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Sir Bob is spot-on. We should be making much more of those points, particularly 1 to 4.

On an earlier thread I was ranting about the virtues of grammar schools... but setting within every subject and school is acceptable - provided it happens.

I doubt that these measures will be enough to satisfy the increasing numbers of middle class parents who want to send their children to a good school. Setting in the major subjects is already happening in a lot of schools now. Parents will judge a school by its overall reputation including exam success and behaviour of pupils.

These policies will not prevent parents from wanting to send their children to private schools, or to move into the catchment areas of good schools. Schools in deprived areas will continue to struggle to attract decent pupils and good teachers.

What is our policy on dealing with grade inflation? Have we anything radical to say about dealing with poor behaviour? It is this which is leading to the problems of attracting and retaining good teachers.

I think these announcements are extremely positive - in particular the comments on setting which I wholeheartedly support.

Sir Bob clearly doesn't understand how the voucher system works. The ideas is not, as he asserts, that "the private sector of will so expand in response to this influx of money that it provides a huge number of quality places."

Rather it offers a means to improve all schools. As the Friedman Foundation notes, state schools respond positively to competition.

He also fails to understand that indendent schools run in such a system would also be motivated to address his five points, or risk losing out to schools that did so.

This is another retrograde step from Cameron's Conservatives.

I was listening to 'Today' this morning, and just how confused Labour are over this became very apparent when Jacqui Smith tried to defend the Governments position on Education. Sounded very much like old Labour to me. Cameron's tactics appear to be very clever, and park himself close to Blairs' more conservative policies (education, hospital choice), but its still just out of his reach. There is no way Labour dogma can make that final small step. We shall see, but I'm just enjoying watching Senior Govt. ministers really sweat for a change, after coasting in neutral for 8 years.

“I want to improve services for everyone, not just provide an escape route for the privileged few.” – David Cameron

I hope by the “privileged few” he is referring to the “rich”, rather than the most intelligent and intellectually gifted.

In 1997 Labour abolished assisted places. This was the most ridiculous piece of legislation ever and was an example of class warfare rather than child welfare. It is obvious that many Public schools provide a better standard of education than the state sector. Intelligent children from poorer backgrounds were most disadvantaged by this abolition, just as they were most disadvantaged with the abolition of Grammar schools.

Humans are all individuals and each person is different. Always have been. Always will be. Selection would push the brightest to achieve even higher standards while those of less academic ability would be encouraged further through setting and special attention. It is useless trying to not select students as the top 20% and the bottom 20% are failed by this system.

If schools can now select on musical ability and sporting ability, why can they not select on intellectual ability.

Britain is currently falling behind in education standards, while places like India are dramatically improving.

I was streamed in every subject from second year onwards in my local Scottish comprehensive - in 1972! It has been common practice for many years before. So our "new" education policy is at least 40 years old!!!

My friends and relatives who went to private schools were better educated. At the time, I would have preferred to have gone to a good private school and could have - if the assisted places or a voucher scheme had operated then.

Sir Bob Balchin proposes only tinkering with a socialist system. Shirley Williams ruined education in this country. Real structural reform is needed. That is what te policy groups must deliver.

I think Ive said this before but Ill repeat because it would have been a while ago.

I have a twin brother who requires special needs help. He went to the Ramsgate School, which some of you may know, was one of the worst schools in the country (its now a City Academy and the jury is still out to how good it will be). He was kicked out of that as well as a secondary modern in Canterbury and the local FE College. He eventually found a place in a school, in which he thrived. It was appropriate to his needs.

Im concerned about these proposals. They arent different enough from Labours policy though. I doubt Joe Public will be able to distinguish. Not only that but they pre-empt the policy group and cut off options.

Yet another "managerial" policy initiative. according to DC there are no structural problems - all we have to do is manage it better than Labour, just like we need to manage the health service better. I am beginning to wonder if John Major is actually the biggest influence on DC.

What I dislike most is the fact that Cameron is cutting off the option of Grammar Schools. He wont even consider it. Hes been leader for 4 weeks and hes cutting off options already.

"In 1997 Labour abolished assisted places. This was the most ridiculous piece of legislation ever and was an example of class warfare rather than child welfare. It is obvious that many Public schools provide a better standard of education than the state sector. Intelligent children from poorer backgrounds were most disadvantaged by this abolition, just as they were most disadvantaged with the abolition of Grammar schools"

Indeed, I was one of those who benefited from the assisted place. It was that that converted me to conservatism.

The Assisted Place debate seems to symbolise the ideological divide. Labour are ideologically opposed to the private sector, for reasons of class resentment. They then try to pretend they are on the side of the poor, but they are not, because poor children like myself would not have had any opportunity at all growing up in inner London under a Labour government.

The state sector is so incredibly bad right now (especially in inner cities) and Labour's response is to try to blame private schools rather than face up to the failures of their own ideology.

If it were up to me, all schools would be private.

It's dreadful. But, in electoral terms, it may well work. The basic idea is that the more like New Labour we become, the more likely we are to win. Probably right. What genius! How pointless!

The problem is that things like the assisted places scheme just offered a way for the few to the mediocrity that is the state school system. Okay, they allowed people to escape who would otherwise not have done so, but that doesn't help everyone else.

I think Willetts's proposals will similarly fail to help everyone else. All such managerialist tinkering will do is concentrate more power in the hands of ministers, which is the very source of many of the education system's woes.

Sadly they've ruled out voucher schemes, which would have made every school independent. So I guess we're stuck with only those who can buy their way out being able to get anything better for themselves.

I hate being patronised by Tory public school boys telling us that state education is wonderful.

It isn't wonderful. I went to a state school, and Ofsted put it on Special Measures.

I did not mean you, James. I was talking about the public school Oxbridge types who are in control of the party. The teaching in my comprehensive was mediocre with a few exceptions.

What is the current status of Ofsted inspections? When I was at school about 10 years ago, the school had its first inspection and it was ridiculous. Being pre arranged, all the lazy scruffy teachers just sharpened up their act and actually taught instead of sitting there reading a book. The week after, they reverted to type. I thought at the time, this needs to be random as the inspectors are being conned.

Things havent changed. When I was at College last year, we went through the planning and organising it. The windows were cleaned for the first time in years. The techers made us work. We were drilled on what was expected. Its a farce still.

Excuse me for the hijack, but I have just had a flash of realisation.

Did you read Cameron's new year message - beginning 'The world is changing'? It has been bugging me for ages because it sounded familiar. Someone suggested to me it was from 'The Day after Tomorrow'. I have just realised that it is the opening line to the prologue type bit read by Cate Blanchett in 'The Fellowship of the Ring'. Is this an in-joke related to the whole DC as Frodo thing, or complete coincidence?

Sorry if someone's mentioned it already but realisation only just hit there.

I don't disagree with the comment we should be looking at improving education in all schools rather than creating exit options for the few but then to go for setting by subject as a centre of an education policy!
The Guardian (maybe not the most independent source I know) has a good critique on "setting by subject" pointing out it is already very common across schools..

to quote "children put in higher sets tended to do better because teachers' expectations were higher, while children of equal ability did worse if they got into a lower set and found they were entered for lower tiers at GCSE. A couple of marks' difference in a test could therefore have an enormous impact.

Children in the bottom sets, especially for several subjects, tend to become stigmatised, said Professor Hallam. One danger is that the bottom sets become alienated and unteachable"

Lets hope that the other David's (Willetts) views on choice, diversity etc are the areas that get centre stage in the eventual policy rather than centrally imposed commandments on how schools best organise their teaching,

Funilly enough, Selsdon, there is a link between educational acheivement and authoritarianism. See this link page 35.

You guys should be out chasing the Cs and Ds, not the A/Bs.

Probably coincidence.

"The problem is that things like the assisted places scheme just offered a way for the few to the mediocrity that is the state school system. Okay, they allowed people to escape who would otherwise not have done so, but that doesn't help everyone else. "

I agree with this James, I was just talking about the principle involved. If the state sector is a complete failure (it is) then making the private sector off limits to the poor just cuts out their possibilities of success. The rich will have opportunites denied to the poor. This is the opposite of meritocracy.

As I say, my answer would just be to take the state out of controlling education entirely. Unfortunately, David Cameron doesn't appear to share my view.

I agree with Selsdon Man's point. It's all very for the ultra-privileged Cameron to lecture us about the merits of the egalitarian state sector: he wasn't one of those condemned to it.

"You guys should be out chasing the Cs and Ds, not the A/Bs."

I detect a whiff of snobbishness from our resident Lib Dem.

Is there some confusion here?

1. The Conservative Party will not support selection by academic ability.
2. The Conservative Party will support 'setting'.
3. 'Setting' is selection by academic ability within the closed population of a school.

The distinction is that this is selection within schools rather than between schools. But you are right, its a tenuous link at best.

I am surprised that no one has mentioned crowding out. The dominance of the state sector inhibits the development of the private and voluntary sectors. It enforces the power of the unions and makes private education less affordable as parents have to pay twice.

Sir Bob Balchin may have advised Conservative governments but his arguments against vouchers are socialist. No wonder our Ministers were so timid!

John Hustings. Snobbishness? Why? Surely a statement of fact (the sort of thing that when applied to eg instances of crime and race gets called political correctness if suppressed). Its not exactly a secret that educational attainment and a more 'liberal' attitude to life go together. I'm just making a helpful suggestion!

(I am comprehensive-educated and yes, it was sh1te)

"Its not exactly a secret that educational attainment and a more 'liberal' attitude to life go together. I'm just making a helpful suggestion!"

Might that have something to do with the leftist bias inherent in the (mainly state-run) education system? :)

My experience is that setting or streaming will help a few kids who may be held back. It does not tackle the overall culture in a school or poor teaching. Choice provides a real exit route where there is a failure and highlights failing schools. Even Diane Abbott recognises that.

The assisted place was in some ways much like the NHS Patient Passport. By taking someone out of the state system, you were freeing up space for the others around.

Children need to learn the value of effort, and the price of failure which I’m sure the 11plus instilled into many. I think the only revision needed to the old system is a go-between, whereby late developers and improvers can move within the system. I believe that a two-tier system would work. The current mess at the moment that lumps everyone together regardless of ability fails everyone regardless of class.

Well the 5 points seem fair enough but there's nothing that substantial about them. To me there are 4 more fundamental points.

What will we do about the ridiculous system of OFSTED inspections?

What are we going to do to try and change/improve the education system to try and stop children becoming board and disruptive?

Are we sticking by the ridiculous 50% labour target of university admissions?

What will we do to tackle skills gaps? There is an image of vocational subject being seen as failure within school in my experience.

Ofsted is a waste of £200 million a year (excluding the cost to schools). Inspections skew teaching results and are counter-productive. They create false targets and administrative workload and detract from real teaching. Teachers, students and caring parents know whether a school is good or bad more accurately than Ofsted ever will.

JH - yes of course, all teachers are pinkos!

Its to do with the fact that education broadens the mind and tends to make people less suspicious of other people, places and ideas that are initially unfamiliar. It also equips them with the critical faculties to assess their own conditions, country and lifestyle in relation to others instead of blindly accepting that one set of ideas/country/race is better than all the others.

"Its to do with the fact that education broadens the mind and tends to make people less suspicious of other people, places and ideas that are initially unfamiliar."

Here we go. The implication that all social conservatives are just "ignorant" or "prejudiced".

"It also equips them with the critical faculties to assess their own conditions, country and lifestyle in relation to others instead of blindly accepting that one set of ideas/country/race is better than all the others."

Ha. Funny, I think the doctrine of political correctness actually *stifles* rational and critical thinking. But then this is a typically supercilious remark from someone who has "blindly accepted" that "one set of ideas is better than all the others"


Andrew, I cant find a direct quote from DC, but he said that there would be no limit to the student numbers. I know it doesnt help very much but thats whats happening with the target.

Wait a sec, found something. BBC reports, "On higher education, Mr Willetts said policy detail had still to be determined, but that the party's previous opposition to student numbers rising above 50% was no longer a fixed commitment."

I am very confused by this discussion. I thought that it was up to each LEA what (if any) selection procedure would be applied in its area, and it is because of this that certain authorities have retained their grammar schools. Is the Conservative party now intending to move away from this position and insist that no LEA's can retain selection ? If so, I could never vote for them again. Their policy should be to permit all LEA's, and indeed all schools, to introduce selection if they wish to do so.

"It also equips them with the critical faculties to assess their own conditions, country and lifestyle in relation to others instead of blindly accepting that one set of ideas/country/race is better than all the others." - Orange Booker

This coming from the Lib Dem who blindly accepts that his own view and the view of his very minor party are correct, is quite frankly hilarious.

I think what is being proposed is no more Grammar Schools. The ones already in existance can stay but should they decide to change status, they cannot go back to the 11+ for example.

The problem with allowing LEAs to do what they want is that they may decide to go for selection and Cameron and Willets cant risk it. I think we are looking at more centralisation here, John C.

Julian, chris, you're such forthright chaps. Just because you're in a minority, doesn't mean you're wrong. its my mission to shed a little light into your dark recesses :-)

Furthermore, if Social Conservatives have come to that view having assessed all the evidence, then fine. If it just a "gut feel", then that worries me. But then I don't go in for this conviction stuff, life is too complicated.

I have a few fears here. Please please please don't tell me we're accepting targets. Targets are the bane of society imo. I fear Cameron is letting Blairs accusations in Parliament get to him. When properly explained, our Education plans (whilst not being substantial enough) were not that bad at the last election. Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater on this policy review.

I cant find a direct quote though Andrew so I cant say for sure, but I think Camerons going to try and up the ante on that one and perhaps say they will be even more ambitious...

Orange, it's very typical for Lib Dems to claim a good thing. Greater tolerance (or liberalism) is simply the result of fewer boundaries.


Orange Booker - outside of the hard sciences, Economics (and related subjects) and Law, one is unlikely to encounter anything other than left-wing opinions at university from one's lecturers. Far from broadening the mind, one is likely only to hear one point of view.

Only a tiny proportion of university lecturers d vote Conservative, and it's one of the few professions in which a significant number would vote for extreme-Left parties.

"Julian, chris, you're such forthright chaps. Just because you're in a minority, doesn't mean you're wrong. its my mission to shed a little light into your dark recesses :-)"

Who's Julian?

By the way, we're not in the minority. You must *know* that. The "ignorant" public who you regard with such disdain overwhelmingly share our views on a great many issues. That's why you dislike them so much.

I happen to like them for that. It suggests they still retain a moral centre, and haven't yet adopted the trendy relativism of our "intellectual elites".

"Furthermore, if Social Conservatives have come to that view having assessed all the evidence, then fine. If it just a "gut feel", then that worries me. But then I don't go in for this conviction stuff, life is too complicated.
"

What "evidence" have you assessed, pray tell?

And let's see how this claim stands up to scrutiny:

Is your opposition to the death penalty based on "evidence" or "gut feeling"?

If it's based on evidence, then I think you're on shaky ground.

Same with your favouring of "rehabilation" over "punishment", or light prison-sentencing over harsh prison-sentencing.

The evidence is not on your side.

If you want to debate this then fine, but I am willing to bet that you won't be able to do so without resorting eventually to emotional arguments (indeed, as you did over the question of the EU).

The point I'm making is that I do not believe that the position you adopt on any of these things is based on "evidence". Nor are the views of most "liberals" formed on the basis of "evidence". They are formed on the basis of what society is teaching them is *virtuous* to believe, not what is true.

If that's the case then fine. But don't be such a hypocrite as to denigrate others who do the same but come to different conclusions.

I had a very Conservative Sociology teacher. Probably more an exception to the rule but there we go.

There is, of course, the complication of the personality type which uses post-hoc rationalisation to confirm what is, actually, a pure gut prejudice: Orange Booker, are you so sure that your tribe doesn't just fall into this category? I have more degrees than you can shake a stick at, but all that education did not make me more enlightened than the pre-socratic practitioner of the unexamined life. The older I get, the more I think he was wrong. (It's that inner lining of gloom that separates Tories from liberals, of course).

PS My last "insight" is courtesy of Margaret Drabble, who talked of the "despairing Tory view of the imperfectability of humanity"

John Hustings, I present to you: the USA. Murder has been reduced to zero by knowledge of the death penalty (except, of course, in the states where they don't ahve it). Crime is at minimal levels because criminals know that sentences will be long and prison conditions harsh ...


Very much so, James. I think in the past two elections, the TES has found about 5% of lecturers who are ready to vote Conservative.

There have been societies in which people who go to university tend to be highly reactionary (pre War Germany, modern Iran for example). It's a consequence of being taught that a particular viewpoint is the orthodoxy.

Graeme - isn't that just called "getting older"?


Interestingly Orange Booker, the Economist recently pointed out that the murder rate in the USA has dropped very sharply over the past 10 years, as indeed, has the crime rate overall.

"John Hustings, I present to you: the USA. Murder has been reduced to zero by knowledge of the death penalty (except, of course, in the states where they don't ahve it)."

I think you made a mistake in there, but anyway:

Are you seriously telling me that *that* is the reason you oppose the death penalty?

I very much doubt it.

Of course i am enlightened enough not to ask YOUR age :-0)

"Interestingly Orange Booker, the Economist recently pointed out that the murder rate in the USA has dropped very sharply over the past 10 years, as indeed, has the crime rate overall."

Indeed, the USA can teach us an awful lot about how to deal with crime (basically: prison works). But somehow I don't think Orange Booker is as "evidence-based" in his thinking as he tries to make out.

"PS My last "insight" is courtesy of Margaret Drabble, who talked of the "despairing Tory view of the imperfectability of humanity""

Hey Graeme, I actually agree with you for once. It's indeed true that Tories do not believe humans can be perfected, as opposed to, say, Marxists who believed that human beings could be made to work not in their own interests, but in the interests of the greater good etc.

Or of PC liberals, like our friend Orange Booker, who believe that all "chauvinism" of all kinds can be expunged from humanity.

The arguments against the death penalty are of course not unidimensional (I mean the societal/cultural axes on which they lie are multiple) - ditto the arguments in favour. Actually it's a good example of what I called, above, the post-hoc rationalisation of a gut instinct (this website thrives on this practice, have you noticed?).

I hate the death penalty, it makes my blood run cold, & so I can produce a dozen intellectual reasons for not supporting it. If you have the contrary view, I think you can easily produce a dozen valid sounding reasons. They don't actually contradict one another, as I keep writing, this is politics, not mathematics, and it's wise I think to recognise the difference. Sadly away from the blackboard I lack the comfort of knowing that if A=>B and B=>C then A=> C. Inductive reasoning is much, much harder ... but a lot more fun as well, no?

However, I don't like the way "Social Conservative" is being bandied around as an insult. The work of Tim and the CSJ has made me think of unsullied libertarianism as childishly oversimplistic at best and cruel to the generations left to languish at worst. Social conservatives have the most fruitful agenda on offer for tackling the extremes of poverty and poor life outcomes we see all around us.

Am so in shock at John H and I agreeing that I'm leaving for the day! Have a good one. PS John I always knew we would, it were thou that were doubtful.

Yes exactly Graeme. I didn't want to turn this into a debate about the death penalty. I chose that topic because I know that hardly anyone comes to their point of view (either for or against) purely on the basis of "evidence".

That's why I think Orange Booker is rather childish to pretend that liberals like him are all evidence-based rationalists, and the rest of us are neanderthals.

"However, I don't like the way "Social Conservative" is being bandied around as an insult. The work of Tim and the CSJ has made me think of unsullied libertarianism as childishly oversimplistic at best and cruel to the generations left to languish at worst. "

I believe I introduced that term into this debate, and I don't consider it an insult. And I absolutely agree with you, the reason I am a social conservative is that I recognise that libertarianism just leads to social problems (which in turn have an economic cost).

There's an interesting observation in today's Times on Education:

"Mr Blair also knew that he was trading in a Tory-free zone, for at Westminster education has been colonised by Labour for decades. Scores of Labour MPs and peers are former teachers and lecturers and speak authoritatively about schools, colleges and universities. The Tories had one state school teacher candidate . . . and he lost."

Actually, we would have had two if they hadn't sacked Adrian Hilton, and he could have spoken with authoritative experience. But this is an important observation. What's the point of having an A-list of gender and ethnic diversity, if there is little employment diversity? How many Conservative teachers or nurses get winnable seats, thus perpetuating the perception that Labour is more friendly towards the public services?

Thanks for explaining this James. I live in Buckinghamshire and my daughter has just passed the 11 plus for entry to an excellent Grammar School and I would never forgive the Tory Party if it was abolished.
It's just a pity that children living in other parts of the country don't have the same opportunity.

I think that was indicated in the speech about the A-List. I do remember them saying they wanted more public service candidates.

Congratulations to your daughter. The school wont be affected under Tory proposals, Im sure.

Interesting article in the Guardian today (online) about these proposals and how setting doesnt work.

So Cameron is no longer in favour of grammar schools. Yet another person who had the benefits of a public school eduaction not wanting the lower orders to have similar opportunities

Setting in comprehensive schools works extremely well and has none of the stigma which failure to get into a grammar school can cause.

This is welcome news.

Depends how the setting is decided of cause. When I started GCSE courses, I was put in the top set for French which I was terrible at and the bottom set at History which I later passed at A level. The sets were decided by teacher opinions, and the vindictive history teacher(later sacked) put me in the bottom set becase she didn't like me. Safeguards need putting in place.

I don't see the difference between selection by ability determining which school you go to, or selection within a school determining which set you're in. Neither of these shield the child from the 'shame' of 'failure'. Maybe if we call the 'bottom set' the 'deferred top set', we're moving nearer to consensus. But while we're at it, why not decree that all MPs are actually deferred Cabinet ministers, thus keeping alive the hope that all have equal intelligence and ability?

Had she failed the 11 plus there is also an excellent Church of England Secondary School with strong discipline and first rate facilities for vocational subjects such as graphic design, art, fashion design,
engineering, woodwork and sport, suitable for those children not suited to a traditional academic education. Many of her friends are going there (one has chosen it above the Grammar School despite passing the 11 plus) and certainly do not regard themselves as having any stigma or sense of failure. It will give them an excellent education suited to their interests and abilities.

Dan,

When a child sees their friends going to the grammar school, while they having failed the selection go to a comp - that's stigma.

There was no stigma when I was in secondary school related to sets. In fact there was a huge sense of team spirit and competition with the other sets.

Plus sets aren't put on your CV where the local school is.

The Telegraph is focusing on Cameron's grammar schools policy:

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/01/09/ucam.xml&sSheet=/portal/2006/01/09/ixportaltop.html

Thanks Michael, but the point I'm making is one of educational philosophy: either we make academic ability a dividing point, or we do not. I'm not sure what your school sets were about if there was 'competition' between them. At my school, the top set came top, and the bottom set came bottom. The outcome was somewhat fore-ordained. You seem to have gone to a school where your first-rate footballers played against those who hated sport, and the whole game had excellent 'team spirit', presumably with the non-sporty team occasionally winning? At my school, the former would have obliterated the latter, and that was deemed survival of the fittest. Your school seems quite unique. I really can't see the difference between selection by ability in sport or in academic attainment. Surely the pursuit of excellence demands it?

"Funilly enough, Selsdon, there is a link between educational acheivement and authoritarianism".

I read it Orange Booker and it is absolute tosh. The analysis would shame a politics undergraduate.

"The Telegraph is focusing on Cameron's grammar schools policy"

You mean no more grammar schools policy, Ed. This despite the fact that education frontbenchers Nick Gibb and John Hayes benefited from grammar school educations. I cannot see several leading MPs and the activists liking this comprehensive-only policy.

"How many Conservative teachers or nurses get winnable seats, thus perpetuating the perception that Labour is more friendly towards the public services?"

Anne Milton MP (Guildford) was a nurse Dan C.

"Anne Milton MP (Guildford) was a nurse Dan C"

Thanks Selsdon, that's alright then! One nurse to balance a party of lawyers, accountants, company directors and middle managers!

Sir Rhodes Boyson was a teacher, as was Gillian Shepheard I believe.

surely what you are, either in your work, sex, race etc is irrelevant. I would hope it's what you believe and your ability to exercise sound judgment within that belief structure that should qualify you to be a Conservative MP.


Regarding the earlier point on socialist lecturers - I did a Social Policy degree where the lecturers were exceptionally hostile towards the conservative party, and it's members. I even had one seminar where we were asked to read the Socialist Worker newspaper for an hour!!

Interesting thread this.

Someone said to me recently that specialist schools for children with learning or behavioural difficulties were being closed down and the kids were being integrated into conventional schools and classes. Is there any truth in this?

I bet you failed that assignment, Frank! The correct response at Glasgow when accosted by the sellers of "SOCialist WORker" was either to wave a copy of the Telegraph in the face of the poor souls, as a fair swap, or (and this is so passe' I cringe as I write) to offer "I'm not a socialist, and you're not a worker".

Personally I'm rather keen on the ideas proposed here:

https://www.libertarian.to/NewsDta/templates/news1.php?art=art968

I believe in the superiority of selective education and traditional teaching methods but do not believe that the state should enforce them as this simply gives legitimacy to the idea that the state should control education. It is time the state got out of education and allowed parents to decide how they want their children educated.

Regarding setting, I was put in ability sets for maths, French and English only. I would probably have benefited from setting in other subjects. That said, it is sometimes not possible to put people in sets if the subject is not popular enough. For example, if only 10 students choose to do geography at GCSE then the school can hardly be expected to put them in two groups of five if they don't have the resources. This is where grammar schools have a clear advantage.

Oberon, it is NuLab policy, whether stated openly or otherwise, to rationalise provision into larger schools. Multiple small, specialist schools have been closed, under the groovy sounding tag of "inclusion" (which of course means exclusion for those with specialist needs - a perfect example of NuLabspeak, if it's not too unpleasant to satirise a policy which has had such a terrible impact on the lives of the vulnerable). I'll go and have a search on the telegraph website to get something more empirical than my memory of newspaper articles!

Some links on special school provision; note the NuLabSpeak in the first one:
https://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4615941.stm

this is a very good article from the telegraph

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/02/20/nspec20.xml

My impression of British schools was formed after myself and 19 classmates in a private school in Nigeria came to study in the UK.

16 went to private school, 2 to grammar school and the other 2 to state schools.

PRIVATE SCHOOL RESULTS
-------------------------------
Highest A-level Score, 3As(30 points),
Lowest A-level Score, 2Bs and a C (22 points)

GRAMMAR SCHOOL RESULTS
-------------------------------
3As and a B (38 points)
2As and a D (24 points).

COMPREHENSIVE SCHOOL RESULTS
-------------------------------
2Bs and a D (20 points)
2Cs and a D (16 points)

Funnily enough, the girl who got 20 points, was consistently top of the class before the group moved to the UK.

To paraphrase Letwin, I'd rather beg on the street than send my child to a local comprehensive. Streaming or no streaming.

What is wrong with failure? Perhaps we should cover children up in bubble-wrap so they don't hurt themselves, or gouge out their eyes, cut off their noses and rip off their ears so that they can't experience the real world. Failure is part of reality. The sooner children learn about it, the better they will be able to cope with it. This namby-pamby approach to education does not do the country any favours in the long term.

To represent the electorate, you do not have to be representative of the electorate. That is my problem with the A-List. That, and the fact that it's yet another form of political correctness - which the Conservative party should be above.

Thanks Graeme, this intuitively sounds like a very bad policy to me.

I would have thought that kids with learning and/or behavioural difficulties would have a much happier childood in a specialist school as opposed to being squeezed into a large comprehensive. "Inclusion" is a meaningless word in this context, and it irritates me that the Government often cloud issues with distracting language. It is not inclusion, it is the removal of specialist support and care assets and staff for these children, who are then forced into an environment that will commonly be unsuitable, frightening and less suited to caring for these kids.

Just read the Telegraph article you mentioned. What an absolute disgrace, I am so angry at what they have done to these kids.

Very well said Chris. Unfortunately such rhetoric is considered "harsh" so I doubt we'll hear it from the Modern Tories.

"I believe in the superiority of selective education and traditional teaching methods but do not believe that the state should enforce them as this simply gives legitimacy to the idea that the state should control education. It is time the state got out of education and allowed parents to decide how they want their children educated." - Richard

I am inclined to agree Richard. However, if such a policy were adopted by the Conservatives, the media (mainly the BBC) wouldn't put it across as you did. Instead it would be much like privatising the NHS. "Oh no! Education should be free. Nobody should have to pay for their child's education. The rich would get the best education, the poor would get the worst. Nasty horrible Conservatives etc etc."

As soon as you take away something which is perceived to be free (even though it actually isn't) then some people will kick up a fuss, because they cannot imagine a world in which they have to function using their own brain and without being told how to run their lives by the Labour party. It is this minority kicking up a fuss (and the media) which will put a stop to any separation of education and state for the forseeable future.

.. and an rarlier piece on this, which is equally damming...

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml;jsessionid=O1SWPCNBIJIUTQFIQMFSFF4AVCBQ0IV0?xml=/news/2004/09/26/nedu26.xml

You are right about this covering up for failure Chris. Not everyone is great at everything. I was useless at football but worked hard, ended up in goal and played in a reasonable junior league team. Life is full of knockbacks and failures. It's what makes people what they are. The sooner PC education people realise this, and prepare kids properly for the outside world, the better.

"Sir Rhodes Boyson was a teacher, as was Gillian Shepheard I believe"

Thanks Hmmmm, but Boyson was a headmaster, and therefore a 'director'. I never said the party had no teachers, I simply was making the point that compared to lawyers, accountants, company directors, etc etc, there are very few. It is that imbalance that permits Labour to be perceived as the party that 'cares' about state education, while we are peceived to be the party of educational 'privilege' - either through public school or grammar school selection. And I agree with Chris on 'failure'. If children are not to be allowed to 'fail' an exam at 11, at what age should we permit them to experience this? Why not scrap the whole notion, and give every student a 'pass' grade A-E. O sorry, we already do that - you can't really 'fail' GCSEs any more, and even an E at A-level is considered a 'pass' for school league tables!

I think the policy is still rather vague as to what will happen.

-Setting is a good things.
-Cameron has just eliminated the labour form of attack on the Tories.
-He wants more private schooling
-He wants to continue improvement to public schools (which I went to...)
-Tuition fees are here to stay... LAbour was clever...they reduced the demand on universities, and the same time increased funding by fees. Cameron is wise to keep the labour policy as it is.

Dan, in 1986 an E was also considered an A-level pass. That said, I never tried to fool myself that my E was worth anything.

How utterly deluded and foolish Mr Cameron is becoming. Schools have always had the freedom to stream as many subjects as they like, and this is nothing to do with the government at all - it is a totally internal matter that is already a policy at many schools!

On the other hand, grammar schools work, they have always worked, and they will always work. Before so many of them were closed down, the number of working class people admitted to Oxbridge and universities was far higher than today. Grammar schools epitomise the notion of a meritocracy, and surely meritocracy is one of the key facets of the liberalism with which Mr Cameron is so hopelessly obsessed?

There is also the fact that grammar schools are popular and the public are overwhelmingly in favour of selective schools. Hence, this announcement is not only stupid, but will not gain any votes either. It appears that Cameron is so obsessed with appealing to New Labour voters that he has forgotten one of the few traditional Tory policies that are guaranteed to be successful.

I think it also highlights that the public-school educated people behind the policy really have no clue what goes on in the state sector.

nearly a third of MPs and almost two thirds of members of the House of Lords attended private schools, compared with 7% of the wider population.

An argument in favour of representative representation perhaps?

I wonder why Cameron never came out with this while he was education secretary!

Sets are only fiddling at the edges, they are no serious solution to the real education problem. Comprehensive Schools completely neglect children who are not academically talented but practically talented. Effectively abandoning those children from age 11. The most stupid and terrible polciy mistake of the 20th Century was the scrapping of the Selective system. Middle class parents resentful that some of their children were having to go to Secondary Modern schools while academically talented children from working class backgrounds got the opportunity to better themselves. The result? Those children who are more practically minded than academic, who would previously have been able to achieve in a selective system are ignored, one of the main causes of truancy. Selection is now on who can afford to pay for a private school or can afford to live nearer the better quality comprehensives or the areas where grammars still exist. Many of the serious social problems that exist today can be largely traced back to the introduction of the Comprehensive experiment.

That experiment is clearly a failure. No doubt the previous system had flaws, the Secondary Moderns and Technical schools were not properly developed or funded, but this could have been fixed. Replacing the disastrous comprehensive experiment with a new selective system which was properly developed with equal funding is the only way to seriously advance education in the UK, it would help reduce and reverse many social problems and would fill the massive gap in vocational skills.

And Cameron has just ruled it out.

By and large, I am very enthusiastic in support of much of what Cameron is doing, but my main concern about him before the elction (actually, my only concern) was his education policy. The rejection of selection beyond this 10% measure is totally and utterly misguided. I attended a grammar school during the 90s and my experience was that even within streams of this selected group, there were often quite large gaps between the top and bottom. The gap would obviously have been much wider in a comprehensive. Streaming is very sensible, but as anyone who thinks it's an alternative is simply wrong.

There is a problem with selection which is naturally that people feel they've either won or lost at 11. Of course, we can always say "a little failure prepares you for life" which may be true, but in the meantime kids may struggle. Not everybody shows themselves as well in exam situations as they might in interviews, or in simulated lessons. Not all kids develop at similar rates: some of the kids who passed the entrance exam aged 11 were certainly no more able aged 13 than friends of mine who had failed it.

This is why the 2-speed grammars/secondary system will ultimately fail a large portion of students. But the solution is not to become less rigid with a 1-speed solution that fails even more people. It requires more flexible thinking to allow everybody to have a specialist education tailored to their talents, not just the most academically able. Simply binning grammar schools is utterly pointless and continues the tyranny of selection by geography not need.

Oddly education was one area where we were leading in the polls. Might that have meant that people liked the idea of the policies Cameron has now discarded in his pursuit of the Toynbee vote?

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