, let alone vouchers and it would take a Political Deity to introduce fully funded places for the working class.

  43. Bill Patrick

    I went to two different rural Scottish secondaries. Didn’t stop me going to Uni and getting a good degree – or my pals either.

    For that matter, it didn’t stop my kids.

    That you needed to be removed from the company of the working class in order to succeed, may well say something.

  44. Bill Patrick

    “The pre-NHS system, which provided free care for the poor, was abolished in favour of a universalist system that gave free healthcare for the middle classes.”

    I’d suggest that you have a look at the history of the Scottish NHS. If you only know the English model (or think that “Dr Findlay” was an accurate representation of Scotland) you will find significant differences.

  45. “Latest YouGov/Sunday Times voting intention – CON 37%, LAB 43%, LDEM 9%

    Latest government approval: minus 19 (33% approve, 52% disapprove)”

    posted on PB

  46. Old Nat,

    It may well do, if it was true. However, since my academic success came at a grammar school in a normal area, it isn’t, so it doesn’t. Still, I appreciate the characteristic attempt at needling.

    As for rural secondaries, I would throw out the novel idea that they might not all be the same. If you’ll re-read my post, you’ll notice that access to Oxbridge was basically impossible at the school in question, short of securing a class of 2 or 3 pupils.

    I’m not quite old enough to have been around at the time, but as I understand it the Scottish pre-NHS system had even less free coverage than the English system, though any generalisations about such an eclectic system are likely to be wrong.

  47. That’s 3 consecutive polls putting Labour’s lead at either 6 or 7%. I would suspect that optimism is wearing off at the moment vis a vis economic & household matters.

  48. Oldnat

    “I’d suggest that you have a look at the history of the Scottish NHS.”

    It had 20% more money too. Most of it is still there.

  49. One of my earliest memories is of being ill before the start of the NHS.

    I have told my doctor, in the presence of my wife, that I would rather die on an NHS waiting list than accept private treatment.

  50. Thanks Nat,

    Was wondering when someone was going to mention polling on this thread.

    @ Robin, I think your comments against Millburn and the Blairite agenda show why the Labour party may be a long way from power. Although they were never popular in the Labour Party, it was these ideas that enabled Labour to stradle a broad coalition of disaffected Tories and aspirational working class voters. And until the Labour party can express a similarly clear pro-aspirational vision, they will not succeed again.

    I think Ed M has made a start by embracing a little of the Big Society (but calling the good society), and fighting for The Squeezed Middle (not just being on the side of those on benefit), but it’s going to need to sound much more positve in the areas of choice in education and choice in the NHS (just not how the current Tory plans are set up).

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