« Grammar schools policy is "unforgivable" and a "bleak moment" for Conservative Party | Main | Gordon Brown almost certain to be unopposed »

Comments

"This means setting and streaming in all schools - so that pupils can have the benefit of being taught at the level of ability that suits them; it means greater use of whole-class teaching;"

Direct contradiction?

To be fair, the headlines are somewhat distorting but that's a massive failure of our PR machine.

I note the various comments in the speech about not wanting to introduce vouchers to an 'unreformed' education system and the stress on the need for supply side reforms.

All spot on but I hope that vouchers will be considered when such reforms are underway as they CLEARLY ARE the way forward as ALL the evidence from areas that have introduced them has shown.

Grammars would no doubt remain popular and would expand. Failing schools would improve or close as successful schools expand and new (supply side) driven schools enter the market.

But the Cameron project has decided to live (and die) by the media. We understand that the issue and the policy is more complex but the way that you have chosen to present it is crass and inept and the headlines you have had today are your reward. You have supported Labour's schools policy when almost no parent in the country does so. You have given aid to our enemies at a time when they are weakest. You have sold the pass for nothing in return. It is contemptible.

I think David Willetts could achieve a great deal by taking into his confidence the leaders of the many Conservative Council groups who have steadfastly supported their local grammar schools over decades of sustained attack on them from the Left. He should not be making speeches which are open to cries from the Left of 'told you so. We were right all along.' He might have realised what deep dismay this would cause and how much it would reinforce the view that our present leadership likes nothing so much as kicking lifelong Tories in the teeth.
There is no necessary contradiction between supporting Academies - which are after all Thatcher's GM schools/ City academies by another name - and allowing local authorities to reintroduce or maintain selection on academic grounds. What we can all join forces on is the fight against the central tenet of the 60s and 70s Comprehensive era, that one size can be made to fit all in the field of secondary education.

I don't agree with you David but thanks for taking the trouble to engage with us.

I joined the Conservative Party when John Major offered opportunity for all. Cameron's Conservatives are 100% right to say that we must create better schools in the state sector.

My Comprehensive offered me the chance to mix with a diverse range of people with different abilities and backgrounds - the people skills this gave me are what I value most, now in the workplace.

The howls of protest on this site are a sign that once again Cameron is spot on. Well done.

Thank you for this post Mr Willetts. I still don't really understand why City Academies offer anything superior to what we have at the moment. Has thew fact that they asre not controlled by LEAs really made much difference to their performance?
Secondly did you take into consideration educational performance in Northern Ireland where grammar schools are currently widespread and results and social mobility are generally better than on the mainland?

I have just read the Willetts response to the comments, the problem is that he bases his argument on a false premise. The claim that Grammar Schools no longer provide a lift is due to the fact that there are so few left and they are not readily accesable. His argument therefore collapses. There are contradictions as well, streaming is supposed to happen but get one or two pupils who are not interested and the whole thing ends up as a disaster. It certainly was at my daughter's school.

So he is basically saying CCHQ Press Office is crap.

When are they going to bring professionals in?

This is really poor. If we can't get our message across then why should anybody listen? Indeed there is obviously now going to be huge great split headlines all over the place.

They have to bring a serious head of press in now - waiting until nearer the election will be too late.

From the people who brought you "Hug a Hoodie" comes "Gob on a Grammar"

There is simply too much spin from all sides of the political spectrum about education. In a political bidding war on who can build more academies or dump more grammar schools, it's our children who risk being the losers.

Surely we should go back to basics and accept that every child is unique. It is the job of all of us is to develop what is special about each child to the greatest point. That does not look set to happen in the context of the current education debate.

Surely what is needed is more variety in education provision and a programme of scholarships for all. So parents can decide what is right for their child and are given the tools to act on their decision. Why is this sort of theme not be developed further?

If Grammar schools have been abolished in most of the poorer parts of the country then of course it will be true to say that Grammar schools no longer teach and assist many children from poorer homes.

But that doesn't tell you anything about the capacity of Grammar schools to educate such children to a high standard, if given the chance.

So is what David Willets saying that in the 1950s and 1960s Grammar schools were able to teach pooer children well, but that something intrinsic has changed, either in the nature of those children, or in the nature of Grammar schools?

If not, then he is selling the policy on a false basis. Which is not to say the policy is wrong, but it is very much the Tony Blair way of proceeding, and that is neither honest nor a receipe for long term success.

May I first thank David Willetts for coming onto Conservative Home to engage with the readers. I do however object to his statement that he thinks 'every true Conservative will find [his] arguments persuasive.' I have read his speech, I consider myself a true Conservative and I consider his arguments well-developed and intelligent but to me they remain entirely unpersuasive.

The reason for the existence of evidence opposing the provision of social mobility through grammar schools is simple - there are too few grammar schools left, operating primarily in highly affluent areas, to reach a fair assessment of their role. One only needs to look at a map of the UK's remaining grammar schools to notice that there are very few in less affluent areas. They have in short become free private schools for those who can afford houses in privileged areas and I agree, Mr. Willetts, that they are not effective vehicles for social mobility in their present form.

Now we need to consider why they used to be so effective. And that's because they were thousands more than exist today. There truly was a grammar school in virtually every town, ready to take the most academically able from across the community.

I'm not proposing a return to the 11+ by any means - as Mr. Willetts said, social division is created well before the age of eleven and a return to the old style system will only extrapolate the inequality which already exists.

But a new generation of grammar schools, with traditional discipline, traditional subjects and traditional teaching methods coupled with a locally decided admissions policy has so much to offer.

Why not identify those with great potential at a much younger age and nurture their talents, allowing them to develop? What's to stop new grammar schools offering education from 7-18, or even 4-18? It may sound absurd but it's a natural progression found across the independent sector where it works very successfully.

If Mr. Willetts had given a virtually identical speech in which he noted how effective the existing grammar schools are for their distinct communities and expressed a wish for the privileges their pupils enjoy to be extended across the country coupled with a modern and progressive admissions system I would have been truly excited by the developments a Conservative Government could stimulate in education. Instead I am gravely disappointed.

A grammar school doesn't necessarily mean selection by examination at 11, Mr. Willetts. Let's apply the principle of high quality, traditional education, which is something close to the heart of every Conservative, to the 21st Century. Let's create a grammar school for every community, adapted for and fulfilling the needs of that community.

'We can do so much better.' Those are the final words of Mr. Willetts' speech and I could not agree more. But at the moment we are asking the right questions and delivering completely the wrong answers. We too can do so much better than that.

I have posted this on the original thread, but wanted to add it here as the thread has moved...

Okay, with the free school meals, this is just a statistic, and should be recognised as such, but it is a significant one. Kid’s that receive free school meals are the poorest in society, so looking at how they compare is important. Willetts is comparing percentages of kids locally (note that bill) who are in a Grammar versus those not and finds that there is a clear slide of poor kids away from the Grammar’s. The conclusion that Grammars do not fully represent local spread is therefore valid and very important.

This gets me onto your main point Malcolm, and it’s what he was saying about the society changes in the last 30 years and the thrust is this: Grammars worked better in the past because society was different. Parental influence across the board was more even, therefore the ‘push’ they gave their kids towards Grammar was more evenly spread. But today with the breakdown of the family and the rapid rise of the middle class over the working class those poorest kids will be much more likely to miss out, therefore we need a new system which will give them a fair chance. Good policy to ensure we don’t support a intra-generational poverty trap of under achievement does need to be addressed.

Finally: If we came flat out and supported Grammars, the weakness in our stance would become immediately apparent “(we will measure our policy against how it affects the poorest in our society)” , we then would hand Gordon Brown a massive stick to beat us with, and we would be dead in the water. That’s the easy option, the wrong one morally, and the wrong one politically. Willetts has given us the right platform to attack Labour’s dogmatic and weak alternative and, despite our disappointment, we should accept the reality and recognise it as such.

Thank you for posting here David - it's good to see a senior shadow cabinet member engaging with this site. I have read your speech a number of times. It’s a little unworthy of you to suggest that every “true Conservative” will be persuaded by it, thereby suggesting that those who have read your speech and have the misfortune to remain unconvinced are somehow not “true Conservatives”.

I have a few questions:

1. If the Conservative Party genuinely believes in choice and localism, why not support grammar schools as one of a number of choices open to parents and communities?
2. With your emphasis on streaming, academic rigour and discipline, you appear to be coming close to suggesting that every school should be much more like a grammar school, except in the question of selection. Is your long term aim “every school (more like) a grammar school”? If so, why not say so? At present, as you certainly appreciate, your policies are being drowned out by the appearance that the Conservative Party is now anti-grammar schools (even if the current ones can continue). This is an unnecesary and unpopular position for it to take.
3. David Cameron makes the point that there are about 160 grammar schools and 24,000 other schools. You say you want more academies. How many of those 24,000 schools would you like to see become academies? At the moment there are fewer academies open than there are grammar schools. (I agree with you BTW that many academies are excellent. Visit the first to open, Greig, if you haven’t already. It’s inspirational).
4. Do you think that the evidence base about the impact of grammar schools would be different if more of those 24,000 schools were grammar schools, particularly in areas of social deprivation?
5. Why, in your list of education providers, did you not mention the oldest and largest of non-state providers – the Church of England?

My main point Oberon is what evidence is there that City Academies will be any better than the overwhelmingly Comprehensive system we have at the moment?
Neither you nor David Willetts has given any (although it may exist).
My second point was that David Willetts in his speech seems to think that because middle class parents try harder at parenting than when he was at school Grammar Schools give them even more of an unfair advantage. My question is why should good parents be punished for taking their responsibilities more seriously?

Charles Elphicke (at 15.53) has the right idea above. It's about bringing out the talents in all our children.

Labour have allowed specialist schools (the vast majority of secondary schools) to select by aptitude (they won't use the word ability) but only in certain subjects. Why can schools select pupils on aptitude for say sport or performing arts, but not on aptitude for maths or history? This is an Achilles heel for Labour.

Building on the specialist schools idea of selection on aptitude has some merit, though a system that further empowers parents in poorer households is also a necessary piece of any reform jigsaw.

Why do we remain fond of grammar schools? Because of all the evidence that they were such engines of social mobility. What does that mean? It means that they gave a great education of a specific type to children who benefitted from them, regardless of child's social background. Do remaining grammar schools deliver this engine of mobility? No, as per evidence in David Willett's comments.

So, decide: we are going to reintroduce the 11plus nationally and bring back bifurcation at 11 as a Tory policy (no thanks). Or we are going to think about what it was about grammar schools that led them to being such engines of mobility.

City academies look like non-11-plus versions of grammar schools to me. They are free from the dead hand of LEA control. They are free to set their own ethos. They are free to encourage a diversity of community ownership in the school. They are, in effect, the evolution of the best education policy we had in the last government (when, by the way, all those of you who are up in arms should reflect that we didn't bring back 11plus and grammars): what is a city academy if not the evolution of grant-maintained schools? Add to this the focus on streaming (something we didn't bring back when we were in government earlier either, by the way), and what, exactly, is David Willets guilty of doing today?

Thank you for engaging with grassroots!

But as a previously ardent Cameroonie I'm horrified that the message is "grammars don't work" instead of "grammars are not enough".

The former is a lie, the latter is the truth -- and the Conservative leadership has made a terrible choice between the two.

Congratulations -- about time someone kept the riff raff out of the upper echelons. I trust that Willetts (NQOCD) will complete the counter-revolution by resigning his seat and allowing a public school boy to take his place.

Just why do we support Grammer schools? Just how many of the younger generation "Thatchers children" went to them? I certainly didn't...

Graeme,

The way I see it is that Academies are more of a continuation of City Technology Colleges. I agree that they're a good thing. However as I said on the other thread, the problem is that they don't seem to be able to offer a purely academic curriculum for the top end of the ability range which is where grammars come in. I agree though that we don't just want a binary system - we need greater diversity of provision.

Ultimately the reason why people want grammars is because they provide an education to rival the best in the private sector, and do that a school needs to, as a bare minimum: 1. Have freedom to admit who it wants and 2. Have freedom to expel who it wants. Today's proposals do seem to deal with point 2 but not with point 1 !

Would I be right in thinking that John Major's 1997 manifesto included the pledge of "a Grammar school in every town" , so if we'd been re-elected in 1997 we would have started an expansion of grammars ?

'Right-wing fury over Tory U-turn on grammar schools'

This headline from The Times is not distortive. I am a rightwinger and I am furious. There is absolutely no chance these turncoats will get my vote

It is good of David Willetts to respond and to some extent he is right: apologies if I among others gave too much initial credence to the headlines. However, I found much of his speech tendentious. I sensed that the conclusion had been reached on other grounds to be dismissive of grammar schools and even more so of vouchers. It was then a question of finding some semblance of reasoning to "justify" a conclusion already reached. It reminds me a bit of Derek Wanless's report on the NHS where Gordon Brown had clearly dictated the conclusion and Wanless's role was simply to join the dots.


I can only marvel at Michael's patronising comments at 15.49. Is he suggesting that those of who had the "misfortune" not to go to comprehensives are social misfits with no people skills?

Malcolm - this isn't about punishing good parents, its about not punishing the children of bad parents.

Do check out Mark Field MP's piece on YourPlatform that has just gone up.
CLICK HERE

Not everyone wants to end up at 37 childless, nearly at the top of their profession/firm, single and like "Friends". Some people just want to live a little, raise a family and pay the mortgage. Why force them into the University System? All too often it just produces "students" who are economically useless and who won't behave themselves, learn anything or get their hands dirty.
We need to rethink our ideas and Mr Willetts has made a really encouraging start. Well done!
I wondered how long it would be before Charter Schools were "invented" over here.
Bravo!

So, the policy is the same as Labour's: the remaining Grammar Schools can survive but it will remain illegal to open a new one or increase selection in general, or even to interview parents.

In this and a hundred other areas, Conservative policy is now as bad as or even worse than Labour's. So why should conservatives vote Conservative?

I had missed the decision on Vouchers, which just compounds my misery today. Vouchers are so obviously the answer to patient choice I have never understood why people are so reluctant to adopt them. The problem with vouchers is capital cost but vouchers need only pay for revenue cost and capital can still be dispensed centrally to schools in need. Schools should be given a redecorating lease, but not the freehold, of their school. Then failing schools can fail and leave their premises for new schools or other good schools to expand into

David Willetts is to be commended for responding to the comments. That said his speech which may be superficially attractive to some did not impress this true Tory. Nor (and not for the first time) was I impressed by his appearance on TV last night.

There is not a single correct model for schools - other countries produce more better educated and informed people without grammar/secondary modern structure.

The social mobility offered by the 1944 Education Act was against the pre-war background of no real opportunity for secondary education for most poorer people as result of abolition of fees. As the catchment areas were mixed and selection was by exam there was a greater number of poorer and deprived children able to take advantage of a grammar education. But these were always a small minority of children and the advantages of the better funded education offered in grammars was very restricted. By the 1960's the better off were already looking at tutoring and other ways of getting their children into grammars and opportunity for social mobility was declining.

Why mention social mobility? Because it is the fall back argument always for going back to Grammar schools. Grammars are not the answer to declining standards for all - but the ethos of grammars in CTCs or faith schools or whatever may be a large part of the answer. Equally some children don't do well in that sort of structure so other school models must be available.

If you look at the alternative system - the private/public schol one- there are schools like Winchester which is academic and others like Millfield which offer a huge range of academic and non academic courses. There is no one size fits all model in the free market educational system - why create one in the state one. Some have difficult entry examinations, others look at the "whole pupil". There is a nearly common thread thoughout about institutional pride, discipline, behaviour and a learning ethos.

"I joined the Conservative Party when John Major offered opportunity for all. Cameron's Conservatives are 100% right to say that we must create better schools in the state sector.

My Comprehensive offered me the chance to mix with a diverse range of people with different abilities and backgrounds - the people skills this gave me are what I value most, now in the workplace.

The howls of protest on this site are a sign that once again Cameron is spot on. Well done."
Hear Hear Michael, I went to a much smaller, streamed, well disciplined state school with a diverse and flexible curriculum. No need for lotteries, crazy house prices or any type of self/state imposed selection. It was the ONLY school in the area for all and it did its job well for all.
The school provided an excellent springboard for everyone of differing ability and no one cared or distinguished between academic ability anymore than whether they came from a rich, middle class or poor family.
If I have read this speech correctly then that is what David Willets is trying to provide by improving all the schools in the area so that everybody receives a better education not because they can afford a house in the right catchment or because of one test aged 11.
How about just having a decent school within a reasonable walking distance of your home, neither I or my parents had the kind of stress that you see and hear now as a child approaches age to apply to secondary school in some area's.
I saw a programme recently and was shocked to see some children having to spend up to 2 hours a day travelling on their own in a large city as they went miles away from home, family and friends just to go to school, its crazy!


It is appreciated that David Willett's has taken the time to reply but it does not in anyway change my view.

I believe the statistics he used do not provide the necessary proof that the poorest in our society are no longer attending Grammar Schools it only proves they do not have free school meals!

After all even poorer families have the choice whether their children eat school meals or not.

If David Willett's had quoted statistics based on family income it would have been much more conclusive.

But this is no longer the main issue surrounnding this farce. The fact is the development, presentation and management of this policy has been handled appallingly leading to:

- the undermining of bedrock conservative themes of choice and localism (which is not addressed in David Willett's reply)

- an uproar within a large section of the Conservative Party.

- cries of U-Turn from the Labour Party (from John Prescott of all people) and their adoring media.


As a result any merit these policies might have had is likely gone and with it the credibility of David Willetts and Project Cameron on education.

If this is the sort of PR we can expect in the run up to the next election it is little wonder David Cameron chose politics over public relations. If this carries on Gordon Brown will take the Conservatives on on BOTH presentation and substance.

PS I have read the speech twice!

Bradford is near the bottom of schools nationally. It has all comprehensives and just two fee-paying independent grammar schools - one co-educational, and one for girls.

The absenteeism rates are horrendous; exclusions run at one every 90 minutes; violence against teachers is widespread.

The whole schools district was transferred to SERCO by Government Order and since then standards have collapsed further and bonuses paid to Serco

Dixons Technology College was to be merged with Cathedral City School....mix one reasonably good school with a dump and the idea is would be a splendid mixture. The idea collapsed

There are proposals to build an Academy instead Bradford's new academy will put citizenship and conflict resolution studies high on its curriculum.

A super Academic Mission Statement - great motto.

There are proposals for a Muslim Academy too Marmaduke Pickthall Academy for Boys after a scholar who converted to Islam.

ACademy

The Yorkshire Post revealed yesterday that plans have been drawn up which would see a new city academy opening in Bradford which would have a "Muslim ethos" but be open to children of all faiths.

http://www.mpab.org/

The Academy will focus on alleviating the problem of boys underachieving in inner city schools, particularly of ethnic minority pupils. The ethos will primarily be Muslim faith based, reflecting on the spiritual and moral backgrounds of the pupils attending. Faith and Citizenship teachings will be delivered through PSHE, and values such as open discussion, contributing towards the betterment of society, ownership and responsibility will be taught through a carefully designed program


It is amusing that the Conservative Party now follows Labour policy in all things....we must watch Gordon Brown for indications of new Conservative policies

Scotty, what point are you making? You went to a good comp. Lucky for you. How does that demonstrate that any of what David Willetts says is true? None of David Willetts' critics has denied that there may be good comps or that the grammar school system is not a complete answer. What most of us would like to see is a proper voucher system giving the less wealthy the choices available to the wealthy INCLUDING the right to use the independent sector; and the ability to set up a wide range of genuinely independent schools (including grammars) which the public - all the public - can choose to use. This is the modern, liberal and meritocratic answer. Yet the leader whom you so devotedly support prefers instead to follow in the footsteps of the Labour Party and to trot out spurious reasons why none of this can be done.

Mr Willetts, have you ever taught a subject up to A level? If you had, you would know, without it having to be proved, that academically able pupils need as much special attention as ESN children at the other end of the spectrum.

In order to play for England at a sport, young players keep on being selected to play in a higher group and peer pressure spurs them on. The same with an academic education.

You cannot surely believe that Blair's recipe for schools has really worked either to the country's benefit or to that of the majority of pupils.

Might I suggest you have a proper debate about grammar schools and their value to the education system as a whole before turning your back on them (thus alienating vast hordes of natural supporters) and concentrate on finding a very good solution to the problem of the ever expanding underclass which seems quite untouched by our existing schools?

As I have frequently pointed out, the last tory government introduced grant maintained schools; about 1100 comprehensives and others elected to become GM schools to their great benefit.

Why bother with setting up more Academies at vast cost, some with a somewhat doubtful ethos, when you could transform standards in many schools over a relatively short period of time and, I assume, at no great extra cost?

Could I be the first to say: Told you so. We on the Left were right all along?

Could I be the first to say: Told you so. We on the Left were right all along?

Posted by: John Rentoul | May 16, 2007 at 18:49

Just because Cameron and Willetts have checked into the same clinic and are now on the same ward, doesn't mean their lunacy is shared by others.

The trouble is that The Left as you call it has created most of the societal-educational dysfunctions we have today and you have absolutely no hope of untangling the mess.

Not really, no, Mr. Rentoul, unless by "the left" you mean those elements of your party who accepted Thatcherism, like Mr. Blair. The Labour party, as you are well aware, loathes CTCs ad Foundation Schools and as you are further aware the Education Reform bill in the Commons was bitterly opposed by many Labour lefties and passed only on the Conservative vote.

That said, I admire your articles in the Indie and it's good to have you posting.

I don't intend to comment about the pros and cons of selection or any teaching method. The elephant in this particular room is not the way teaching and selecting is done, it is how any SoS Education can change happen.

Ask any Tory Education minister from times past and probably the Labour ones of the last ten years too and they will all probably agree that the education "Establishment", famously described as "The Blob" by Chris Woodhead just doesn't respond to entreaties to change.

The only way to get the laudible things that Willetts suggests to happen is to empower parents and the only way to do that properly is to give them the money.

Nothing Willetts, Johnson, Cameron or Brown have said recently has persuaded me that any amount of central Government interference, direction or control can make a blind bit of difference. The Swedes introduced vouchers - The Bloody Swedes! - Why can't we do the same?

Rentoul's comment shows just how misguided or cynical David Willett's comment "we are not launching an attack on those that still exist" is. This will be spun by the left and the BBC as the Tories giving up on grammars and when they move to abolish the remaining ones the Tories will be unable to respond ! Then I suspect the Etonian spin masters knew that all along.

I've just watched an interview on BBC South East today in which a Conservative MP who I did not recognise was defending the new Conservative position. I can only describe his defence as Socialism at its worst. There was no consideration of the standards, the relative quality of education or anything else that should be relevant to this debate. Instead, we were told that not enough children at Grammar Schools get free meals.

It is shameful to hear a supposed Conservative putting equality above quality in our schools.

The only consideration that should matter is whether our education system is better or worse with Grammars. It is better. Value added figures show that Grammars have the best value added scores, followed by Secondary Moderns. Comprehensives have the worst value added scores of all.

What I don't understand is the surprise being expressed here. When did the Conservative Party last meaningfully support grammar schools?

You have to go back quite a way, passing through the era in which the greatest number of grammar schools were abolished, when Thatcher was Home Secretary.

The idea that this is some sort of Cameroonite u-turn is preposterous in that context.

Did I say Home Secretary? I meant Education Secretary. Hell.

David, the question is not whether they have supported them but whether they should have done and should do now. We all know that the Tories (notably Ted Heath's education secretary) in fact helped Labour throw social mobility into reverse....a fact in which you seem to take considerable pleasure.

Mr Willetts, In your speech, you state:
"Meanwhile, middle-class parents invest far more effort in raising their kids than they did a generation ago. Nowadays, middle-class kids get all that and more, and probably extra tuition to help them do well in the exams at 11."

This is hardly an endorsement of the comprehensive system is it? I was lucky enough to be given a Direct Grant to a local HMC school, through career choice I am unable to afford the same for my children, but that doesn't stop me making a contribution to the bursary fund in the hope that it will benefit some child whose parents could only dream of getting a grammar school education for their children. You are letting down the very core people you need to win back if you were ever to win an election. People aspire for the best for their children, by stemming the growth of Grammar Schools and making it fiscally impossible for many to afford private education, you are depriving bright young children of the chance to progress beyond their dreams. A bright child in a 'good' area will always thrive, a bright child from a poor area may not, and may be bullied for trying to work hard. Selective education (whether grant maintained of private) allows children to be taught at the same rate as their peers to attain the best level thay can.

Many say there is little difference between Blair and Cameron. I am rapidly finding that this is not the case. We always knew Blair would stuff the middle class. It's come as a bit of a shock to find Cameron intends to do it too.

"a fact in which you seem to take considerable pleasure."

I just find it useful to provide some context here, what with all the agitation about u-turns and rather distasteful comments about 'toffs pulling up the ladders'. No pleasure.

I'm personally in favour of grammar schools, but the Conservative Party stopped its support of them before I was born. One of the reasons was that there was no longer any electoral advantage in overt support for them.

I don't know what you find "distasteful" about comments about toffs pulling up the ladder. That is precisely what we are observing.

For the first thing, it amazes me that issues of class appear to be far more of an issue on the right than the left (Perhaps Labour should have continued with their Tory toff theme-while it may not have had the desired effect of warning middle ground Labour/Tory voters off the party, it would clearly have had an effect on Tory party supporters....).

But mainly because the leadership of the party is going in with the best aims of trying to do what's right within what is possible. They may have hit on the wrong answer, but they are not malevolent.

The Education Bill passed this year threatens Grammar Schools. Willets is talking bollocks again.

I did a PGCE course in a couple of inner London schools in 2002-3 and was depressed by the constant battle to maintain order in every class. I never went into teaching and am amazed that anyone would choose to teach in such schools. David Cameron is right to focus on streaming/setting and the need to maintain high standards of discipline. As Iraq has showed, without order you get anarchy.
My main question is what to do with the disaffected who are expelled under these proposals? Concentrating them in 'Pupil Referral Units' does them no long term favours. I now work close to such a centre and there are few more depressing sights than these proto-criminals coming and going as they please, making a nuisance of themselves and treating anyone in authority with complete contempt.
Also, it is extremely insulting to assume that free school meals are the best indicator of low income. They are a measure of state dependency since you have to be on benefits to qualify. Many families who feel education is important will probably be poorer than some of those receiving benefits - remember the wife swap woman on £35000 a year for her platoon of children?

Michael is right.

I sometimes wonder if Cameron's patrician Tories with their uber privileged leadership get s perverse delight from alienating their undoubted economic and social inferiors who have loyally supported the Tory Party through thick and thin.

David Willets is half right. The trouble is he's focusing on the wrong half. The problem starts with the primary schools: deprived children tend to live in deprived areas and primary schooling in those areas he is usually less likely to receive the same level of critical scrutiny that it might attract in, shall we say, more comfortable areas. As a result, pupils in those areas may not be adequately prepared for the demands of grammar schooling. The answer is to improve the quality and consistency of primary schooling so that, as intended, there was genuine equality of opportunity to progress to grammar schools. What's more, grammar schools are an existing part of the state education system and clearly performing extremely well. If David Willets really wanted to be radical, we'd be talking about better primary schools providing more opportunity for pupils -- deprived or otherwise -- to get into more grammar schools, not fewer. Grammar schools select on the basis of academic ability and that is compromised if the primary schooling isn't up to the job. Being poor isn't the reason children do not succeed academically - it is their access to good primary schools, where the foundations of their education laid.

An additional and possibly contentious thought:are pupils in poor or deprived areas losing out because their schools have a particularly high number of pupils with English as a second language in their homes?

From the people who brought you "Hug a Hoodie" comes "Gob on a Grammar"

ROFLMAO!!!!!!!

Keep 'em coming!

I've listened and read the supposed logic behind this announcement.

David Willetts states that it is now less likely that a grammar school pupil in Buckinghamshire will come from a low income family.

OK, let's assume that is a fact as he claims. I know exactly why that would be true.

Over the years, Bucks has become almost embarrassed by the 11+, faced as it is by an entrenched national education culture which doesn't like grammar schools. The primary schools in Bucks scarcely now bother to tutor their pupils for the 11+. The education authority's policy is for primary schools to do a bare minimum of familiarisation with the test. Any schools doing more than this are seen as "cheating".

The response is that parents who are bothered (mainly the middle class) rely on private tutors to fill the gap.

Also, prep schools are free to focus on the 11+ and train pupils for it. They can achieve some very good results. This, despite the almost nonsensical claim by some state educationalists that one cannot be effectively tutored in 11+ verbal reasoning.

The upshot is that increasing numbers of pupils who have been privately-tutored arrive at grammar schools.

But is that the fault of grammar schools. No ! It is the fault of a state system which has, for years, been mumbling about grammar schools and has done nothing to give state primary children an equal merit-based chance of getting in.

When I went through the same Bucks system years ago, we were drilled in verbal reasoning for several years via a weekly test.

Dave Willetts has signalled that even the Tories have now given up on defending grammars. He has said he doesn't want to close existing grammars but he has just withdrawn the last crux of support that these besieged institutions had....so total withdrawl of support and conversion to comps will be the eventual effect.

I might also add that I've also lived in Oxfordshire for many years where there is also selection: selection by income. Ordinary folk go to the local comp; anyone who can afford it goes private.

This is what Willets apparently wants. Come to think of it, perhaps he is an old elitist Tory after all !

It is a well-known fact that Willets is an agent of the Euro-superstate and that this assault on grammar schools (if they still actually exist at all) is a deliberate ploy by Brussels to finally eradicate all memory of the British Empire.

Please excuse the handwriting, Matron doesn't allow me anything sharp.

My experience of grammar schools in Northern Ireland is that they serve the top 25% or so extremely well and (15 years ago at least) had pupils from diverse economic backgrounds. The problem is the other 75%! Secondary schools can quickly become sink schools, especially in poorer areas, and its very difficult to change that when they are already seen as second best. A policy of good schools everywhere, with streaming and proper mentoring of all pupils is much more likely to help the poorest. Cameron is right, again. Well done Mr Willetts.

David, thank you for taking the time to demonstrate that you are aware of the views of the Party's membership and activists, especially since that awareness, or at least appearing to care about it, is something very rare in our senior leadership team at present.However, having read your speech in full, I cannot understand how you can say that "every true Conservative will find the arguments persuasive".

The problem with your thoughts on this matter is that they are not about educational standards, nor about improving the educational attainment of all, or most, of our children. Rather they are in fact about social mobility and the best way to use the education system to achieve greater social mobility, a left wing shibbolith up there with economic redistribution. True conservatives are extremely unlikely to find persuasive a policy based upon the premise that our publicly funded education system exists purely as an instrument of social engineering and that the desired outcome is straight out of a Labour party manifesto.

True conservatives are considerably more likely to believe in an equal chance to excel for all but also in the acceptance that people are not all of the same abilities, and that education needs to be tailored to our young people's abilities, not to the economic circumstances of their parents.

That is why the announcements by Willets were good and will help to improve education for far more people than just grammars (as good as they are). I think streaming and more freedoms for schools are excellent and the right way forward. Good policies have been sidetracked by silly headlines. Maybe the PR did go wrong but I suspect there are those who want to resist any change stirring things again,

Matt

"Maybe the PR did go wrong but I suspect there are those who want to resist any change stirring things again"
The PR did not go wrong Matt, David "two brains" Willets did his homework and did what he was expected to do and that was reach a conclusion which was aimed at improving education for all regardless of ability or wealth.
He will do what previous tory governments have done should we be elected, protect the very small minority of good grammar schools which survived in a small area, tories don't close good schools what ever the social background.
But more importantly he will aspire to improving the standard of education for everyone in every area regardless of ability or wealth using every tool available, but don't tell anyone that is a good old fashioned conservative value too because it might upset some who just want a bog standard grammar for the middle classes in their area and sod the rest!

Scotty, Does 'using every tool available' mean permitting the opening up of new grammar schools?

Mr Willets, you point to "new evidence on grammar schools" to support your point. Please be so good as to provide a link to this new evidence so that readers may judge for themselves on its relevancy and contents.

tories don't close good schools what ever the social background.

No but they cannot defend fee-paying selection at public schools with a very skewed social mix

An additional and possibly contentious thought:are pupils in poor or deprived areas losing out because their schools have a particularly high number of pupils with English as a second language in their homes?

In Bradford white women are fecund enough to provide enough white children for the schools....the prevalence of non-English speaking teenage brides from Kashmir (75% marry brides from the Subcontinent) and now the Slovaks and Poles.

Funnily enough as EU nationals the Poles and Slovaks and Lithuanians and Romanians cannot claim free school meals until they have been here 12 months.....some schools are diverting funds to feed the children whose parents are dirt poor......but asylum seekers can claim straightaway

Your child/children can have Free School Meals if you receive Income Support, Job Seekers Allowance (Income Based) or Child Tax Credit only and your annual income (as assessed by the Inland Revenue) is less than £13910.

* Income Support
* Income Based Job Seekers Allowance
* Child Tax Credit, but are not entitled to a Working Tax Credit and your annual income (as assessed by the Inland Revenue) is less than £14,155
* Support under Part V1 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
* Guarantee element of State Pension Credit

I am receiving the new Working Tax Credit. Can my child/children have Free School Meals?
No, sorry, only families receiving one of the following benefits can receive Free School Meals and a School Clothing Grant

* Income Support
* Income Based Job Seekers Allowance
* Child Tax Credit, but are not entitled to a Working Tax Credit and your annual income (as assessed by the Inland Revenue) is less than £14,155
* Support under Part V1 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
* Guarantee element of State Pension Credit


"http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO0702/S00100.htm">New Zealand


Thousands of children from poorer families across the district are missing out on free school meals every day, according to Government figures.

The Department for Education and Skills has revealed 4,042 secondary school pupils are not getting the dinners they are entitled to.

And for some it could be their main meal of the day.
advertisement

Estimated figures for 2006 released to Parliament by Schools Minister Jim Knight show that in Bradford 8,170 pupils are known to be eligible for free dinners, but only 5,804 claim them.

That means only 16.9 per cent of the number of pupils on school rolls across Bradford are receiving free meals when 23.8 per cent should.

In Kirklees 1,174 children of the 4,174 children eligible are missing out - 15.7 per cent of school children in the area should receive them but only 11.3 per cent do.

Calderdale provides 1,916 free school meals for children - the equivalent of 12.3 per cent of the number of children enrolled - but only 1,414 children, 9.1 per cent, claim them. This means every day 886 pupils are going without what they are entitled to.

The problem, which has been a national one for many years, has started to improve in the district during the past decade. The figures showed in 1997 of the 21,491 pupils eligible for free school meals, 14,859 received them.

Council bosses are anxious that parents check to see if their children are eligible and accept the service available.

Earlier this year Bradford Council's Benefits Service, which administers free school meals, produced new leaflets and posters for the district's schools as part of a drive to encourage the take-up.

David Fraser, the Council's head of benefits, said: "One of our main priorities is to encourage as many people as possible to claim benefits they are entitled to."

Nationally, it is estimated that one in five pupils who are entitled to free school meals fail to take up the offer and the figures are proof thousands of families in the area could receive the extra help.

Anthony Mugan, head of the Council's education client team, said: "A healthy diet results in healthy children and also helps them perform better in school, and we don't want pupils who are entitled to miss out."

To qualify parents must be receiving benefits, such as Income Support or Jobseeker's Allowance, or be getting support from the National Asylum Support Services.

The child must also attend a Council school or nursery on a full-time basis.

For more details telephone the Benefits Service's helpline on (01274) 432772, or visit www.bradford.gov.uk/benefits e-mail: newsdesk@bradford.newsquest.co.uk

9:25am Monday 11th September 2006

An additional and possibly contentious thought:are pupils in poor or deprived areas losing out because their schools have a particularly high number of pupils with English as a second language in their homes?

In Bradford white women are fecund enough to provide enough white children for the schools....the prevalence of non-English speaking teenage brides from Kashmir (75% marry brides from the Subcontinent) and now the Slovaks and Poles.

Funnily enough as EU nationals the Poles and Slovaks and Lithuanians and Romanians cannot claim free school meals until they have been here 12 months.....some schools are diverting funds to feed the children whose parents are dirt poor......but asylum seekers can claim straightaway

Your child/children can have Free School Meals if you receive Income Support, Job Seekers Allowance (Income Based) or Child Tax Credit only and your annual income (as assessed by the Inland Revenue) is less than £13910.

* Income Support
* Income Based Job Seekers Allowance
* Child Tax Credit, but are not entitled to a Working Tax Credit and your annual income (as assessed by the Inland Revenue) is less than £14,155
* Support under Part V1 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
* Guarantee element of State Pension Credit

I am receiving the new Working Tax Credit. Can my child/children have Free School Meals?
No, sorry, only families receiving one of the following benefits can receive Free School Meals and a School Clothing Grant

* Income Support
* Income Based Job Seekers Allowance
* Child Tax Credit, but are not entitled to a Working Tax Credit and your annual income (as assessed by the Inland Revenue) is less than £14,155
* Support under Part V1 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
* Guarantee element of State Pension Credit


"http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO0702/S00100.htm">New Zealand


Thousands of children from poorer families across the district are missing out on free school meals every day, according to Government figures.

The Department for Education and Skills has revealed 4,042 secondary school pupils are not getting the dinners they are entitled to.

And for some it could be their main meal of the day.
advertisement

Estimated figures for 2006 released to Parliament by Schools Minister Jim Knight show that in Bradford 8,170 pupils are known to be eligible for free dinners, but only 5,804 claim them.

That means only 16.9 per cent of the number of pupils on school rolls across Bradford are receiving free meals when 23.8 per cent should.

In Kirklees 1,174 children of the 4,174 children eligible are missing out - 15.7 per cent of school children in the area should receive them but only 11.3 per cent do.

Calderdale provides 1,916 free school meals for children - the equivalent of 12.3 per cent of the number of children enrolled - but only 1,414 children, 9.1 per cent, claim them. This means every day 886 pupils are going without what they are entitled to.

The problem, which has been a national one for many years, has started to improve in the district during the past decade. The figures showed in 1997 of the 21,491 pupils eligible for free school meals, 14,859 received them.

Council bosses are anxious that parents check to see if their children are eligible and accept the service available.

Earlier this year Bradford Council's Benefits Service, which administers free school meals, produced new leaflets and posters for the district's schools as part of a drive to encourage the take-up.

David Fraser, the Council's head of benefits, said: "One of our main priorities is to encourage as many people as possible to claim benefits they are entitled to."

Nationally, it is estimated that one in five pupils who are entitled to free school meals fail to take up the offer and the figures are proof thousands of families in the area could receive the extra help.

Anthony Mugan, head of the Council's education client team, said: "A healthy diet results in healthy children and also helps them perform better in school, and we don't want pupils who are entitled to miss out."

To qualify parents must be receiving benefits, such as Income Support or Jobseeker's Allowance, or be getting support from the National Asylum Support Services.

The child must also attend a Council school or nursery on a full-time basis.

For more details telephone the Benefits Service's helpline on (01274) 432772, or visit www.bradford.gov.uk/benefits e-mail: newsdesk@bradford.newsquest.co.uk

9:25am Monday 11th September 2006

I agree with you TomTom. In the light of the Tories attitude to grammar schools I can see no moral or logical justification for private schools. They have now given Labour loads of ammunition to knock private education.

If you truly believe that the Grammar school is an agent for social mobility and improving standards then support the one party which believes this as part of their education policy i.e UKIP

Academies among worse schools in England


Rebecca Smithers
Thursday March 30, 2006
Guardian Unlimited


More than half the government's flagship city academies are today listed among the worst schools in the country in new league tables, despite some year-on-year improvement in their pupils' performance in the core subjects in national tests.

Are we being constructive in our negative response to grammar schools? I think if you read the content Cameron and Willets are talking a lot of sense.
It would be a huge task to start building new grammar schools when we have thousands of schools that need enormous attention. They can't just be scrapped or be left in the state they are. They need to be fixed and that is a huge task and does not need the diversion of building grammar schools.

It would be a huge task to start building new grammar schools

We have billions being spent on building PFI Academies...one in Peterborough just cost £46 million......one in London cost £30 million......all leased from banks and investor groups

Are you resident in Britain Richard Calhoun ? You seem oblivious to the huge building programme for PFI Academies

Schools

Schools Standards Minister David Miliband, which promises the rebuilding or refurbishment of ALL English secondary schools over the next 15 years.

PFI

The comments to this entry are closed.

#####here####

Categories

ConHome on Twitter

    follow me on Twitter

    Conservative blogs

    Today's public spending saving

    New on other blogs

    • Receive our daily email
      Enter your details below:
      Name:
      Email:
      Subscribe    
      Unsubscribe 

    • Tracker 2
    • Extreme Tracker