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. Bill Patrick.

    Not that many pupils from Scotland have ambitions to go to Oxbridge – just as few have ambitions to go to Trinity College Dublin, or Harvard.

    Some do, of course, a couple of my pupils went to Oxbridge after passing 10 Highers – all at A ( I worked out her timetable so that she could some of them on half the normal teaching time).

    One of my daughter’s pupils is at MIT – while her US cousin is at St Andrews.

    Most people, however, stay within their own system because that is how secondary and tertiary education systems in the same country are designed.

    As to your schooling – you have me confused. How many schools did you attend?

    1. a rural Scottish comprehensive school
    2. the private school to which I went was primarily middle class/upper class
    3. a grammar school in a normal area

  2. @ Bill Patrick

    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.
    ————————————————-
    No. That’s why there would be an external entrance exam. The entrance exam would restrict places, by merit. Similar to grammar schools.
    All fee-taking schools to be required to follow this admissions procedure. Why not? I am not trying to cut their income or reduce their academic standards. So what grounds for complaint would they have?
    8-)

  3. Amber

    “The entrance exam would restrict places, by merit.”

    Don’t you think an external exam at the age of 4 or 5 would be a tad socially selective? :-)

  4. Re the cup final. Posters might like to know that the players were given a dispensation from normal UK tax laws with regard to their wages and potential winners bonus so that it would be treated as non UK income. This was done to ensure UEFA held the final at Wembley, as UK tax law has implications for how earnings would be taxed. My understanding was that it only affects the Man U players as UK residents.

    It was a fascinating match with some great football, but I almost get permanently depressed that the rich and powerful seem to have such a hold over tax policy. Why can’t they just get stuffed and realise just how lucky they are?

  5. @ Bill Patrick

    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.
    ———————————-
    No. I specifically said that the exams would be open to all. Rich, middle-class, working class. The children must be ranked for admission on merit alone.

    The wealthy pay their own fees, the middle-class pay as & when they can afford to, those on low incomes do not pay.
    8-)

  6. Alec

    Now I’m definitely glad that Man U lost!

  7. Barney

    Yes-I understand that well enough. I think it’s medical name is myopia caledonii ;-)

    Amber.

    Thank you-what an interesting response.

    I love the extensive analysis of “Blairism’s” failure to understand……….and the short decription of the Brownite view of ” Any apparent savings that are gained from private sector providers” ( love the caveat, “apparent” there :-) )

    Of course neither bullet point 1, or 2 are the reason for those “apparent” savings-perfectly exampling what the Brownite view so totally fails to understand.

    Still-its for debate in your party Amber-hope you get the outcome you’re looking for………and the electorate see it your way.

    ( didn’t mean that last bit of course :-) )

  8. @ Old Nat

    Don’t you think an external exam at the age of 4 or 5 would be a tad socially selective?
    —————————————————–
    No. My family background is very poor working class. I could read before I was 3 years old. I could do reading & arithmetic books meant for P6/7 when I was in P1. I don’t flatter myself that I am unique in that.

    Of course the middle-class would be the majority in the first wave to succeed. I do not mind; only the middle-class have the political clout to make such an opportunity happen. But there would also be some working-class & poor children who would suceed.

    Less edifying but also important, there would be wealthy & middle-class children who did not succeed. Their parents’ political power would likely be used to raise the standards in other schools. I think a lot of good might come from that too.
    8-)

  9. Old Nat,

    I agree about the absence of ambitions. It’s a shame, because some of the brightest people I’ve known went to that comp.

    You’ve managed to keep up with my secondary education: a Scottish comp for a year, a Scottish private school for three years and a grammar school in Ulster for two years. Of the three, I enjoyed the GS the most. The GS had it easy, though: my accent sounds ridiculous anywhere, but it sounds least strange in Ulster and I part of a very enthusiastic, scholarly student body.

  10. Amber

    Fortunately there are ethics in education as well as in medicine. Not all that wonderful I admit, but that sort of experimentation with children is normally frowned on.

    Treating them as people rather than class warriors is normally preferable. Your alternative is a little similar to recruiting child soldiers in Africa by kidnapping them from their families.

  11. Amber Star,

    But the middle class parents are still paying for a public service. That’s a big ask, though not as big as assisted places. However, if it can happen with tuition fees, I suppose it can happen with secondary schools.

    My next worry (and I’m only being annoying because I think you’re onto a very good idea) is that the state school teachers would be worried about private schools “skimming off the top”. Would the NUTters allow a system that made it possible for academically able pupils to opt out of the state system regardless of social class?

    “Less edifying but also important, there would be wealthy & middle-class children who did not succeed. Their parents’ political power would likely be used to raise the standards in other schools. I think a lot of good might come from that too.”

    This is a third possible problem. To bring up the old “tetriary” system, the fact that middle class children didn’t always get into the GS/academy stream didn’t end up improving secondary moderns/junior secondaries. Instead, secondary moderns/junior secondaries were abolished.

    However, one could argue that that was due to very particular circumstances in the 1960s and 1970s, and that in today’s world the secondary moderns/junior secondaries would have been transformed into high quality technical/vocational schools offering respected qualifications. Certainly, anything that would attract more funding and more reforms for the state system would be welcomed by me.

  12. @ Colin

    Of course neither bullet point 1, or 2 are the reason for those “apparent” savings-perfectly exampling what the Brownite view so totally fails to understand.
    ————————————–
    Yes, that’s why a book would be needed to articulate & debate the two positions.

    I probably am more critical of the Blairite view than the Brownite one. I think that reformists must justify change & address all the pitfalls – change is risky & risk must bring a worthwhile return that exceeds the potential for failure & loss.
    8-)

  13. Encouraging aspiration is one thing, educating teachers to recognise potential (let alone form meaningful ‘objective’ judgements about intelligence) in children is another.

  14. Rather than worrying about how to get which kids into which schools, I would prefer action to stop the drain on state resources that private schools (and hospitals) exert by syphoning off staff trained at the taxpayers expense while not paying a penny towards the training costs themselves.

    In any moral or practical sense, this is a state subsidy from taxpayers to the private school sector. If they want teachers, train their own. If they want teachers that have been trained by taxpayers, pay full whack for the training. Same goes for doctors and nurses at private hospitals.

    It’s odd, but I haven’t heard the Taxpayers Alliance campaign on that one.

  15. @ Old Nat

    Your alternative is a little similar to recruiting child soldiers in Africa by kidnapping them from their families.
    ——————————————————
    No. I did not say all children would be made to take the exam. I said externally assessed. I do not have a view yet, whether it should be within the state school system with an opt out or outside it altogether. Either way, the children & their parents would have the choice.

    Nor would the children have to be boarders. My use of Eton was as an example. I mean all fee-taking schools. There are lots of children in Edinburgh who could easily attend Loretto etc. as day pupils.

    And, BTW, comparing children going to privileged schools with African children being taken to be soldiers, I’m assuming that was intended to be an amusing expression of your views on Eton & not in any way intended to minimize how utterly dreadful life can be for many African children.
    8-)

  16. Amber

    So this is going to be restricted to urban children – mainly in Edinburgh.

    The comment wasn’t about those at Eton, but those who use children to fight their wars. It was intended to express the view that you had started out on that continuum.

  17. @ Bill Patrick

    …state school teachers would be worried about private schools “skimming off the top”. Would the NUTters allow a system that made it possible for academically able pupils to opt out of the state system regardless of social class?
    —————————————————-
    Yes, that should be a concern. My thoughts are that most teachers would like to see children succeed on merit. And many would understand that diluting the priviledge factor of high performance/ elitist schools would benefit society as a whole.

    IMO, Grammar schools could not have been abolished, had the middle-class not allowed it to happen. No Tory education policy has included bringing them back. Forcing all children to sit an exam on merit, whether they & their parents wished them to or not, it is not liberal.
    8-)

  18. No YouGov tonight? Sorry if someone has already mentioned it but I was watching the football One of those rare occasions where a Valencia fan backed Barcelona.

  19. RAF

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

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

    posted on PB

  20. Anyone spot the Grice article in the Indie about how both Tories and Lib Dems are preparing for the formal coalition to end:

    “Holding the Coalition together is suddenly much harder work. It is not coming off the rails. But the new phase has provoked speculation about how and when it will end.

    The Tory backbench rumour mill suggests that Sir Gus O’Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary, is dusting down the rules about how a “confidence and supply” arrangement would work. This would mean Liberal Democrat ministers leaving the Government and Mr Clegg’s party supporting the Tories in crucial Commons votes in return for an agreement on key policies. Ending the Coalition would not mean an immediate general election. A Bill is going through Parliament that should ensure it takes place in May 2015, which suits both parties.

    The Tory grapevine suggests the Coalition could be scaled down to a “confidence and supply” deal a year or even 18 months before the election. Perhaps it is just wishful thinking, a symptom of Tories’ frustration at the Liberal Democrats calling the shots on health.

    Yet Liberal Democrat strategists, who had drafted a “confidence and supply” agreement for either Labour or the Tories before last year’s election, admit the idea could be revived for the “decoupling phase” ahead of the next one. On the one hand, it might help their product-differentiation drive. On the other, it might allow the Tories all the credit for a tax-cutting eve-of-election Budget.

    “It is an end-game question, a long way down the track,” said one Clegg ally. ”

    If the Tories can excise the Lib Dems from cabinet 12- 18 months before the next election- but in a format that keeps them tied into key Tory policies- that would be an amazing coup.

    The best possibility for the Tories to get a majority at the next election (whenever that is) is for the Lib Dems to be back in opposition (but supporting certain agreed policies circa ‘confidence and supply” all the ay to May 2015). That will mean we are back in three party politics again and some of the leached votes from yellow-to-red will return: especially if the Labour party have adopted the kind of policy platform they need to 2011-2013 in order to be electable i.e. the kind that puts off/ frightens the middle class libertarians.

    The best two scenarios for Labour are either that the coalition holds all the way to the next election (in which case- IMHO- Labour will win irrespective of whether Osbormes deficit eradication ‘works’ or not); or, secondly, that the coalition falls apart completely and anarchistically with no ‘confidence and supply” agreement, or- even better- with the orange bookers in ‘C&S” and the rest of the Lib Dems on the opposition benches.

    Interesting.

  21. Rob Sheffield

    Saw the Grice article earlier – does he have any decent track record as an accurate political commentator. I don’t know his work.

  22. @ Old Nat

    So this is going to be restricted to urban children – mainly in Edinburgh.
    ——————————————-
    It is going to be ‘restricted’ to children/ children with parents who want them to go to the fee-taking schools.

    As it stands, bright rural children cannot attend these schools without leaving their local community anyway. How would you address that? With an ‘Eton’ in every village? You sound like David Cameron ;-).

    Now tell me how you will achieve it. Will you force teachers of specialist subjects to live in villages whether they wish to or not? Will you pay them for years when there are no pupils who wish to take the subject they teach?
    8-)

  23. @OldNat
    Thanks. YouGov’s own site has not been updated for some reason.

  24. Amber

    I wouldn’t even try to go down that road that you are entranced with.

    I sat the “Qually” myself at age 12 – having spent a large part of P7 practising for it instead of doing something useful.

    I’ve taught in both parts of the insane divide between Junior and Senior Secondaries.

    Can’t quite make up my mind whether you are embarking on a massive wind-up, or plotting to oust all those in the Labour Party who are to the right of Michael Gove (OK not too many then! :-) )

  25. Blast! right = left (I always get confused when trying to think in Labour Party terms) :-)

  26. I see some merit in the core argument Amber is making, that the “price” of charitable status for independent schools should be to offer a large (much larger than the bursaries most currently offer) chunk of their places to suitable children from low-income homes, free of charge. I see less mileage in forcing the schools to operate academic selection. They should be able to select pupils that they feel would best benefit from the education they offer, which doesn’t always mean the most academically able.

    As to Alec’s argument that private schools are getting “free teachers” from the state system – well, there are a few riders to that. Firstly, many of the teachers in private schools (particularly in specialist areas like arts and sport) are not formally qualified. Secondly, even those that are will have paid for a significant chunk of their education themselves. Thirdly, there are a whole range of individuals who take their government sponsored/subsidised training or education into private industry, and their employers are not expected to reimuburse the costs of that training/education to the taxpayer. Fourthly, parents paying school fees are contributing quite a considerable whack to the state school system as well – their taxes being considerably higher than the average and their children obtaining virtually no benefit from it all, apart from the residual benefit provided by the teacher training you describe.

    All in all, falling into the left’s usual trap of “We don’t like you being rich, we don’t want you being rich, we want to punish you for being rich” which was what Mandelson and others identified as something of an Achilles’ heel for the Labour party.

  27. “My thoughts are that most teachers would like to see children succeed on merit. And many would understand that diluting the priviledge factor of high performance/ elitist schools would benefit society as a whole.”

    I hope so, but I reserve my doubts.

    As for grammar schools, I think that both Labour and the Tories shoulder some of the blame for their demise. An even bigger scandal is the history of UK technical education: one doesn’t have to be a genius to link UK industrial problems (both in terms of strikes and productivity) to a shortage of well-trained skilled workers. No major party in the UK (including the SNP) has a really impressive technical and vocational policy.

  28. @ Old Nat

    I do not think your Party or my Party are going to abolish fee-taking schools.

    I do not think your Party or my Party are going to stop parents eye-ing those elite schools & longing for their children to have the chance of attending such a school.

    I do not think your Party or my Party are going to even attempt to achieve an ‘Eton’ for every child.

    If these fee-taking schools must exist, open them to all – & doing so on merit is something the electorate would understand as being ‘fair’.
    8-)

  29. @ Neil A

    I think your proposal wouldn’t be seen as ‘fair’. It doesn’t address the issue of the fee-taking schools screening out pupils they don’t want, regardless of how talented they are.

    Entrance need not be solely on academic merit. If the schools wish to have specialist/ tailored courses e.g. music, then talented musicians of school age would sit the ‘music’ entrance exam.
    8-)

  30. All this stuff about dusting off the confidence & supply in anticipation of events 2 or 3 years away is a smoke-screen, IMO.

    There are real concerns within the Coalition that the Dems will walk away rather than vote for Lansley’s bill. David Cameron supporters are becoming concerned that he will lose the support of his MPs, if he gives the Dems what they are asking for.

    They are exploring their options for immediate use but do not want it to be read as such.
    Hence the smokescreen.
    Hence the Independent.
    The Indie is good for reporting Dem positions without too much speculation about what lies beneath.
    8-)

  31. Amber

    You may remember my earlier post on the geographies affecting educational provision.

    I also said that there is a problem with schools in large urban areas that effectively segregate schools via housing.

    There is an argument that the best way to avoid this problem is by addressing it through housing policy rather than school restructuring.

    Private schools are much more an Edinburgh phenomenon than anywhere else in Scotland.

    As for specialist schools, you may know of centres like the Dance School of Scotland contained within Knightswood Secondary in Glasgow.

  32. Old Nat,

    “Private schools are much more an Edinburgh phenomenon than anywhere else in Scotland.”

    … What?!

  33. @Amber,

    I think you are seeing things too much through the prism of absolute academic achievement. What many state school pupils are missing out on is the opportunity to realise their potential. That potential need not to be the next Steven Hawking. I think if private schools were to be forced to admit a proportion of “free” pupils then it would be in their interests to ensure that the best overall candidates were selected. They might prefer, for example, pupils with an appetite for learning and a positive attitude, rather than raw, naked talent.

    I speak as someone who was selected to go to a fee paying school, at the local council’s expense. The selection was very carefully done, but had very little to do with my academic ability. It was more about how likely I was to adhere to the school’s ethos and make progress there.

    Ultimately of the state school pupils that dramatically fail to achieve their potential, I believe the majority do so because of a social culture that dis-values intelligence, hard work and intellectual curiosity. Many of those average to above-average pupils who arrive at comprehensives with a propensity to learn have it squeezed out of them by pressure from their peers. The true secret of private schools is that the pressure to “dumb down” is (mostly) removed. In my opinion that is also the true secret of the handful of really exceptional state schools (the ones whose heads win honours and treasure) – they confront the casual anti-academic society that lives like an endemic disease in the corridors.

  34. Old Nat,

    Yes, Edinburgh has a lot of private schools relative to its size. No-one disputes this fact. But the majority of Scottish private schools are not in Edinburgh.

  35. Bill Patrick

    “But the majority of Scottish private schools are not in Edinburgh.”

    Since I never made that point, your comment is somewhat irrelevant.

    That summary table contains all independent schools – including a fair number which are specialist for severely maladjusted kids (and I’m going to avoid the obvious joke :-) )

    25% of independent primary and secondary schools are in Edinburgh.
    34% of independent primary and secondary pupils are in Edinburgh.

    More than ample justification for my statement that “Private schools are much more an Edinburgh phenomenon than anywhere else in Scotland. “

  36. @Adrian B

    “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. ”

    Nonsense. Those ideas only energed during the second term, at which pint Labour went on a downward trend. And they do nothing to address the *actual* needs of such voters. Reshuffling deckchairs is no use to anyone.

    More than anything else, what most interested parents want is for their local school to be a good school they are happy for their child to attend. And for children of disinterested parents, that is absolutely essential. ‘Choice’ and ‘diversity’ in education are a sop to those who fear their local school isn’t up to it, while leaving the children of the rest to rot.

  37. “… adhere to the school’s ethos”

    With good reason: “… in the independent school (UK) sector, a pupil can be ‘permanently excluded’ at the discretion of the Head, with the interest of the school taking precedence over the rights and interests of pupil and parent… a Head will refer to an expulsion as “a requirement to withdraw”, and is “immediate and permanent”.[1]

  38. Billy Bob

    What happens in publicly funded schools in England with regard to permanent exclusions from school? Is there a requirement that the local authority continues to educate them?

    Last session in Scotland, 67 pupils were “removed from the register” (as we call it) but all had their education continued in one form or another – the vast majority of them in specialist institutions (often by order of the Children’s Panel).

  39. Robin.

    I dont agree with you on much but thats absolutley bang on, the whole choice malarky is so obviously going to leave those who dont have choosy parents worse off

  40. Billy Bob

    Forget that request. I see that you were just quoting Wiki (or one of its derivatives). The article is, of course, nonsense in talking about a UK set of rules concerning exclusion, when they are simply English.

    If Wiki is accurate then the answer to my question is that “the Local Education Authority employ techniques such as appointing a single tutor for one lesson a week.”

    Such abandonment of children is not legal in Scotland.

  41. Old Nat,

    There’s no point in getting into semantics, so if you meant that there are more private schools per head in Edinburgh than in Scotland generally, you’re right. I don’t think “more an Edinburgh phenomenon” makes that point well, but it’s a correct point.

    Quite how this fits with-

    “So this is going to be restricted to urban children – mainly in Edinburgh.”

    – when you’ve just given statistics on the numbers of rural private schools, I’m not sure.

  42. At 2;41 pm yesterday, in response to Jack’s excellent post, I asked

    “Am I right in thinking that you [ie England] 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?”

    There have been so many posts on education on this thread that surely someone knows the answer? Surely it can’t be that people are posting out of ignorance? :roll:

  43. Bill Patrick

    “rural private schools” – Go back and check.

    Loretto in Musselburgh, East Lothian is hardly a “rural school”. :-)

    I don’t know exactly how many of the boarders at Gordonstoun have Scottish postcodes at their home address either.

    However, I’m content to alter “mainly” to “the highest proportion from” if that keeps you happy.

  44. Old Nat,

    Private schools are MAINLY an urban phenomenon. Edinburgh has a high number of private schools PER HEAD. Private schools are not just an urban phenomenon, nor are private schools mainly found in Edinburgh.

    Still, your basic point is sound: in most rural areas, private schooling is very rare, so it’s unlikely that any Amber Star Education Plan (or vouchers or assisted places, for that matter) will set rural Scotland alight with excitement…

  45. Bill Patrick

    Glad that we’re past the semantics. :-)

    I don’t necessarily pick my words on a blog with the same clinical exactitude that I would in an academic debate (and neither do you).

    However, improving life chances for kids really matters. I’m not in favour of wholesale ideologically driven changes in education.

    Labour’s application of comprehensive schools (on the English model) to Scotland’s cities had a significant downside.

    The Tory input model for the curriculum was fundamentally insane! (We had to redraft the curriculum model to provide an additional 2.5 minutes of RE per week, or lose thousands of pounds of funding in the 80s).

    Labour’s centralist model of external target setting just created a process of concentrating resources on kids who could get that 5th Credit to push the numbers up.

    CfE will help, but there is a long way to go yet. The East Lothian idea of decentralising school management to communities (NOT just parents) is well worth piloting in many places across Scotland.

    The cities probably need a total rethink.

  46. To get an OM (or at least be clearly first – how the LDs would spin a ‘coalition of the losers’ after spinning against it in 2010 I don’t know), Labour only really need to keep the seats it has in the South and start winning big in the Midlands, the North and Scotland (which now has it’s own problems – but we’d have to see).

    Labour’s lowest recent poll –
    41/37/10 Labour/Tory/LD/(SNP)
    Midlands – 46/36/8
    North – 53/31/6
    Scotland – 38/19/6/32

    Following day –
    43/37/8
    Midlands – 45/37/6
    North – 59/28/6
    Scotland – 38/19/5/32

    Latest –
    43/37/9
    Midlands – 48/34/8
    North – 58/27/9
    Scotland – 43/17/7/29

    Not looking too bad for Labour on the polling front.

    Of course, Labour’s preferred strategy at the moment seems to be ‘We need to win the South!’, which arrogantly ignores all the gains they’ve made.

  47. @ Amber

    ” I think that reformists must justify change & address all the pitfalls – change is risky & risk must bring a worthwhile return that exceeds the potential for failure & loss.”

    So -you are a Conservative at heart then Amber ? :-)

    Whilst I have some feelings along those lines myself, the danger there is that a faulty status quo may be perpetuated out of political inertia.

    This is the Bob Crowe strategy for retaining priviliges within the public sector -if it was neccessary yesterday, it must be neccessary today-so we can’t do without it.

    Slow accretion of further small advantages thus builds an impregnable minority interest-which may not be in the interest of the majority.

    Private Eye used to call it Spanish Practices .

  48. TINGEDFRINGE

    ‘we need to win the south’ is actually a very sound policy, although clearly an election could be won without it.

    At the moment it looks as of we could be entering a period of electoral balkanisation. Tories who dominate the South, but without a mandate elsewhere. SNP* in Scotland. Labour in the north, midlands and Wales. LibDems in…. Well somewhere.

    This just isn’t healthy. I don’t want or expect any one party to dominate or even ‘win’ everywhere, but it isn’t healthy to have governing parties without the expectation of competing or representing huge swathes of the country.

    Having significant numbers of MPs from every part of the UK should be a goal of every national party. Failing to stand candidates is one of the greatest political sins…

    *yes I know the SNP are a special case, but they wouldn’t be happy if they didn’t win support across the whole of Scotland…

  49. COLIN

    It is possible (as a counter argument) that the public sector has the ability/luxury to take decisions with a longer horizon than public sector companies do. I’ve seen a number of significant and costly decisions taken in private business in order to meet a specific individuals short term goals, even when it has clearly cost the company money in the short, medium and long term.

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