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Ruth Kelly's is making a habit of hypocrisy
see www.stopharlownorth.com

Let's suppose little Master Kelly does well at his super new school, so well that he can get into a rather good public school, which he will need because his parents will decide that a state secondary in Tower Hamlets cannot fulfill his special requirements, as already statemented.

When he reaches 18 and wants to follow his Mum to Oxbridge, will Gordon Brown condemn the University for considering applications from 'privileged' children?

I really do wish all the political and journalist commentators would stop pontificating about Kelly's rights as a parent. No-one would argue with that - it is the conflict with her imposition of different standards on the choices open to the rest of society, via her role as a member of Government, that is the huge problem, and turns the stomach of people like me.

Truly, Labour have established a Nomenklatura in the UK beyond even my wildest nightmares.

Dominic Lawson and David Cameron are right. Ruth Kelly's government has not pledged to abolish private education, and as a mother she has not only the right but a duty to do the very best for her child.

The Sun is a disgusting rag. Nobody should pay any attention to the two-faced drivel it prints, much of it written tongue-in-cheek by left-wing journalists who are only too happy to take Murdoch's money.

£15,000 a year after tax is getting on for the average wage after tax. Just how many people can afford that sum? Ordinary folk haven't a hope in hell of being able to pay that kind of money. It isn't a question of making choices about how you spend your money. It just cannot be found from ordinary incomes. They have no option but to take what is on offer from the State and that, quite simply, isn't good enough. What Ruth Kelly is telling us by her actions is that what isn't good enough for her and a number of other Ministers is perfectly acceptable for the plebs.

Isn't the real scandal that it costs £15,000 pa to buy these services? What on earth does the brat get for that - a cloth-of-gold bib?

The politicians' line appears to be that parents should have absolute discretion as to the education of their children. That's great for those who have the ability to make a choice from the full range of state and private options but a bit of a non-choice for the majority who don't.

Apparently (apologies for quote from Guardian) "The borough is one of the most deprived in England, but has invested heavily in high quality services for children requiring special needs education. It runs six special needs schools within reach of Ruth Kelly's home. Official inspection reports show 14 of the 20 primary schools close to the minister's home provided SEN services that were described by Ofsted as "good". Six were hailed as either "excellent" or "outstanding"."

So even when State provision of education services is deemed to be good or even outstanding it isn't good enough.

Cameron is missing the point because it suits him too. People like Cameron and Kelly (and me) can afford to pay school fees to have their children educated privately. Which is their right having paid their taxes. Besides what parent doesn't want to do their best for their children?

However, Cameron abetted by Willetts conspires with the likes of Kelly to ensure that people who haven't a hope in hell of paying fees, ever, get a substandard service with no chance of escape because they have no choice. That's the true hypocrisy. What's more, for a Tory Party which claims to be "modernising", it's blatantly anti-meritocratic.


Michael, I think Simon Newman had it right when he said social mobility just isn't very popular in this country.

If I lived in any of Islington, Tower Hamlets, Newham or Hackney, I certainly wouldn't want to send any of my children to a local school, and I'm sorry for those who have no option.

Kelly can do what she wants - it's her money and her child. It's the fact that she and her party have such a problem with the rest of us doing the same (assuming we can afford to) that's the issue. As ever, the best bit is watching these hypocrites squirm as they try to justify their own position with the "Don't do as I do, do as I say" argument.

And there's the rub.

Labour, with the shocking acquiescence of the Tories, retains educational choice for the rich by maintaining private schools; but eliminates it for those who cannot pay by abolishing grammar schools. Genius.

Sean, I think you may well be right, which is worrying. Yet again, George Walden puts it nicely:

"Anthing resembling a meritocracy suits neither the philosophy of the Left nor the interests of the Right. That's why we don't have one. Labour have a rooted aversion to selection and you can't have promotion by merit without it. The Tories make positive noises but their heart isn't in it, because whatever ethnic effigies they recruit essentially they remain a social caste, especially in thier upper echelons, and selection means opening up to all the talents. To date the only thing the Tory new elite have opened up are their shirt collars and their ipods."

I thought that this was ConservativeHome, not CommunistHome, and I have double-checked the web address.

Government Ministers should not be prevented from sending their children to private school, particularly if they have special needs. That does not mean that they should not also adequately fund and resource state education.

If there was a genuine concern that, as a result of Ministers sending their children to private school, state education was underfunded, that would be a different matter.

If Ruth Kelly had been chanting from the rooftops that people are wrong to send their children to private school (a la Diane Abbott) then that would lay her open to the charge of hypocrisy.

Since neither is the case, this is a bit of a non-story. I file it alongside "Shock: Transport Minister eschews public transport to use car".

AlexW, But what about her record on planning matters objecting to small scale developments in her own backyard but proposing hundreds of thousands of houses for the south east?

It isn't a non-story at all, unless you think meritocracy is unimportant. It is a very important story. It is all about politicians putting themselves and their children at the front of the queue while actively depriving others of equivalent opportunities. It isn't just a Labour Party problem. It is a cross-party problem. That is presumably why the Tory Party is going easy on Ruth Kelly.

Cameron is right to take the line he does because many Conservative ministers, past and future, send their children to private schools whilst arguing that this does not disqualify them from involvement in trying to improve State education. It also covers him when in later years he may be PM and sending the majority of his children to private secondary schools (Eton or wherever) which, surely if he has any sense (bearing in mind he has the money), he will do. He may send them to State primaries but secondary school is another matter.

Where he should take it further is to say that, as even Labour Education Secretaries cannot find the education they need in all cases from the State sector, the attack on the charitable status of private schools should be called off and more mechanisms should be found to enable less well off people (in appropriate circumstances maybe)to afford private schools and to break down the barriers between the two sectors. For instance, could this school in Oxfordshire help the local education authority there (and elsewhere) by helping to set up similar specialist school(s) for bright but dyslexic children in the State sector? Could, say, the City of London school or Westminster similarly help State schools in Tower Hamlets to cater better for their bright children? (The "special needs" of a very bright child, perhaps interested in Classics or Physics, are probably just as ill catered for in State schools in most Inner City areas as are the special needs of a dyslexic.)

The Party should be pressing the Government to admit that Ruth Kelly's actions have demonstrated that the State sector cannot provide everything. This has the advantages (a) of being true and (b) of being thoroughly devisive in the Labour Party.

Posted by: Michael McGowan | January 09, 2007 at 11:15


Very, very, good comment

Thanks. TomTom. Excellent post from Londoner.

The Party should be pressing the Government to admit that Ruth Kelly's actions have demonstrated that the State sector cannot provide everything.

Sorry to rain on your parade but we spend £5.000.000.000 each MONTH on State Education.

The Comprehensive School is supposed to offer a breadth and depth of education to all by utilising teaching on economies-of-scale. This is the test of the prospectus.

Now I appreciate that Ruth Kelly knows as little about State Education as Alan Duncan or David Cameron or George Osborne or most of his Shadow Cabinet but....................this is the system they have asked the electorate to pay for............almost the entire yield from VAT is spend on Education


If all the British Public is paying 17.5% VAT in order to get a low-grade education system where they them pay 40% tax to gain enough net income to pay for private education there is a major issue to be discussed.

The third largest tax revenue of the United Kingdom is wasted to produce a third-rate Education system but the leading politicians are satisfied it is good enough for the masses

More Labour hypocrisy today. Yesterday it was 'state comprehensives for you, elite private schools for us' (and let's not listen to the crap about the kid being disabled or whatever they were saying - dyslexia is affects 1 in 10 of the population).

Today Tony is telling us we should continue to fly, and that

"Britain is 2% of the world's emissions. We shut down all of Britain's emissions tomorrow - the growth in China will make up the difference within two years."

also

Asked whether he would give up long-haul flights, Mr Blair said: "I personally think these things are a bit impractical actually to expect people to do that.

He added: "You know, I'm still waiting for the first politician who's actually running for office who's going to come out and say it (that people should not fly) - and they're not.

"The danger, for example, if you say to people 'Right, in Britain, you know, you're not going to have any more cheap air travel', everybody else is going to be having it.


So whaddya know, Brown tells us one week we are wrecking the environment and need a massive round of tax increases. And the next Blair admits it's a lot of rubbish designed to raise money.

Hmm.

At least for once Blair is actually telling the truth....Perhaps it is his New Year's Resolution.

Why exactly does Eton need charitable status? I'm all for privatising schools, but treat them as businesses, not spongers who need special tax breaks.

People with money have more choices – and that is a good thing: it fuels the desire to succeed. Ruth Kelly has the power to choose: good for her!

The furore is because very many less well paid families could have the same choices if the government (and, as Michael says, this applies to all governments) didn't deprive parents of control over how their education £ is spent.

If a Conservative government is to stand for individuals and freedom to choose, it has to return real powers to parents. It has to tear up the baseless consensus that a) the right to education means that the State is the one to provide it, b) that schools should follow national rather than local agendas and c) that top-up fees are a bad thing.

Thank you, Mark. Precisely.....and a happy new year to you.

As I understand from a debate on the radio yesterday, some LEAs will pay to have special needs children sent to private schools because it can be cheaper than the LEA providing the service.

So most of this rage about the elite jumping to the front of the queue while holding the cloth-capped masses back is piffle (in regards to special needs anyway).

Either Ruth Kelly's LEA didn't offer this service, or Kelly decided that sending her kid to private school at taxpayers expense would've looked even worse, or she really is a hyprocrite because they offered but it still wasn't good enough.

"Gordon Brown has declared that he intends to raise the money spent per child in state schools to the level that obtains in the private sector."

What level of taxation be required to afford £15k pa in school fees for every state pupil?

Jon, I was not focussing on "special needs" in particular. "Special needs" is one of the most abused concepts in education, with many people seeking to shoehorn their children into the "special needs" category so that they can enjoy a measure of state-funded educational choice which the public sector otherwise denies them. So the special needs debate is an acute symptom of the defects of the entire system.....defects which all three major parties want to perpetuate. Do you have school-age children?

Why exactly does Eton need charitable status? I'm all for privatising schools, but treat them as businesses, not spongers who need special tax breaks.


I presume because when Henry VUI founded it in 1440 it was the only way to set up foundations.

I understand the entire tax break is £100 million nationally which is less than the Govt spends each year on sending children of officers and civil servants to public schools as boarders

While we are on Charitable Status - I think Oxfam and War On Want and Christian Aid should lose it too for some very overt political activity

Since it would probably take an entire 5 year Parliament to unravel all that Elizabethan Trust Law it could be a rather involved process.

I would rather focus on the 17.5% VAT I have just paid to fund a State education system producing an innumerate and illiterate population

Michael McGowan,

No I dont. I was just irritated by people complaining that Kelly was doing something so far out of the reach of ordinary plebs - when it turns out that LEAs are sending SEN kids to private schools.

(and yes, it might be nice if that was extended to all kids, where economic).

I have only one thng to say.

VOUCHERS.

This is the only way that the state fulfils its - proper - role in ensuring all children have access to a reasonable education, without giving rise to the iniquity of parents, like RK, paying twice, and it would end once and for all the endless, left-wing moaning about unfair advantage, AND, stop the faux horror of the rightwing commentariat when somebody from the lower orders does something only rich people are supposed to be able to do.

If the Bloody Swedes can make them work, I'm sure we can too.

I agree John....but both Labour and the Tories have deep-seated vested interests in opposing vouchers.

The hypocrisy here is not that Ruth Kelly is sending her son to a private school.

The hypocrisy is that she says he needs special education because of the learning difficulties arising from his dyslexia. This from a woman who as Education Secretary spent her time closing specialist state schools because such children would, she maintained, be much better off being catered for in mainstream education.

I think David Cameron was perfectly right in his response to Ruth Kelly`s actions but I think he should take this opportunity to highlight how many special schools in the state sector have been shut down since Labour came to power and how many children who attend these schools have suffered by being forced, by nothing more than political dogma, into attending main stream schools.

but I think he should take this opportunity to highlight how many special schools in the state sector have been shut down since Labour came to power

but they haven't been shut down in Tower Hamlets whereas in our area they have.............so even where there is provision of State-funded Special Needs Schools the Education Secretary (as she was at the time) does not think they are suitable.

If that is so then maybe they should get rid of ALL Special Needs Schools in the State Sector ?

This is an old story

SEN

No change here from Ruthie with the double standards one expects from NuLab.
Yes she made a choice, considered the best for her kid. But, she has denied that choice for thousands of other parents when she was in Education. She's made the choice because she has the financial muscle to do so, thousands don't.
This is a typical example of the sanctimonious claptrap we get from NuLab every day, justying black is white and that wrong is right.
The sooner that this shower of theiving, lying, cheating, conniving, corrupt, incompetent and indifferent tossers are removed from government the sooner the country and people will find soul and dignity.

Vouchers = good idea
Selection, streaming, setting = good idea(s)
Ruth Kelly = UK's second most repulsive politician after The Goblin King, I am with The Sun on that one.
Tax-breaks for posh schools (aka "charitable status") = superfluous. NB, nobody minds if they are set up as Elizabethan Trusts, that is neither here nor there. Instead of tax breaks, parents will get vouchers instead.

Haven't we got a 100 Policy on this courtesy of David Belchamber?

Totally wrong Mark Wadsworth.Hoon and Browne leave Kelly and 'The Goblin King' standing in the 'repulsive' stakes.


I think that's a bit harsh on Ruth Kelly, Mark. I can think of a lot worse.

Malcolm, Sean, I mean purely in terms of physical repulsiveness, not in terms of incompetence. Hoon and Browne aren't really human beings are they? They are just brain-dead New Labour robots, their eyes are totally dead somehow.

I am a very long term supporter of vouchers, but the fact is that they are not going to be introduced any time soon (except of course for pre-school nursery education where, many forget, they are now operating very successfully).

The nearest any major political party has got to vounchers recently was the policy under IDS/Damien Green whereby you would have been able to use a voucher in a private school but only if there was no cash top-up (to avoid parents at the Etons of this world benefiting). But even that was considered "extreme" unfortunately.

If there were fully fungible vounchers, then abolishing charitable status might be a quid pro quo; but we are not in that position. What we are looking at, Elizabethan charity law notwithstanding, is the recent change in the charities law whereby the old presumption that all bodies with educational purposes are charitable is being swept away. Hence, unless private schools can show they are benefiting the wider community, their fees, for instance, will become liable to VAT. This is not hypothesis but reality, although I admit I am not sure of the exact timing. In practice most schools, possibly through jumping through a few extra hoops, are likely still to qualify for charitable status although this might involve fee increases if endowments have to be used for the "wider purposes" rather than general expenses. As usual, the agenda is that an arm of government will determine what hoops they have to keep jumping through, thereby reducing the schools' independence.

I do accept the argument about Eton not "needing" charitable status. The point about education is that it is an absolute good, i.e. everyone benefits not just the people receiving the education because the educated can then contribute more (not just economically but culturally etc). But the invidious point is that if it is not automatic it is a licence for State interference. On a practical level, if charitable status is removed, costs will go up and it will just make private education the preserve of an even smaller elite. It is insulting to call it a "bung" as private education is saving the public sector massive costs by such children not taking up State education. As part of a family that has been fortunate enough never to have taken up State schooling (ancestors, parents and own children), it is sobering to think that every penny of VAT we have ever incurred has gone on a service we do not use (give or take nursery school vouchers and University subsidies if VAT covers that too). Nonetheless, I do not think we have got nothing for our VAT as we benefit from other people being educuted (just as they do from us being educated).


Mark, even in terms of looks I can think of a lot worse.

Londoner, very well put.

Londoner - the VAT exemption for education has nothing to do with charitable status. Charitable status just exempts profits from corporation tax (or income tax), so if a private school a actually spends (all) its fee income on teachers and so on, there's no tax to worry about.

"Jon, I was not focussing on "special needs" in particular. "Special needs" is one of the most abused concepts in education, with many people seeking to shoehorn their children into the "special needs" category so that they can enjoy a measure of state-funded educational choice which the public sector otherwise denies them. So the special needs debate is an acute symptom of the defects of the entire system.....defects which all three major parties want to perpetuate. Do you have school-age children?

RUBBISH and and a very selfish attitude which is becoming more common as this government closes down special needs schools and pushes the children using them into mainstream schooling.

But this is not about "private v state education. This is about children with special needs being able to receive the correct care and education. Labour has implemented a policy of closing special needs schools and integrating children into mainstream schooling.
I have a pretty good idea of why Ruth Kelly felt forced into the decision she did with a dyslexic child. Just watched a similar situation with friends only they could not afford or lived near a private education choice.
My friends fought for 2 years to get even the basic support for their dyslexic child because the school could not fund it as others had more pressing needs. The actual reason given and I kid you not was "sorry but your child remains well behaved in class despite their difficulties".
And there is the rub, about 1 in ten people have dyslexia and they are now losing out in basic extra support because mainstream schools cannot meet all the demands they are being asked too.
Another problem is that as more and more children with more demanding special needs take up the support budget within schools other parents become more resentful and that too is causing problems.
As the parent of a child with special needs who could not have coped in main stream education in their early years, I could write a book about the woeful provision and lottery that many parents have to go through.
There is a very cute couple of ways that the Scottish system can floor many parents and prevent these children getting the correct help they need.

Scotty, I am totally unclear what you regarded as "rubbish". There has been steady escalation in the number of children seeking to be categorised as "special needs". You can hardly blame their parents. Otherwise they are faced with a system which takes their money and then ignores their children's needs. Both Labour and the Tories collude in maintaining that system.

Private versus state education is central to the Kellyepisode. She exercises the only choice available to any parent under the status quo which is to pay twice to get a decent service. That choice is denied to most parents and Cameron as much as Blair wants things to remain that way. That isn't rubbish. He has said so.

"Special needs" is one of the most abused concepts in education, with many people seeking to shoehorn their children into the "special needs" category so that they can enjoy a measure of state-funded educational choice which the public sector otherwise denies them."
That is not quite how you put it earlier and you implied that many parents were trying to "shoehorn" there children into the special needs category. That is unfair and deserves to be rubbished. As parent who went through the system with a child with very obvious special needs and still had to fight desperately all the way to just get a decent basic provision, I find sweeping statements like that extremely unhelpful.

so if a private school a actually spends (all) its fee income on teachers and so on, there's no tax to worry about.

It's not as simple as that. If the school wants to make capital improvements, e.g. a new building, that improvement is funded out of taxed profit.

IMO, Corp Tax should only be paid on disbursed profits (e.g. dividends) - but that's another topic.

The hypocrisy here is Kelly sending her son to a special needs specialist school when her most consistent policy as SoS Education was to close state specialist schools and teach state special needs pupils in mainstream classrooms.
The rest is just the politics of envy.

Unless she is held up for this central hypocrisy, however, there is no hope for any more deprived youngster of benefiting from her public and humiliating admission of error.

IMO, Corp Tax should only be paid on disbursed profits

Yes but we know why the Treasury doesn't like that idea !!!


As for VAT on school-fees...we have a fee-paying student class now whose tuition fees are zero-rated...........and when VAT is imposed on private school fees it can never be removed simply aded to ALL educational expenses like books, newspapers, nurseries,

Scotty, there is no need to be so prickly. I did not comment on any individual case. I know nothing about your child just as you don't know what other parents have/have not done. So why is my statement unhelpful? In any case, I made it clear that I sympathise with those parents who have sought to get real or marginal cases categorised as "special needs" so that a failed system responds to their children's needs. It is no different to parents "rediscovering" religion to get their children into church schools. Desperate parents, including you, have been denied choice by all the major parties. They have been forced to pay through the nose for the privilege of being trapped in mediocrity. That is the real outrage on which you should focus. It would be more constructive to snipe at Cameron, Willetts and Blair, not me.

TomTom

To recap, under general VAT rules, mainstream education is EXEMPT from VAT (it is not zero-rated) regardless of who provides it (e.g. even if it's a private profit-making limited company running a school). I don't think anybody on this thread seriously suggested imposing VAT on school fees.

Mark Fulford, you are splitting hairs, changing the topic and I suspect missing the point.

Londonder said, quite rightly, that losing corporation tax exemption would be a fair quid pro quo for extending voucher scheme to all schools. Makes things nice and simple. Otherwise a school set up under an Elizabethan Trust has unfair advantage over a private profit-making school. And so on.

Otherwise a school set up under an Elizabethan Trust has unfair advantage over a private profit-making school.

Why should a school be profit-making - ostensibly BUPA as a Charity is not.

There is also the issue of sub-charities whereby organisations within schools are charitably endowed. Once you lose charitable status the donations of patrons no longer qualify for tax relief which should raise the cost of funding immensely.

I do not support Ruth Kelly's politics, however, since I am a free-market, libertarian Conservative, I do support her right as a mother with means to send one of her children with special needs to a school outside the state system. The other 3 children are continuing education in state schools.

What's needed is good educational opportunities for all youngsters irrespective of their family background and wealth. I support the re-introduction of the Grammar School system. Sadly, only people like MP's have the means to have their children, even with special needs, educated in this way.

It's a sad person who won't strive to secure the best possible education for their children, especially if they have special needs.

"Scotty, there is no need to be so prickly"
Michael, that is a very perceptive comment. If you meet various parents with children with special needs who are fighting the system/budget/lack of specially trained staff and generally have to fight for what seems like an ever decreasing pool of resources these days it would be a common criticism of many parents.

You certainly have my sympathy....the whole situation is a scandal given the vast sums which have been poured into education.

The schools in Tower Hamlets frankly are not good enough for Third World Children, let alone British born kids. You just have to look at the front door of these schools, where they translate a welcome sign, in 30 bloddy languages. Most of those kids who attend these crap schools, speak ebonics where you don't understand what the rubbish that comes out of their mouths. Ruth Kelly has never been a hyprocite in regards to education, she herself has been educated privately. She has always been victimised by the Labour backbenches whether they are from Old or New labour, not just because of her education but also her religious faith, and the way she dresses. The hypocrites are those like that cow who is my bloddy MP, Diane Abbott who voted against the recent education act and has been campaigning against private education for years even though she sends her own child to a private school because in our own words, her child is a "black schoolboy."

I am sorry, I don't follow the Cameron view on this. Kelly is an important member of a political party which is chipping away at private schools (to say Labour does not want to do away with them is tortuous logic at best) and is closing special schools.

Kelly, therefore, is demonstrating the dishonesty and incompetance of her own education policy. That she tried to hide the information merely demonstrates that she is as corrupt as the rest of them and deserves no sympathy. If she had any decency she should not only resign as a minister but resign from the Labour party. That she is still there is the hypocracy, not acting as a parent and sending her child to a special school.

I suppose Cameron was being gentlemanly to a woman in a difficult situation. Tory leaders regularly miss oportunities for this reason and, as a consequence lose votes.

Mark Fulford, you are splitting hairs, changing the topic and I suspect missing the point."

No. Merely correcting an inaccuracy. I'm sorry that it came across badly.

Has this story got a bit out of proportion. Let Labour tear themselves apart. We have never opposed parents being able to send their kids to pvt shools if they want. Many Labour activists still hate it though. The Labour Govt is also cutting funds to councils who are struggling to keep schools going including SEN schools.

Matt

TomTom 17.32

That is the point, losing charitable status cuts the amount that some exalted schools get, but in turn, overall tax receipts will rise.

It's much easier for there to be one single variable here - the face value of the school voucher. If schools with charitabel status lose a total of £1bn in gift aid relief, that £1bn can be divided by 10m kids at school and the value of the voucher goes up by £100 (compared to what it otherwise would have been).

That levels up the playing field between all schools - and I thought that was the point of schools vouchers? Equality of opportunity?

Of put it another way, if parents who send their children to private schools see a significant cut in net fees payable (because of universal vouchers) why do they need the charitable tax breaks as well?

I am a tax simplification campaigner if nothing else.

To look on the positive side of things, it shows how sensible today's announcement of early intervention for laggards is. As that centre of educational innovation West Dunbartonshire (yes, really - doing great things) shows, spotting the laggards early and helping them keep with the pack through one-on-one means that 95% plus make the grade, as opposed to 80% nationally. In the system that we have in England, your kid can fall 2 years behind before anyone helps; if that what's happened to RK's son, then somwhere like the un-named (but so well described it's obvious which it is, and vg it is too) private school is his best and only hope.

Pity Cameron wasn't able to comment on Kelly in robust terms like the Sun.

Ruth Kelly just illustrates so very clearly, as does Diane Abbott and others, the basic hypocrisy and dishonesty of Socialism and Communism - that the ruling class in these systems have no intention of imposing on their kids the same sub-standard education that they try to foist on the general population. They harangue and try to penalise both the schools and the people who work hard so that they CAN give their children a decent education, and then turn around and make use of these educational establishments as it suits them, probably all the while still penalising them.

She might at least have found a Catholic school to send her child to, I am sure one could have been found to fit the bill - well perhaps I should say - fit the same bill, as in money!

I have to say from the outset that I do not have an issue with Ruth Kelly sending her children to a private School, many of us also choose to. The difference between her and the rest of us is we were not the former Education Minister.

As the Education Minister she told us continually that the Education system, under the current government and under her stewardship, was improving and meeting the needs of everyone, including those children’s with special needs.

It smacks a bit of “do as I say not do as I do” which is completely hypocritical and it seems a sad indictment of the current governments education policy.

The work our teachers and support staff do, taking into account the consistent meddling by central government, is commendable and there is some excellent work going on to meet the needs of those with special needs but, obviously not enough for Ruth Kelly!

Maybe if her government had not closed over 100 special schools since they returned to power in 1997 then she would have been able to find a place in a state school if not in "her" council of Tower Hamlets maybe in Bolton, the place she is supposed to represent!

Letter in Daily Telegraph 10 Jan 2006

Sir – As a solicitor, I have acted in cases where in excess of 2,000 learning disabled children and adults have been adversely affected by government policy. My disabled child clients have not been fortunate enough to have a choice to go to an independent school, and their challenge to a special school closure did not get off the ground, because they were fighting the government policy of "integration".

I act for disabled children in mainstream schools who are punished for behaviour outside their control. The education of other children suffers when teaching staff have to direct attention away from the majority towards the needs of a vulnerable and needy child.

The parents of my clients were all reassured at their birth that the state would provide for them. While sympathising with her personal position and that of her innocent child, sadly the Government in which Miss Kelly is a minister has chosen to steal the care from my clients and spend it on war.

They call this policy "Fair Access to Care". This is double speak for "No Access to Care" for all falling below critical need.

I saved the learning disabled children's services in two counties, one Labour, one Conservative. I acted for 40 claimants, but got legal aid only for one. Continuing with the other 39, for whom the service formed the core of their sense of identity and self-worth, meant that only 1/40th of the cost of the case would be paid. Most had parents at risk of depression and suicide if service and respite were withdrawn. The case was lost because the local authority "is following government policy" and the other 39 learning disabled claimants have been ordered to pay the costs.

This is the future for the people whom Miss Kelly of all people, with her supporter David Cameron, should put their careers in jeopardy to fight for, rather than taking the Government's shilling and shielding their own.

Yvonne Hossack, Kettering, Northants

She might at least have found a Catholic school to send her child to,

She did.........all her children were going to a Catholic School

Many thanks to those who have debated the finer points of charitable status, exposing my relative ignorance on the subject. I was obviously wrong on VAT, but is there a point here about the difference between zero rated and exempt (i.e. ability to claim back VAT on expenditure)?

Even if the removal of charitable status would not be quite as bad as an immediate 17.5% increase in fees, clearly there would be some adverse effect - the flexibility to re-invest surpluses without them having been taxed being a crucial one. IF there were vouchers cashable at all schools, then this would be a reasonable quid pro quo and the money saved could be added to everyone's voucher, as suggested above. But, if not, my original point, that the Government should be held to account for chipping away at private schools when their own Ministers admit by their actions that they cannot provide what is needed for all children, still stands.

I do not think you need a level playing field between a profit making privately owned school and one owned by a charitable trust (most are the latter, and you don't have to be an ancient foundation to structure a school as a charity). The objects are different - one to provide a profit for the owner and one which is obliged to keep all the surpluses within the charitable purpose. That is why many schools which start off as profit making businesses tend to become charities after the first generation founder gets them going. Another whole issue if schools are not charities might be Inheritance Tax on private non-charitable trusts.

Incidentally, the poster who thinks that all MPs can afford private education (MP's salary c. £60,000 a year) is sadly mistaken. Without other means, you'd have to live like a monk to educate your children privately on £60,000 a year.

It is worth pointing out that Ruth Kelly's track record on shutting special needs schools isn't the first time she has helped shaft vulnerable people in order to further her political career. When she was at the Treasury, she dutifully helped Gordon Brown block all compensation claims against the Government and the Financial Services Authority by Equitable Life policyholders. She may be doing what is best for her child and she may be an ever-so-devout member of Opus Dei but overall, my impression is that she is rather a nasty person.

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