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Please can we be told where Willetts educates his kids?

If Willetts isn't a fan of grammar schools, he must think private schools are worse?

David Willets says "grammar schools are socially selective". He is saying we can't have academic selection because it might coincidently lead to social selection.
Who cares? More particularly why should a conservative care.

Our object should be to challenge the brightest and give good education to each ability group, not to get some arbitrary social balance within each school. The latter is a left wing concern, not a conservative concern.

Good it sounds like Willetts is looking at developing the Charter Schools aspect of Blairs reforms - taking them away from LEA control to pupil based funding, only a step away from vouchers and real choice.

Where Willets sends his children is his choice - it would be good if we extend choice to many more parents.

It's pretty obvious from the governments of Heath, Thatcher and Major that the Tories won't bring back Grammar schools anyway, so ditching the pretence and focusing on new school policies is probably for the best.

Anyway whilst Grammar schools might be preferable to the Comprehensive system, those two alternatives shouldn't not be looked at as the only two possible education systems.

Our object should be to challenge the brightest and give good education to each ability group, not to get some arbitrary social balance within each school. The latter is a left wing concern, not a conservative concern.
Should we judge children off of a single exam though? Selection in education is important, but doing it within a school can often work just as well, and most importantly it allows children to move throughout the different sets in an easy manner.

Now we are measuring fairness in leaves!

Why Ted?

"Third, the only way to raise social mobility is to lift the success of all schools."

There is no such thing as schools, there are individual pupils and there are teachers, and no pupil can do anything except through opportunity. Pupils must look to their peers first, and then, to their teacher. People have got the equality in mind without having first met the needs of the pupil. There is no such thing as equality unless every pupil's needs are met on their individual merit.

To coin a phrase.

I have not read the book by Lynne Truss but shouldn't it read "Willetts's"?

I’m struggling to see the real-world difference between today and yesterday. Davids Cameron and Willetts have simply made official what has been unofficial for 30 years. If the right want to define this as a Clause 4 moment… that’s them just being a bit preposterous.

David Willetts has well defended his position with this rebuttal. It includes the honesty of ideas that our country needs, formulating policy on reasoned research rather than emotion and gut instinct.

To me, the only inconsistency is that we support city academies because they do better being free of the LEAs, yet we’re not proposing to set all schools free.

This is very good stuff and precisely where we ought to be taking it. Whatever we say, and however much we have fudged the issue in the past, grammar schools are things of the past. The question is how we take school policy on now and whether selection should be a part of that - that's a separate debate. It's clear though that that's not the only question and far from the most important question in deciding what policy to adopt. Much more important is increasing competition, parental choice and parental say in schools.


" grammar schools are things of the past"

Huh? Grammar schools are live and kicking and provide excellence to this very day.

For someone who calls his blog 'Trust People', why not trust people to make the decision locally whether they want a grammar or not rather than impose a structure by central diktat like some little Stalin?

Shall not be voting Tory on this manifesto!

"At the age of 11, a child is not tabula rasa."

Eh? Is that English? Neither of those words are in the dictionary!

It means a clean slate, Comstock. The benefits of a classical (grammar school) education!

Take Willett's 3 points in turn:

1) Grammars are socially selective - He doesn't prove this. His figures could just as easily be showing that primary schools fail children on FSM disproportionately or that poorer parents are less likely to apply for their children to go to good schools (something Labour recognised in their 2005 white paper).

2) Areas with grammars don't do better - can't prove or disprove that atm.

3) The only way to improve social mobility is to improve all schools Even assuming that Willett's plan to improve all schools works - and much more detail needs to be fleshed out before that assumption can be made - then improving all schools will not improve relative social mobility - simply by definition it cannot do so - relative mobility can only be improved by disproportionately improving bad schools or undermining good schools.

Either way Willetts' own argument is that by the time kids have hit 11 most of the social differentiation has already happened. If this is about social mobility why is the policy talking about grammar schools and not primary schools?

This isn't about scientific education policy though - its about challenging the perceptions of the old Conservative brand and removing an effective route of attack for Labour on education.

Some of the commentators are confusing the 11-Plus with Grammar schools. The 11-Plus was instituted by Labour in 1945 as part of an overly centralised national system. It was never a good idea. But selective schools are an excellent idea; ie schools should be able to select by ability in the best way they see fit, which might be at age 11 or at some other point, and with whatever tests they prefer.

It means a clean slate, Comstock.

Thanks, Nick.

As Mr Willets is running for parliament and not the Roman senate, perhaps he could have used that very expression, or "blank page" or "empty book" or.....

I don't want much in life, but our MPs using the national language so I can understand them would be a good start.

Prentiz -

I don't know the Hoxby stuff but on the point about 'raising educational standards', Milton Friedman definitely thought the biggest beneficiaries would be the worst schools. He thought schools'd turn out to be better and with less variation in terribleness.

I would just like to widen this debate with the following statement and questions.

All kids have special needs, that is the special need for their individual aptitudes to be recognised and developed to the best of their ability. We are individuals and if allowed to play to ones strengths, the whole game will reap the benefit. Achievement in one facet of education will build the confidence to maximise all areas.

In which school system does this really truly happen?

Which school system can genuinely claimed to achieve this?

It is not my intention to answer this question, but rather to hope we can ponder upon this for a moment.

If Willetts believes grammar schools are socially exclusive, he should have the intellectual courage and consistency to call for their abolition.

To argue that because grammar schools have relatively few pupils eligible for FSMs there is social selection going on shows an ignorance of the interpretation of statistics. Willetts has made the same mistake that Gordon Brown did when the latter criticized Oxbridge for enrolling a disproportionate number of private school pupils. Intelligent people will generally be wealthier and tend to inter marry; so their children will inherit their genes and belief in the importance of education, and so will, generally, do better academically. Schools selecting on academic ability will therefore have a disproportionately large number of children from better off backgrounds. Doh!

The casual way Willetts dismisses the Northern Ireland experience shows he’s already decided on the conclusion he wants to reach and is making the evidence suit it.

Maybe a bit of consultation with the rest of the Party before spouting off may avoid such upset.

Willetts has produced a reasoned reply. We have to build education policy on fact. When I talk to ordinary people the key things they want are good local schools and hospitals not political battles between "'isms". The debate about grammar schools has become a silly diversion from the correct aim to improve all schools. Some of the things being proposed actually draw on ideas from grammar schools but extend them to all. Christs sake its pretty much what Thatcher said!!!


So Willetts as son-in-law of Lord Butterfield, has two children, both educated at private selective schools according to The Times

To argue that because grammar schools have relatively few pupils eligible for FSMs

Public Schools have far fewer and are highly socially-exclusive...Marlborough, Eton, Harrow, St Paul's, Latymer....wasn't it at Latymer where Huh Grant had to suffer mockery because his father was "in trade"

A former girlfriend, Jody Tresidder, recalls Hugh complaining to her that he was mocked at Latymer, the London private school that he attended, for having had a father "who sold carpets".

Wasn't it at Oxford that THe Bullingdon Boys with trust-funds and tails mocked the Northern Grammar School Boys ? We haven't forgotten Dave, Boris

Steve Hilton earned his paycheque yesterday.

Shame about the Conservative Party but there you are - something had to go.

TomTom I think you will find that Northern grammar schools had been abolished by the time Cameron and Johnson were making fools of themselves in the Bullingdon. There would already have been fewer state school kids for them to take the Mickey out of by the time they went through Oxford.

You might ask why fully a quarter of all children doing A levels are doing them in private schools. Although the left like to write off the privately schooled as a minority this becomes a large minority by the sixth form.

If Brown is really intent on bringing spending in state schools up to the levels of private schools as he says it will be interesting to see what parents think of the relative performance of the two sectors. If Brown succeeds he may well also succeed in making the move to total private provision with state vouchers the unintended consequence as voters will ask why they can't have private quality if they are in effect paying the private price. Doh!

TomTom I think you will find that Northern grammar schools had been abolished by the time Cameron and Johnson were making fools of themselves in the Bullingdon

It is true that my direct-grant school had gone independent before Cameron and Johnson followed me at Oxford.....but the Bullingdon Boys still had that attitude even then....there were still Grammar Schools in North Yorkshire....but even Independent Grammar Schools got the Lord Snooty treatment from Southern public schoolboys

Can someone tell me what's wrong with an area or a school being too middle class?

As Ted says, hopefully this is a move towards vouchers. It certainly hints at it.

Yes, Ian McKellar 08:31 - the price of a plumber goes through the roof and you can't find a caff selling a full english for a couple of quid.

I too hope this sorry episode ends with vouchers.

The Day after....

It looks even more of a blunder by Willetts than yesterday.

He has even upset some on our education policy team. Why bother having a review of the education policy if Willetts walks around stating policy himself?

Willetts has shown that he lacks a political brain. He may have two brains but they both lack common sense.

Comstock said:
"As Mr Willets is running for parliament and not the Roman senate, perhaps he could have used that very expression, or "blank page" or "empty book" or.....

I don't want much in life, but our MPs using the national language so I can understand them would be a good start."

For once (and only once!) I agree with you. Sometimes Willetts seems like he's trying to be geeky just to uphold the two-brains thing. I can't say I've ever heard or seen anything very intelligent actually emanate from him.

To be honest, after last week's lesson in econocentric and sociocentric paradigms, I don't know how much hope there is in our native tongue, either.

I think that it is a real pity that Willets thinks this way. Generally he seems to analyse problems well, but on this he is way off the mark as far as I am concerned.

What is the problem that we are trying to fix and how are we going to go about doing it?

The main problem, it seems to me, is that education standards are slipping; both acadmic standards (I see this at the end of the process having taught at Univeristy level for the last 15 years, although this was Cambridge which scews the sample somewhat) and in the more general sense ("not knowing how to behave"). Combined with these we see social mobility declining, which suggests that the current system is disproportionately failing the less well off.

As a fix for this Willets advocates choice. But let's think about this - what choice are we talking about here? Parents have to make a choice at 11: do you want your kid to go to a school where there future prospects are good, or not? Not a very tough question; and the answer will be largely independent of IQ, FSMs or any other metric. But that isn't the real choice. The real choice is made years earlier when a parent chooses how to bring up a child, and will be affected somewhat by that child's ability (which most parents are pretty aware of). I think that it is highly irresponsible for a parent of a child at 11 to think "oh yes, of course we'd like Jonny/Lizzy to go to a good school" (which is generally synonymous with a very academic school in most people's minds) if acadedmic values haven't been instilled many years previously.

In other words, of course a child at 11 is not tabula rasa because the choice that we need to cater for has already been made. There is no reason why a poor kid can't get into a Grammar school, and equally not all rich kids are going to benefit from a highly academic training. That is life. As far as I can tell, this sort of selected schooling supports social mobility, which is one of the key problems that we should be looking to address.

How does it affect the other issues? Well, it emphasises the importance of responsible parenting. Those who oppose this sort of selective schooling will claim that it stigmatises the "others" - i.e. those who fail selection. There is an element of truth in this, but on the other hand I think that this is part of a wider, incidious trend where only certain types of career are deemed valuable. Why is going to University, getting drunk for three years and piling up debt seen as the only thing any career-minded 18 year-old should do. What is wrong with learning on the job? Why is selling mortgages seen as great but fixing boilers as something best left to the local Pole? Because we stigmatise careers with non-academic requirements we force many kids though a form of higher education that simply isn't suitable for them. The problem, I would posit (not a word I would normally use, but then I am responding to a Willets piece), is not so much that 11-plus failures are looked down on but that a group of extremely rewarding careers that will be disproporationately taken up by 11-plus failures are stigmatised unfairly. Yes, there has to be flexibility later in the system so that those who, for whatever reason, do not excel academically at 11 can move in that direction later on but let's not pretend that everyone is cut out to be a rocket scientist and we would do better to address this perception at source and advocate appreciating what we are rather than bemoaning what we are not.

In a word, Willetts must go, and the sooner the better.

Then let's investigate what instructions he may have received from "higher authority".

It's time to reclaim our party by making it truly democratic. Willetts should answer to we the members for his crass blunder.

The fightback starts here!

The argument here isnt about how to bring the best schools down but to bring the worst schools up. Willetts is missing the point with his bizarre attack on Grammar Schools.

If Willets believes that grammar schools are a bad thing, why doesn't he call for the abolition of the remaining ones? If he believes they are good thing, why doesn't he call for more?

If he believes it should be up to the local authority, why doesn't he believe local authorities should be allwoed to create more?

Will Willetts now urge a campaign to abolish fee-paying selective education - it is not open to the bottom 25% nor even much of the middle class.

Or is it just Grammar Schools that deserve hostility because they are an obstacle to the recreation of the Upstairs-Downstairs Society ?

Willets makes a good case, and its good that he keeps coming back and interacting with this site.

He's winning the argument with Facts (with references!), but people are listening in Emotion (as I was yesterday morning).

Its still a PR mess however, it should have been headlined as "Tory education policy to be based on City Academies" not "Tories oppose grammar schools".

TomTom is right about the attitude of public school toffs at Oxbridge. I could tell you tales that would make your toes curl. Of course it did not cross my mind at the time that in addition to the Lord Snooty attitude many displayed that the place was really only meant for them and their friends some may actually have seen the state school mob wearing jeans, anoraks and trainers and drinking bitter as a threat both in the short and long term.

The Conservative Party opposes the creation of new grammar schools in disadvantaged areas. Therefore there is some credence to the headline that we oppose grammar schools.

Its a bit wierd to be cheering on City Academies despite our own policy on City Academies in the past. I thought we didnt like them because it was privatising education?

I have seen remarkably few facts from Willetts. The stuff he churns out in relation to Northern Ireland is particular nonsense. Every other factor in Northern Ireland (notably the sectarian divide, violence and poverty) would make it much harder to generate social mobility. Yet the grammar school system there has provided the catalyst in all areas, not just leafy ones. Like others (notably Stephen Pollard in today's Mail), I conclude that Willetts has been tasked by Cameron to dredge up threadbare arguments to provide cover for the Tories to please the Islington dinner party set by turning their back on social mobility. Are we surprised? No

Steve at 8:46,

It more than just hints at vouchers. Bringing up the subject in the speech, praising them, and then saying effectively "we can't do Education Vouchers until we've liberalised the supply side. Here's how we're going to liberalise the supply side" is a pretty broad hint.

Andy, I would not bet on it. The left hates vouchers because they give real taxpayers control of their own destiny. That takes cash, power and patronage away from politicians, unions and quangocrats. Given the Cameron strategy of appeasing The Guardian-reading classes, I do not expect to see a meaningful voucher system in this country anytime soon.

"Willetts' rebuttal to the CPS" is the headline. At first I thought CPS meant Crown Prosecution Service. Certainly it should have been with this PR disaster.

My instinct is very much towards grammar schools but whatever the merits or demerits of Mr Willetts' proposals, they got rather Letwined in the complexity of their communication to us of the great unwashed (albeit ex-State grammar school in my case).

"He's winning the argument with Facts (with references!), but people are listening in Emotion (as I was yesterday morning)."

I just don't see how he can claim grammar schools are not the answer while saying at the same time that existed grammar schools will be protected (therefore implying they are a good thing). He's trying to have it both ways. The best answer he coild give would be "it should be up to the local population" but he has ruled out the possibility of local people creating new state grammars.

"He's winning the argument with Facts (with references!), but people are listening in Emotion (as I was yesterday morning)."

I just don't see how he can claim grammar schools are not the answer while saying at the same time that existed grammar schools will be protected (therefore implying they are a good thing). He's trying to have it both ways. The best answer he coild give would be "it should be up to the local population" but he has ruled out the possibility of local people creating new state grammars.


They are a good thing in as far as they go - but by age 11, it's too late for many poor-but-bright kids who slip through the system - they are often not in a position to grab their chance.

Education vouchers (full choice to the parents) are the long term answer, as he has essentially pointed out, but the introduction of them is fraught if there are insufficient decent schools and no decent ways of the schools working together to work out the best ways forward without going through the Government (which is never a good idea).

So - give autonomy to schools, make it easier to start them, legislate to make it easier for them to clump together in groups of common basis, set out a broad overarching phiosophy and then get out of the way (apart from supplying the results of independent research). Then we'll be in a position to move to education vouchers.

However, many on this site are deeply upset with this and appear to consider it equivalent to the Labour way of doing things. Apparently, we should go back to the Thatcher years when we must have been building grammar schools everywhere (I must have just missed that during the Eighties, I guess). Hmm.

David Willetts has been very brave (only partially in the Sir Humphrey sense) with the speech. Grammar schools are good at providing a very good education for those who can get into them but don't do anything for those who never would even if there was one in every town.

Perhaps the less controversial course would have been to have focused on what happens to those who don't get into Grammar school and to have proposed measures simply designed to improve their education, but this wouldn't have been a coherent national strategy without also committing to bringing in a selective system nationally. Maybe there would be merit in doing that, but I wonder whether the disruption of such a wide restructuring wouldn't itself be very damaging in the short-medium term while also being easily criticised as a means to entrench divisions in society.

On reading the speech it seems to me to be a more realistic and practical set of proposals with the aim of increasing the supply and availability of high quality education for all. There's no inconsistency between this aim and allowing existing Grammar schools to continue and not worrying about what the independent sector does. This is small c Conservative in that it doesn't seek to impose change on existing schools or to abolish them. Yes, it isn't a localising measure, but on the basis of an argued view that increasing selection does not solve the existing problems with education.

Having Grammar schools and academic selection is not the only way of improving people's opportunities to maximise their abilities and potential attainments. The state school system in Cambridgeshire is a good example of how the loss of Grammar Schools can be followed by high educational standards spread across a wider range of schools and the creation of opportunities for children who did not pass the 11+ or for whom it would have been better to be educated locally with their peers rather than have to travel long distances to get to the grammar schools in the City. Discipline, appropriate streaming and good staff are worth much more in making a school good and providing opportunity than selection at 11+. They matter more than nice buildings even- while I was at Hills Road Sixth Form College most of my lessons were conducted in leaky temporary classrooms some of which were the best part of 40 years old, but this didn't get in the way of the college getting around 50 students a year into Oxbridge (including me in the third stream for A level Physics and Double Maths and in unsetted A level English!).

I'm glad that we are losing the fetish for Grammar Schools but without the dogma of abolitionism. And it is good that the whining happens now, rather than at election time.

Michael, that's an excellent point about Northern Ireland. Given that the Province has the lowest income per head of any part of the UK, and given the dysfunctional nature of its society, then one would expect overall educational standards to be much lower than the average. The fact that they are better than average obviously suggests its system of education is functioning extremely well.

I don't consider the proportion of the children who qualify for free school meals in any one school as necessarily being much of an indicator of social mobility. Most of the population fall into the category of not qualifying for free school meals, and not being able to afford private school fees. Do they not benefit from the existence of grammar schools?

All the media Liberals on this site have been abusing Grammar schools because although they accept they provide a first class education for bright kids, the kids "left behind" don't do so well. This of course is very unfair. Its a matter for the secondary moderns how they educate the other children, not the grammars. They aren't going to get such good grades in the league tables because they dont have the topsliced, bright kids to boost their positions. That doesn't make them failing schools as the new value added tables should show. In any case low grade GCSEs are not a valid aspiration for non bright kids, who should be learning craft skills and apprenticeships appropriate to the local job market. Grade E GCSE French tells an employer nothing about a prospective employee except not to put them on the phone to the Paris office.

The whole grammar school debate is clouded with so many class war knee jerk reactions that should have been given up 20 years ago.

Willets speech is offensive to this section of the grassroots not because he attacked Grammar Schools but because he insisted on dragging the issue of grammar schools into what should be a 21st century discussion of education policy purely to pander to his media Liberal friends.

And what primary schools would be feeding these new grammars? Apart from the fact that teachers are notoriously left wing and idealogically opposed to all forms of selection, particularly for grammars, could you honestly say that a bright child leaving a state primary is going to be up to the same standard as a mediocre child from a private preparatory school. No way.
Not a good idea, wouldn't work anyway. Good on Willetts for talking sense.

And what primary schools would be feeding these new grammars? Apart from the fact that teachers are notoriously left wing and idealogically opposed to all forms of selection,

So you cannot run streaming or selection in Academies either.

I just think we could have more schools like the London Oratory which seems to have had a good track record as a selective school...wonder how it will fare now it is legally banned from selecting ?

The state school system in Cambridgeshire is a good example of how the loss of Grammar Schools can be followed by high educational standards spread across a wider range of schools and the creation of opportunities for children who did not pass the 11+

Could you tell me - I am a bit hazy on Cambridgeshire - the names of the major cities in that county ? and perhaps the names of the inner city metropolitan districts ?

Sheepdip- Willetts makes the same point on the basis of the research he refers to.

Jonathan- you make improvement of non-Grammar schools sound like "somebody else's problem". That is precisely the sort of attitude which has meant that the Conservatives have been an easy target for criticism on the basis that they don't believe education of anyone other than an elite (whether by class or academic ability) to be their problem. If we want to govern, we need to be able to show that we accept it would be our problem and not one to palm off on to someone else.

If I did I certainly didn't mean to. In fact I thought my post and others i have written on the multiplicity of threads around this issue included a defence of secondary moderns and what they are able to achieve with less promising prospects. The central failure of comprehensives was the attempt to turn them all into ersatz grammars. Grammar school education is not appropriate for 60% of the population. A bad GCSE is valueless. We have a terrifying craft skill shortage in this country which is why we are flooded with East Europeans. We need to value technical training and to teach it effectively. At the moment about 25% of children leave 11 years of compulsory education functionally innumerate and illiterate. My grandparents were born in all too real life Stepney and Poplar in 1900 and were neither. That is the measure of the failure of comprehensivisation.

Posted by Bill:
I think Willets has no grasp of what constitutes working class or poor families.
Whether a child is able to pass a 11+ exam depends on the proficiency of their primary school teachers! Not on the influence or wealth of their parents but on the way they are taught at school.
I know because I hail from an exceedingly poor family where, at times we did not know where the next meal was coming from, I am a Conservative, honest!
We were poorly clothed and shod but in my case: I really loved my local Welsh village school.
There was plenty of discipline, not over harsh but adequate, the children all respected their teachers.
I managed to pass the 11+ despite the lack of parental support or reading matter in the home.
Hence, I put my 11+ success down to the competence of the primary school teachers. The obvious good management of their respective classes engendered a positive learning ethos throughout the whole school.
This positive learning attitude stayed with me throughout my years at Grammar school and life. Although I was not a star pupil at school, I did manage to retire as a senior research engineer and project manager with a well known company.
Therefore I conclude that a good Primary school and a good Grammar school will set children up with an extremely good start to face the future.
Willet and Cameron have no idea how the rank and file of the Conservative members are incensed by their insane idea of scrapping the best schools in the country.
I am considering my position within the party and for two pins I will be off to the bank to cancel my standing order. Bill Fraser

Bill, you've said:"Willet and Cameron have no idea how the rank and file of the Conservative members are incensed by their insane idea of scrapping the best schools in the country."

But they haven't suggested scrapping grammar schools. They have, in fact, stated that they will not scrap any grammar schools:

"For those children from modest backgrounds who do get to grammar schools the benefits are enormous. And we will not get rid of those grammar schools that remain.".

Willetts places the key of the problem with schools as: "But the loss of grammar schools was just part of a deeper problem as traditional pedagogy lost out to progressive teaching fads that let down a generation of children.".

And that's what he has proposed to address by giving greater autonomy to schools, making it easier for them to be started, and moving towards an education voucher system.

It does not matter what a school is called or whether it is privately or publicly funded. What matters crucially is that our schools turn out highly educated people who can hold their own with the best in the world be they scientists, engineers, medics, bankers, bakers or carpet salesmen. If they do not we are finished as a nation.

Should anyone be in doubt about relative standards they should look at the recent comparison between UK and Chinese exam questions published by the Royal Institute of Chemistry.

Ted Greenhalgh:

It is impossible to disagree with your comments. UK education has simply been dumbed down - any parent who takes an interest in their children's schooling and compares it to their own will know this.

However, whilst nomenclature is irrelevant, the old Grammar schools DID turn out high quality 'graduates'. A certain Margaret Roberts attended one in Grantham, and became our greatest ever PM. Ted Heath and Tony Blair both went to a private school. A small sample I agree, but perhaps a telling one.

Disagree with Jonathan at 17.44. To compete with China etc we need a much better educated population. The idea that the population neatly spits into those that are academic and those that are "good with their hands" is outdated and not helpful to our economy. We need more real added value businesses and high technology if we are to compete and survive as a nation. That is why it is vital we have the best methods in all schools not a few. Willetts is absoultely right on this yet reading some of the posts on this debate you almost expect someone to start waxing lyrical about the lack of apprentice fowlers. thatchers and candle-stick makers etc. We have got to move forward not keep harking backwards,


To compete with China etc we need a much better educated population.

Risible. This old mantra gets trotted out. The Robbins Report expanded Universities in the 1960s for the same reasons - yet Germany sailed past Britain with apprenticeships and Technische Hochschule training not Universities.

Now Britain flounders against the world's leading exporters - Germany, USA, China, Japan....and has no industry.

James Dyson never went to University and Permira refused him VC funding - he had to turn to Lloyds Bank.

Honda was not a graduate and no Briton has built a car company like him.

The largest single employer of graduates in Britain is the public sector. China focuses on engineers and chemists and physicists - Britain does not - most undergraduates reading Science in Britain came from the indepedent schools.

British schools do not teach Physics etc....British Universities are shutting Chemistry and Physics Departments.

Britain cannot compete against China. It is impossible.They have resources we cannot match and a cost base we cannot match. It is a joke to think you can. We fill up our universities with Chinese students for revenue and sell them our know-how.

Even British companies cannot manufacture outside China.....it is non-viable. To compete with China means abolishing the welfare state, abolishing labour legislation and returning to the 1850s....then we have a chance.

There is no prospect of Britain being a leader in anything because it is far better for anyone with education or an idea to move to the USA

As a life time Tory and a long time Conservative Officer and activist, you have lost my vote on this issue. I always said, when the Labour Party was ditching all its core principles in the 1990s, if ever we did the same, I would never forgive. As a product of King Edward`s direct grant Grammar School,I am surprised at you David. My Grammar School give me a fantastic opportunity to be educated with others of equal intelligence. We select for the arts and sport etc...for goodness sake why don`t we select for academic abilty. Our country needs the brightest to be challenged to their highest level. In comprehensives this is not so....I have worked in such for years. We should, instead, raise the educational standards for all schools of varying types according to aptitude and ensure that we challenge the disaffected, by preparing them for the jobs which WOULD interest and not forcing 14-16 year olds to do exams in subjects beyond their ability

Angela we all need to work together WITHIN the party to reclaim what is rightfully ours.

Over the last two months I have brought two disillusioned former UKIP supporters back into our party. Like me they detest Cameron and all he stands for. Together, in a single association with a relatively low membership, we are strong - very strong.

The recent blunderings of the Cameron Mafia show just what a precarious hold they have on OUR party. I firmly believe that we can fight these PC interlopers and soundly defeat them.

Never forget that we are many and they are few. WE CAN WIN!

I have heard some pretty flimsy attempts to justify the new position - some reasons advanced seem to suggest MORE Grammar schools, to allow other than predatory middle class parents to have the opportunity for such schools.

I come to the conclusion that, as with Labour, the position is one of political correctness or ideology. It seems that in order to have all under the same roof, and offer the whole range of academic studies, we shall have bigger and bigger all-ability schools. I shudder!

Tom Tom , you still seem to be missing the point. Although we may not be able to compete one-to-one with China on all criteria we MUST compete with the emerging nations by adding value & being much more innovative. It is not just an issue of cheap Labour, China is turning out thousands of science Phds. One of the big problems this country has had is this bizarre distinction between the arts and sciences and that never the twain shall meet. In fact you need both together to innovate and improve things and much more so to compete in the future. The idea that half the population are academics (whatever the hell that means - can rant on in Latin maybe?) and the other half are tradesmen (risibly quite a few posts on this site actually seriously talk about producing more plumbers - god the leading technical exporters in the world must be quaking at the thought of all our plumbers coming out of "secondary moderns") is wrong headed and out of date. What we have now is ultra-competition where we need to be ahead of the game with a much better educated population able to compete and also keep up with the rate of change. It seems to me that what Willetts has said is more in line with that,


Matt go and read the House of Lords Select Committee Report on Technical Education 1870.....the one that led to Technical Colleges being formed because Britain could not compete against low-wage Germany with its technical abilities........"Made in Germany" was an English term of abuse for cheap copies of British products.

Britain has still not caught up with technical education in Germany after 130 years ! The PhD is a German exam qualification.

The Chinese are training their people in British and US Universities to gain access to the latest know-how. We are giving them it !

We trained Saddam's chemical warfare people at UEA in Norwich - ask Dr Ian Gibson, MP he trained some of them.

We supply any technical know-how we have to China who then buy manufacturing processes from Japan - there are no jobs for engineers in Britain - there is only Rolls-Royce - otherwise they must emigrate.

WE don't have the companies to employ PhDs in Physics or Engineering. We sold them. Phds in Engineering go into The City to design computer models for derivatives trading.

Even Germany is now short of engineers and chemists - they move factories to the Czech Republic and even Russia to get engineers - Finance is the new location for many graduates.

Siemens had Directors who were Professor Dr. Dr. with two PhDs. How many British companies have one Director with a PhD in Enineering ?

Does it matter ? Akio Morito, Honda, Matsushita had no degrees.....Bill Gates had no degree just $1 million he inherited at 19 from his grandmother

The danger is that too much formalised education makes everyone great for administrative work and so debt-laden they cannot take a risk.

We need an economy with freedom to take risk not to pile up educational debt and fear for a mortgage and look for a secure public sector job.

It is a myth that Education is so wonderful. Switzerland has far fewer graduates as a proprtion than we do but it has better engineering companies.

Companies want employees who can read and write and count and read a map...instead the politicians want them to employ a semi-literate graduate
who cannot spell or count but who thinks the job is beneath him.

So instead they will employ Poles or Czechs and hire graduates from Russia or Poland to replace British debt-junkies with chewing-gum diplomas and certificates of attainment backed by no knowledge or content.

The point is, Matt, that a highly ducated workforce is NOT the same as one who have all gone to University. It is a similar mistake to aligning intelligence and academic ability.

You mock the idea of tides of plumbers (presumably you would extend this to designers, production engineers, builders etc); maybe you can tell me what skills you want people to be learning in secondary and tertiary eduction in order to maintain UK Ltd's position in the global marketplace. More media studies?

I have never heard anyone suggest that sports teams, or orchestras should not select on ability. Most people have the common sense to realise that very few of us have the combination of natural talent and training to make the grade in these areas. So why pretend that it is different for academic ability?

Firstly well done Tim for challenging David on Channel four.
The problem is simple do we support different ways and choices for Education or not. If Yes while I'll actually am not a supporter of Grammar schools we should still have them if this is what people want and the whole policy done by David Willets is wrong due to fact he only supports stopping new Grammar schools being open not closing old ones.

Dogides, no you have misunderstood me. I am saying we DO NEED highly trained technical people and in fact that we need to reduce the artificial divide between arts and sciences and concentrate on useful courses. I was illustrating this point by saying I don't think loads of plumbers is our answer to competing in the world and I definately don't think we need more media courses. I was simply trying to point to some of the silly posts on this thread which included comments about plumbers. I think that emotion has completely taken over the deabte around Willetts announcements and I suspect that most of us furiously posting about this agree on most aspects. I'm always suspicious of a debate when it ends up with people accusing others of not being Conservatives. As I say the silly season has arrived,


If the damage is done well before eleven, why on earth are Cameron and Willetts not concentrating on early schooling, or pre-schooling, as others on this website have said. The skills most lacking in this country are basic literacy and numeracy, which should be achieved at latest by the end of junior school, but which are now frequently lacking even at “university” level.

As a working-class pupil who enjoyed the benefits of a grammar-school education, and went on to Oxford (along with many others from a similar background), I find the social arguments irrelevant and, quite frankly, silly. The primary reason for education is to educate, and to make this fundamental purpose secondary to opportunities for social manipulation shows that Cameron is more concerned with exercising power over ordinary people than in improving educational standards by giving them greater choice, and greater freedom to decide for themselves what best suits their particular child.

The present system is over-centralised; many schools are too big and undisciplined; and the curriculum and teaching offer no interest or challenge to increasing numbers of truanting pupils. We need smaller, locally controlled schools, with vouchers offering the possibility of different options for different tastes and abilities; and why not make the school-leaving age flexible: dependent upon achieving a decent standard of literacy and numeracy? After all, nowadays there is always an opportunity to return to education at a later date, and many prospective truants, boys in particular, might be more usefully employed in taking up an apprenticeship, or having a few years of work experience, before deciding where their talents lay. (Anyone with any sense - so probably not Willetts and Cameron - would immediately revoke the dreadful plan to make unwilling pupils continue skulking around shopping centres for an extra two years. Sixteen was bad enough.)

Grammar schools themselves were a great success with the working classes. It was the more influential middle class who resented their children being elbowed out of a territory they considered rightfully theirs, and who, quite understandably, were not satisfied with the alternatives offered to those who could not pay their way to salvation. The problem lay not with the grammar schools, but with the terrifying fate of those consigned to sink secondary moderns (rather like sink comprehensives) and the lack of technical and commercial colleges.

I am not a paid-up conservative, but I might be tempted by the prospect of more grammar schools, and a greater variety of smaller schools, perhaps sharing facilities, and financed by vouchers which gave parents a genuine choice.

No party is offering this; nor is any party offering a restoration of this country’s right to make its own laws. In fact, with each new policy announcement I become more convinced that, at the next election, I shall end up, for the first time in my life, spoiling my ballot paper by writing across it: “None of the above”. Why vote, when none of the things you want are on offer, and so many things that you don't want are?

I am in favour of bringing back Grammar schools. Two friends of mine went to our local grammar school in Surrey back in the 50's and had an excellent education. One of them lived on a council estate and today would have missed out on that education as his family would not have been able to afford to pay as this school is now fee paying.
It's time we had streaming and selection in our education system which has deteriorated badly.

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