Grammar Schools

Grammar schools are not a magic bullet

Let’s be clear: I am in favour of selection. And so are you. So is every member of the British ruling classes, and it is one of the great white lies of modern British educational politics that we have somehow outlawed selective admissions from our schools.

It is not just that we still have 164 grammar schools, achieving superb results with an intake they decide themselves. In those areas where academic selection is outlawed, the criteria for admission are increasingly financial.

Across the country, pupils are selected for good schools according to the ability of their parents to afford a house in the catchment area, and those who can’t afford the cost of housing are crowded out – no matter how clever their children are, no matter how well they would do in that school.

Some families have a sudden access of faith, and go to church often enough to persuade the clergy that their children deserve admission to a church school. Throughout our inner cities, there are bourgeois families who use their economic power to buy their children an edge over everyone else in the class.

They pay for tutors, like the former Labour education minister Margaret Hodge, and it is largely thanks to her diabolical leadership of Islington that, in some schools in the borough, the number receiving expensive out-of-school tuition has risen to 50 per cent, and no one complains about the consequences for the 50 per cent of children whose parents cannot afford the tutor.

In some cases, you will find Left-wing parents actually paying for tutors from some of the most brutally selective schools in the country – as the Blairs did, secretly buying in top-dollar coaches from Westminster – and yet still somehow preening themselves and claiming that they are giving the little ones a state sector education.

And then there are people like me, who are the beneficiaries and users of a system that is both financially and academically selective; and in the category of those who use fee-paying education, I would of course add any number of soi-disant Lefty mums, from Diane Abbott to Polly Toynbee, who in the end despaired of what the state had to offer them in London, and allowed biology to triumph over ideology, stuffed their principles and sent their children to public school.

This, my friends, is the British Establishment, and you may therefore find it incredible, illogical, immoral that we who use selection should seem willing to ban, by our laws, the very selective procedures that have given the schools we use their continuing and growing advantages. How dare we ban selection? you may ask, when we use it ourselves; and of course we should not ban it: it is a fact of life.

It exists in the grammar schools; it exists in the rapidly expanding fee-paying sector; and one way or another it exists throughout the maintained sector. And yet it is a very long day’s march from supporting selection in principle to believing that we can solve the educational problems of this country by plonking grammar schools all over the landscape.

If we go back to the 11-plus, and the shaming sheep-and-goats separation of our children, then we will be producing a 1950s solution to a 21st-century problem, and a solution that has been continuously rejected not just by Labour, but also by Tories when we were in power. For all the frothing and raging of my friend Heffer next door, it was Margaret Thatcher who whacked more grammar schools than Tony Crosland, and who failed to reintroduce them throughout her time in office.

And why? Because they became deeply resented by the parents of the children who didn’t get in, not to mention the 11-plus failures themselves, and it became an arithmetical and electoral certainty, over time, that the rejects outnumbered the successful.

It is no use the Tory party now calling for a wholesale restitution of grammar schools, as some kind of symbol of ideological virility, when many parents would simply interpret that as a savage willingness to let their children be judged and found wanting at the age of 11.

And as David Willetts rightly points out, the crisis in our schools – and the chaos in children’s lives – is now so great that many of the bright poor would not even find their way to the bottom of the ladder; the 11-plus successes would be overwhelmingly middle-class – and even then, only a minority of the candidates.

Grammar schools are admirable, but they are not a magic bullet, and the whole discussion is a distraction from the overwhelming need to help the majority. We need to give teachers more autonomy, more power to discipline, and to liberate them and their pupils from the drudgery of over-testing.

We need whole-class teaching, and we need to insist that all pupils are taught to read by synthetic phonics, so that we end the disgrace whereby 44 per cent leave primary school either illiterate or innumerate.

If we sort that out, it would be a greater advance for social justice than anything achieved by Labour. We need to re-yuppify the teaching profession, so that first-rate graduates once again think of teaching as a rewarding, holiday-rich alternative to the City or the law.

We need to get more male teachers into primary schools, and build on the work of the Hutchinson Foundation, which is now paying to encourage black male teachers to serve as intellectual role models in inner-city schools.

We need to stop the drift away from crunchy subjects, and make sure that maths, the sciences, history and languages are properly valued; and yes, of course we need academic selection. We need far more setting within schools: 60 per cent of classes in secondary schools are still mixed-ability.

And yes, we should build on the city academies, and give them ever more freedom; and if 11 is too early for academic selection between schools, then we could in time consider whether schools and their parents might want to introduce academic selection at 13, or 14.

But if we think that “Bring Back Grammar Schools” is the solution to our problems, or that the Conservatives are on to a winner with the 11-plus, then we are frankly deluding ourselves.

68 thoughts on “Grammar Schools”

  1. Surely you’re missing the point Mr. J.

    None of the ex teachers I know got out of state education because of the usual reasons cited by politicos (money, hours poor educational resources), they got out because:

    1) It was becoming increasingly difficult to discipline pupils;
    2) Because the sanctions they wished enforced against unruly pupils were often reversed at a higher level;
    3) Because, in inner city institutions, they felt their personal safety was at risk.

    So they go to work in industry or in private schools.

    No discipline = no education

    A simple equation which is, apparently, too complex for the main British political parties to understand.

  2. My advice:
    Get all teachers sworn in as special constables so they can arrest and detain any little blighters causing trouble in class OR enact a dispensation for teachers to act as temporary police officers if there is ‘trouble’ in the classroom.

    Suitably qualified teachers should also be allowed to dispense corporal punishment (for example, if some little t**t pulls a knife) without the fear of getting suspended and/or sacked.

  3. And they should probably be allowed to use guns and tasers.

    It can get pretty rough in some classes.

  4. The trouble with this policy announcement is that it touches an emotional nerve as many people see Grammars as a gold standard.

    In our impatience to modernise and reform education we should not ignore the high standards achieved by Grammar Schools.

    There is room for improving education for the poorest and upholding Grammar Schools as a target for high achievement.

    I hope that tory policy will unfold so that all children are more motivated without eroding the high standards that Grammar Schools are setting. Ipso facto shouldn’t we be promoting them?

  5. Surely it’s all simply market forces:

    1) Normal state schools are crap
    2) Grammar schools are better

    Consequence 1
    More parents, those give a damn anyway, want their children to go to a grammar school

    Consequence 2
    Grammar schools are forced towards a financial contribution component from parents because more places are sought than can be accommodated. (Market force)

    Consequence 3 (of 2, which, in turn, is resultant from 1)
    Grammar schools end up with more money and can attract better teachers on higher salaries, better equipment etc etc etc.

    Reinforcement of original assumption 2 and the cycle is consolidated.

    The other, important, tool wielded by grammar and private schools is that the parents of children attending are much more likely to berate their children for unacceptable behaviour in class (because, even if the contribution is small, they are PAYING for the child’s education). Further, the threat of expulsion actually carries some weight.

    In state schools, by contrast, the parents are in a ‘fire-and-forget’ environment. The kid goes to state school, if they do well great if not, there isn’t much of an alternative anyway so thank God for the dole.

    Expulsion from a state school? So what! The state makes the rule that a child must attend school so it’s the state’s problem to find another educational establishment to teach the little terrorist in the event he/she gets kicked out. Parental responsibility = zero.

    I can’t see education improving until school discipline is restored and ALL teachers regain the respect of the community. Although the latter comment could probably be applied equally to the police these days. The two issues are, I suspect, ultimately linked in some deep seated psycho-social conundrum to do with international institutional violence, football and the Middle-East.

    But then I may be on drugs.
    Or it could be because the teaching staff in state schools are rubbish which, unfortunately, is probably harder to address.

  6. I always get confused by the grammar school debate. My non-selective high school used to have a big sign outside calling itself a grammar school, for what reason I haven’t a clue. I was always under the impression that the 11+ had been ditched long, long ago.

    We had setting from the age of 11 in maths, english, science and french. All other GCSE subjects, history and geography included were taught in mixed ability classes.

    I’m not sure it made a monumental amout of difference. I was in top set French with a useless teacher and got a C, I was in a mixed ability history class with a good teacher and got an A. The useless teacher couldnt control her class, so split us up into tables according to how good we were at French and spent all her time with the best pupils. Whereas the history teacher could control the class, made the subject interesting and involved everyone.

    I went to a ‘hideously white’ school that was probably about 50/50 working/middle class. If I ever have kids, and can’t afford to send them private, no way would I send them to one of these mutli-cultural inner city comprehensives, I’d send them to a hideously white school in a rural area.

    Sounds terrible I know, and yes, it’s completely racist. However, I’m sure there’s a reason all these inner-city Labour MP’s and lefty mouthpieces do the same thing. The kids at my school weren’t perfect, hell I was smoking by 13, but no one was bringing air-guns or knives to school and shooting/stabbing one another. There were no ‘gangs’ as such, just ‘groups’ based mainly on musical tastes, and any violence was just a schoolboy scuffle.

  7. sounds like you’re in danger of confusing education with schoolin’ . . .

  8. I `m sorry I do not have more time . The essential problem with the current Conservative stance , which I applaud mutedly , is that it states the problem but does not go on to solve it . The argument against Grammar schools is that class selection has taken place before eleven (it has), it is compounded by wealth used on property and these factors all together make Grammar schools a retrograde step in combating social division. Unfortunately this is all already a problem with the comprehensive system when the best school is every bit as sought after as the Grammar schools elsewhere. In fact it is usually the ex Grammar. No suggestions of any use are made .
    Part of the case for Grammar schools is that they would at least bring back an element of academic selection whereby gifted working- class children would benefit . This has always been an illusionists piece of rhetoric . Working class children are not the complainers, the lower middleclass are, and they are the ones who are suffering from lack of free elite education selected on academic lines( or class advantage minus money lines). I have great sympathy but most Conservative “One Nation ” support for Grammars is in fact class self interest and nothing to do with the majority as it pretends .

    In any and every local school system one is bound to be better and parents will compete for places in it .By the adroit acquisition of property this can be achieved and what you soon end up with is a system vastly less fair than were the Grammars . This affects the lower middle class but its effect on the working class is and has been a disaster. Grammar schools would be better than what we have for both but they would not significantly tackle the problem lower down the ladder and would plonking Grammars in the middle of estates as disingenuously recommended by Heffers would make less than no difference

    The solution to this is the lottery system currently being tried in Brighton and which the Labour Party are considering as policy. This will remove the true fear of most parents that their children will be dumped in pre prison inner city schools ( Hence they move or buy …Boris will know this from Isington ).
    It will also make it possible to measure the performance of teachers and as I am not a politician I am allowed to tell the truth . A lot of the problem is bloody awful lazy useless teachers that would not hold down a job for one minute outside their cocoon. It is the NUT above all. At the moment what they should or should not achieve is always opaque but with a homogenous intake direct comparison can be made .It would then be possible to reward the good without rewarding the cynical jobsworth attitude that is the norm now . There is no evidence that Grammars teach better discounting for their intake . It is however almost impossible for an individual pupil to succeed in the worse schools. Setting has apart to play , resources does not the best school in the world could consist of a room a teacher some books and some discipline.

    As a corollary to this attempt to reset the social starting gun to zero and allow market meritocracy charitable status should be removed from public schools which are not charities. Education is an area in which the state has to play a role as to justify a small state at all other times. The private sector is an obstacle the state system working and should be prescribed. Best to creep up on this though.
    Paradoxically this requirement for draconian state interference is a plea to morally justify the small government country we say we want . At the moment those able to monopolise the market in jobs and opportunity by expending funds and advantage early . It is a monopoly that must be broken for the greater good and for cohesion and efficiency and given a chance there is little justification for a state feather bed subsequently.Willets has done half a job and this is why as the debate currently rests the Heffer view appears more honest than the Borisian one. They dare not tell th etruth which is that we need schools to do a job of active social engineering and have nothing to offer to improve the deperate position we are in.

    Grammar schools are far from the best alternative but they are better than either what we have or what is proposed

  9. There is a simple awnser to this, it’s 2 1/2 ft long and made of wood.
    Kids are not scared of a teacher who can do nothing to them without be charged with some stupid crime or another, bring back the cane and see how long they step out of line for after that.
    The main reason i am in favour of the cane is that at 23 i am to young to have had it and told old for it to affect me if they bring it back in.

  10. I dunno Pedro, we had a maths teacher the lads would have been queuing up to be caned by.

  11. so although the Tories are against selection by ability, often providing a route out of the endless cycle of poorly paid jobs for the poorer in society, yet do not speak out against selection by finance. disgraceful.
    selection is essential to ensure that all students of all abilities get the education in the way they need. at my local comprehensive there are nearly 2000 students of wide varying abilities. it is impossible to say that people predicted a F at gcse level can be taught in the same class room as those who are predicted an A*.
    yes, i do go to a grammar school and am extremely grateful of their continued existence as i know that i have benefited from it, and that every one of my peers would agree. i just hope that future generations will have the opportunity to profit from such a system.

  12. Newmania
    >pre prison inner city schools

    cuts straight to the bone!

    >2 1/2 ft long and made of wood.

    you make quite a point!

    Hear! hear!

  13. I’ve just been on ‘webcameron’ watching him play hangman with a class of 13 year olds and a generous spinkling of clues (not least that their teacher was David Cameron). The word was ‘Conservative’ and only one letter was missing, yet they still couldn’t get it.

    Amazing, sinsiter in fact an entire generation of consumers with not one iota of political awareness. How have they done it?

  14. Prior to state schooling, when most were church run and parents made some, even if very small, financial contribution, then discipline problems were virtually unheard of. Of course, education was also seen as the way out of poverty, which it no longer is. I do remember caning, it worked on those that other techniques would work better on and had no effect on the real problem ‘tough-nuts’ who’d been physically abused all their lives. Some kids were caned everyday. Many of the above comments are highly insulting to teachers who work in estate sink-secondary or inner-city ‘pre-prison’ schools. I would like to challenge those who are so glib, and those revered masters from public schools, to try it. It would be interesting to see how many hours or days they managed to withstand the environment before suffering nervous breakdown or being arrested for a serious crime. More likely they’d run out of their first class in tears and depart the building never to return, quite a few teachers have done that, many years ago I used to be one of the ones thrown in to take over when this happened.

    Down here in the deep south a grammar school receives twice as much as a secondary per pupil, they should be doing much better than they are. The ‘problem pupils’ amount to 10%, or at most 15%, as proven by research. Why not remove them from the school and place them in centres where circumstance forces them to undertake social learning? As is done with serious offenders (costly, but effective, those centres achieve an 80% success rate as far as recidivism is concerned). On sink-estates the problems and disputes of the estate are transferred into the school, it might be worth trying to solve them on the estate rather than allow them to spiral into the school. It might also help if politicians stopped seeing schools as the answer to all of the social issues they fail to adequately address.

    On a previous comment I suggested that it might be worth considering the approach of the Bolshevik educator Makharenko, he divided his street-gang boys into ‘cadres’, they were responsible for all internal discipline, staff only intervening to prevent physical injury (it removes the resented adult authority figure, discipline being far more acceptable when administered by the peer group). All got a chance of leadership since there were short-term cadres for one-off projects as well as the long-standing ones. Theory was taught in the mornings, and it was put into direct practice in the afternoon. The kids were involved in all aspects of decision making (if you want them to be responsible, you’ve got to trust them to be responsible and give them responsibility). Kropotkin experienced a similar division between theory and practice at a Tsarist military college (hardly a hotbed of radicalism) and describes it as the most rapid learning he ever undertook.

    The working class tend to finance middle class education, every expansion in higher education has simply admitted more middle class kids. Certainly charitable status should be removed from public schools, it’s a damned insult to intelligence and to genuine charities. And speaking of intelligence, it’s amazing how many pupils at public schools were 11+ failures and yet managed to achieve good A level results. I don’t suppose it could be down to numbers taught, could it? Research indicates that about 12 to a class is optimum, but strangely we don’t hear of any politicians taking that up.

    However, closing down the few remaining grammar schools must be seen as throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water. But do seniors still fight over the favours of pretty first year boys at private institutions? I suppose it’s essential training for the City or a life in politics.

  15. Back in ’99 I ran into one of Paul Boatengs’ goons on a train, and asked him how come Labour were so opposed to good education for the poor, and he told me that comprehensive education was a Labour sacred cow, and they were scarcely going to admit abolishing streaming had been a mistake, hence, academies.
    The tories don’t have that policy albatross hanging round their necks, but have doubtless decided some stability in education is dersireable. Who cares what you call good, meritocratic, schools as long as we get them!

  16. <‘… selection by ability, often providing a route out of the endless cycle of poorly paid jobs for the poorer in society …’ (Jamie)<

    One of my mates is as thick as two short planks, left school at 16 with next to nothing and is making over £45k a year at 30, which is a very good wage up here. I know a lot of other skilled tradesmen who left school at 16 who are making good money. I know a lot of people with good degrees that are working in rubbish dead-end jobs too.

    In the workplace people are often ‘selected’ based on the hard work they put in and their ability to do a job. I’m not saying don’t get a good education, it will give you more options than someone without it and can open doors. However there is no ‘endless cycle of poorly paid jobs’ that hard work, perhaps a bit of luck, people skills and self confidence cannot break. Sir Richard Branson never did A levels!

  17. Dear Boris

    Your points are generally sound, but you miss several key conservative points:

    1. The Grammar school Vs secondary modern approach was driven by school funding so low that the state could not afford a good education for all pupils. This lead to a very un-conservative approach in which the state tried to ‘pick winners’ at 11, just as it the tried to pick winners to back in industry. Current levels of state funding of education mean that the budget for each pupil is more than enough to provide a good education.

    2. Many parents do not think that what they want most is ‘choice’; what they want is a good local school. However, just as Tesco would not provide the value and service it does if it was a monopolist, but achieves a lot when competing against Waitrose and M&S, schools have little impetus to improve when consumers have no choice. Indeed, while giving schools the ability to choose pupils does help bright pupils get to good schools (arguably promoting ‘optimal allocation’), standards will not be driven up by turning parents into supplicants. If we are to improve the supply of good state-funded education, parents need to be valued consumers feted by schools anxious for their custom. For this reason the ‘Brighton Lottery’ approach is another flawed process which resigns itself to the fact that the proportion of good school paces is small, and focuses on the distribution of those ‘elite places’ rather than increasing then number of ‘good places’ (or at least driving down the number of ‘no hope’ places)

    3. City academies, by throwing money at deprived areas have cut the number of poor children going to ‘no hope’ schools. This is good for social mobility, and probably (relative to the status quo ante) cost effective for ‘UK Plc’ given the long term costs of sink inner city schools churning out an unemployable underclass. However, City academies are a long way from optimal as they are a supplier rather than a consumer driven initiative.

    4. The problem with supplier driven initiatives is that they result in vast misallocation of resources. Research [I apologise to readers for being too slack to give details of the published research] has shown that the effectiveness of teaching is determined by two main factors; (a) The quality of the teacher, and (b) Pupils learning amongst a peer group of broadly similar academic ability (this does not require academic selection by schools if, within each school, pupils are divided into sets by academic ability). This government has poured billions into education, most of which has gone on things like reducing class sizes (which seems like a good idea but does not correlate with improved performance), and improving school infrastructure (I am not against improved buildings, but lets not pretend that spending money on buildings is a cost effective way to improve academic standards)

    While the Conservatives are right to say that Grammar schools are not the answer to improving the bulk of state education, it is important to realise that

    a) The fact that they are not the answer overall does not mean that they are a bad thing, or may not be a good solution to part of the issue;

    b) An alternative UK education strategy is required; support for city academies is at best a solution for some of the urban part of the UK, and is more tactical than strategic.

    c) If your view of teaching becoming an attractive alternative to the city or the law is to be realised, the quality of life available to teachers must be able to compete other than on length-of-holiday. Labour would try to tackle this by giving teachers access to low-cost ‘homes for keyworkers’. Conservatives must accept the need to pay good teachers enough to fund a good family home and lifestyle at open market rates. This will require large increases in pay for the best, and an end to the pretence that all teachers are equal and that pay should be determined by national pay scales, length of service, or any other non-market criteria.

  18. What I don’t understand is why Mr Willetts said anything at all about grammar schools.

    He didn’t need to. The rest of his speech was fine and commendable, and comments on grammar schools could easily have been excised from his draft.

    I can only surmise that he either wanted a clause 4 moment, wanted Cameron and co in the headlines, or is utterly and totally out of touch with Conservative party members.

    None of these motives allow me to look kindly upon being told that I got into a grammar school because of my middle-classness, that grammar schools are only for the middle classes, that the needs of intelligent middle class pupils are in any case irrelevant, that it was “unfair” that by dint of hard work I was able to escape from a system I was totally unsuited to; that it was “unfair” for my mum to get to grammar school, and my grandad, my grandpa, my brother; and as seen on newsnight, Mr Willetts presumes that “no-one” wants to increase the number of grammar schools. On the contrary – many do.

    To say that the fact this is going back rules this out as a policy is ludicrous in the greatest extreme – was it impossible to bring democracy back to Germany after the fall of Hitler? Surely that was a reactionary policy!

    The way the Cameron/Willetts lot have defended their stance has put a lot of people’s backs up on a number of points. One major issue is the way that there seems to be a presumption that middle class parents who can afford private education shouldn’t expect the state to give their children a good education cheaper. This is astonishing. Whose taxes fund the education system? The same point applies regarding the health service.

    And Mr Willetts’ assumption that all grammar school entrants are middle class and heavily tutored is almost as infuriating. I had three close friends at school; one lived in a rubbishy little flat overlooking East Croydon station; one lived with half a dozen siblings and his parents in a crumbling terraced house in one of the dingiest bits of Croydon you could ever hope to run into. The third was merely sort of lower middle class. As for tutors, I did about three practice tests and my Dad used to try to help me with my Maths homework, and got me to learn adding up and dividing basics with football averages when I was 8. I am unconvinced I had a great advantage in this respect.

    With all respect to Mr Johnson, it must also be said that it is galling for grammar school boys to be told the system they came through was “unfair” by a bunch of Old Etonians. There’s a school called Whitgift in Croydon, and they’ve got these bloody peacocks in the grounds. Peacocks!

    Grammar school boys do not, broadly speaking, consider themselves to be in the “toffs” category, not least as their schools were/are often underfunded relative to comps/private schools. So there’s actually a bit of a class thing involved in this I think.

    Mrs Thatcher may have axed lots of grammar schools, but that is precisely why I find it difficult to admire her as absolutely as many Tories do. I plain disagree with many of her education policies – I think Britain’s education policies have, broadly speaking, been a mess for decades (Blair has done little to improve things).

    I’m sure my words are all unnecessary and some of my comments merely rehash comments posted on this site alone, let alone anywhere else – but it is an issue on which, like many Tories, I feel very, very strongly. The Tories are always branded as a party uninterested in education and health and so on, yet education policy tends to unite Tories in arms against the centre and left of British politics more than almost anything else.

    If they’d promise to reopen/build half a dozen grammar schools, I’d join the party as a paid up member and start actively campaigning for the party. It is probably the single most important point of policy for me, and is the biggest attraction for me to vote UKIP. In hard-nosed electoral terms, I honestly worry that this policy might cost the Tories just a dozen crucial votes in constituencies where grammar schools remain (wherever they remain they are popular).

  19. My apologies for feeling compelled to double post.

    I have just read Mr Willetts’ speech end to end at last. It was just as I had understood it to be – broadly speaking quite good, but coming down against grammar schools as a system, presuming middle class kids are all tutored up for these tests.

    I still disagree with him; I also think that social mobility is not the only aim of education, that the state is commited to provide a good education for bright middle class children as much as anyone else (and as CS Lewis once wrote, that’s the group who’ve provided the country with most of its best writers, doctors, politicians, artists, etc etc).

    But I’ll retract the quotation “unfair”. I am sure that one article I read quoted Mr Willetts as describing the 11+ as “unfair” – he does not. He does, however, say that it is now “fantasy” to think you can distinguish between people at age 11 – my own quite recent experience contradicts this.

  20. Anecdotes are not data, IRJM, but I agree with you. At age 11 my class teacher told my poor, working class parents that I was Oxford material.

    That comment stayed with me until I was 17, when I thought ‘why the hell not?’ and applied to Oxford.

    My MA and DPhil vindicate that teacher’s assessment.

  21. ‘Ere, Boris, wadja mean ‘ruling classes’? That’s fighting talk where I come from. Any more of that and I’ll have to consider the short-barrel Uzi solution. Since ill-health forces me on to benefit and prevents me from participation, I don’t really consider myself part of any social class, other than the marginalised, and none of you politicians really represent the marginalised.

    The reason I don’t cite research details isn’t because I’m ‘too slack’, but since I didn’t bother keeping record of them I’m dependent on memory, and I no longer have to play that academic game. But at least I’ve both worked in education at most levels and in most sectors, and have been actively engaged in research and in assessing educational research, which is considerably more than I suspect most posters here have done. However, it’s the very insistence on treating education as a market place that is part of the problem; perhaps we should adopt the same criteria with MPs, lawyers, civil servants, and doctors, and certainly stop outrageous payments to City executives for failure, let alone success. I think the research that demonstrated that teaching was the most stressful of jobs was undertaken by Nottingham University, but I can’t be certain. Wasn’t it a Tory who said that a butcher could inspect a school? It would appear that a lot of butchers have.

    You’ll find that most of the kids who have trouble keeping up with work in grammar schools are those that were specifically tutored for the 11+ in the private sector, it’s illegal for state schools to tutor in this manner.

    Improving behaviour in sink schools can make life more bearable for teachers, but it isn’t a solution. They tend to revert to their original behaviour patterns once the constraints are removed and they’re back on the street (similarly there was a higher incidence of street violence in Aldershot than in pre-riot Brixton). Modifying behaviour doesn’t necessarily of itself modify attitude, if you can modify attitude behaviour automatically follows. That’s the trick, but I’m afraid there’s no simple answer.

    Mr Janes Wallace-Dunlop, Sir, if your approach is adopted I would advise every single teacher in a sink secondary or deprived primary to resign and walk out immediately, my daughter included. I hope that you and your ilk are prepared to fill the ensuing gap, or will you volunteer to be a special constable trying to deal with the mass of tearaways on the street? The performance of City Academies has hardly been inspiring, especially when the degree of funding is considered. Research after research states that ‘motivation’ is the single most important factor in defining learning outcomes, the problem is inculcating that motivation in kids that aren’t adjusted to ‘deferred gratification’. I much prefer Bertrand Russell stating that the only saving grace of the old aristocracy was it’s regard for learning for its own sake, rather than all this cost effective, market-driven drivel that has been such an unmitigated disaster.

  22. Agent P

    and certainly stop outrageous payments to City executives for failure, let alone success.

    It has nothing to do with ” The Government” or “Us” they are subject to market strictures and are paid what someone considers it worth paying for them with their own money. Many teachers are paid considerably more than their actual worth in that sense.. I suggest you are looking in the wrong place for cuts , and in any case this focus on a handful of people out of the 60,000,0000 . This is a piece of Socialist propaganda from the Wilson era implying tax burdens will ” Fall on the rich”. Is there anyone else who believes this lie , anyone paying stamp duty , inheritance tax , IPT and the rest ?

    I think the research that demonstrated that teaching was the most stressful of jobs was undertaken by Nottingham University.

    What a joke !!! It is a part time job under no competitive pressure where you cannot be fired . Other that complete idleness I struggle to imagine what else to be done to increase the comfort of this failing profession ( soi disant)

    this cost effective, market-driven drivel that has been such an unmitigated disaster

    When was that tried then ? What has actually happened is that swills of tax payers money has been lavished on an unreformed system which has fallen behind our competitors . It amazes me that “Cost effectiveness” continues to be debated in cosy nooks of the public sector which clearly shows the extent to which the wealth creating sector of the economy has been ripped off for the last ten years .
    Of course anything we pay for by our efforts must be cost effective but I am less convinced there is a place for the market in education

  23. “anecdotes aren’t data”

    This is true, but one tends to trust ones first hand experiences primarily.

  24. For this reason the ‘Brighton Lottery’ approach is another flawed process which resigns itself to the fact that the proportion of good school paces is small, and focuses on the distribution of those ‘elite places’ rather than increasing then number of ‘good places’ (or at least driving down the number of ‘no hope’ places)

    No this is a platitude and allows the necessity to improve the fairness of the system to be shelved cloaked in a wish to “Improve education for all”. It hardly needs saying that such an objective is worthy and shared by all . in fact it does not need to be said at all. The Brighton initiative gets to the heart of the problem because it deals with the problem of selection and its effect on unselected majority.

    City academies, by throwing money at deprived areas have cut the number of poor children going to ‘no hope’ schools.

    Not significantly and they are achieving what they do by selection. Although they are subject to rules limiting the amount of selection by aptitude th is gives them an initial advantage and the rules of the market them apply with middleclass parents using the system to make them into elite schools . This is very much to the detriment of the surrounding community and the vast majority are worse off than before. In that they have the input of thinking outside the self serving teaching profession they are probably a breath off fresh air and some have been conspicuously successful but it is not an answer over all for obvious reasons ( See selection). You are focussing on resources when the key point is the parents of the pupils attending the schools.

    a) The quality of the teacher, and (b) Pupils learning amongst a peer group of broadly similar academic ability (this does not require academic selection by schools if, within each school, pupils are divided into sets by academic ability

    Research ?. These things are important no doubt but I cannot imagine how “Research ” could ever show that they were starting from the same baseline even if one accepted that research of this sort existed . It probably does there is research to show almost anything including the healthy effects of smoking and the imminent end of the world. I am highly dubious about such claims although setting and streaming must certainly be applied more rigorously and would be an improvement on what we have. There is certainly research showing a strong correlation between the social class of parents and the attainment of a school . In fact such a correlation is so strong it dwarfs others. ‘Research’ aside parents instinctively know this as do ALL teachers which is why all selection becomes the same selection. Selection is the key issue and you are avoiding it .

    This government has poured billions into education, most of which has gone on things like reducing class sizes (which seems like a good idea but does not correlate with improved performance), and improving school infrastructure (I am not against improved buildings, but lets not pretend that spending money on buildings is a cost effective way to improve academic standards

    I agree with this

    This will require large increases in pay for the best, and an end to the pretence that all teachers are equal and that pay should be determined by national pay scales, length of service, or any other non-market criteria.

    I agree with this up to a point which will of course entails, taking on the NUT which the Cameroons are unlikely to wish to do as they are pivotal public sector professionals required at the floating edge of the core Conservative vote. This sector having been hugely expanded by Blair is now impossible to deal with.It would not in fact chiefly required large pay increases at the top vastly more important is to introduce accountability throughout and this can only be done with a homogeneity of input . This would be provided by the lottery system . It would then be clear which schools were genuinely underperforming but without it Teachers will always murk over their failures as they currently do. Overall the bill would be less than we have at the moment I suspect.
    Your argument contradicts itself . You rightly say that resources are not the most important input but ask , somewhat vaguely , for market driven model . Some sort of voucher scheme? This would not work because markets do not act with enough stability .( What happens when the local school goes into irreparable decline?) Nor are they always very efficient and in any case it would very soon get into the realms of “Top up” vouchers and you come once again to the problem of selection. The lottery solves this and allows for judging of schools. Competition is between teachers and results not between “Sales” to pupils or parents .
    It may appear un-Conservative to require strict control of social advantage early but with it you can justify a reduced state from that point and an culture of self reliance which would spread. I believe there is an exciting opportunity here for solving the class division that bedevils all the competitiveness of the country and its cohesiveness. The malign influence of the NUT would be indefensible faced with clear evidence of failure and without the excuse and confusion they rely on.
    With all the schools locally providing opportunity the terror felt by the lower middle class of the sinks that is behind the Grammar school lobby would disappear . The means whereby the upper middleclass cheat would be redundant. To compete the process public schools should , at the very least , lose charitable status and preferably be subject to punitive taxation . Reduced to a small minority the true reason for them ( social advantage ), would disappear and their pernicious growth would end.
    The ongoing advantages are limitless.

  25. Newmania: Judging by Enron and other recent financial scandals (and non-scandals for that matter), it would seem that the directors of corporate capital usually reward themselves with little or no reference to the shareholders, and certainly seldom with reference to their performance (I’ve no objection to the rewards when companies do perform well). But yes, it is the middle and lower middle class that pay the bulk of taxes.

    “What a joke !!! It is a part time job under no competitive pressure where you cannot be fired . Other that complete idleness I struggle to imagine what else to be done to increase the comfort of this failing profession ( soi disant)” … I take it that you have extensive experience of work in a sink secondary and have checked the statistics for medical retirement on grounds of ill-health from such institutions, or are you just another Onanist who likes sounding off but doesn’t in reality have the slightest idea what they are talking about? I recall years back teaching A level literature (as well as a full course of lower school classes)in a grammar school, I would spend all day every Sunday marking their essays, and I spent every evening preparing materials for the next day. I really would love to see you, and those who talk like you, try their hand at this job, particularly in a sink secondary … I’d love to have sent Blunkett in when he was sounding off, I know schools where the kids would probably have barbecued his dog, and that just for starters. And I assure you that teaching in a grammar is a doddle compared to a sink secondary … if you want to find teachers on a sort of sinecure, look to the top of the system, not the hell at the bottom. My daughter’s best friend from university recently left a job in the City to train as a teacher because she ‘wanted to do something socially worthwhile’, since this entails her earning half what was her City starting salary, I assume you must consider her mad or lazy … odd that she finds teaching much more demanding than using her degree in psychology to ‘help some pratt buy a Porsche’. Neither of them will listen to me, and leave the job to the likes of you who know so much about it.

    Our competitors also tend to have stronger family ties, less class division, built the Technical Schools that the Butler Act envisioned but which were never constructed, have less juvenile crime, less juvenile alcohol and drug consumption, have lower rates of teenage pregnancy, and also tend to utilise on-job training and skill development in work that has prospects for improvement and promotion. Although if France and Germany are taken as examples they would appear to be catching up with us.

    PS: I was never that keen on NUT either, it tends to be dominated by young inner-London firebrands who spout dogma and imagine that they have all the answers. It might be worth questioning why society is producing more ‘problem kids’ (we have some schools where ‘special needs’ is over 50%) and why less and less arrive at primary capable of reading. Jacques Barzun in ‘Begin Here’ states that reading is best taught in the way it traditionally has been, by the child’s mother at home.

  26. Remember the reality of rural education?

    David Willets’ speech to the CBI on the future of secondary education has been headlined as a debate about grammar schools which, in essence, it was not. While saying: “We must break free from the belief that academic selection is any longer the way to transform the life chances of bright poor kids” he also gave support for traditional, “setting and streaming”. He said, “We ought to raise them to the same standards in the same subjects.” If that is the key aim, then more needs to be done with one area his speech did not mention: ‘specialist’ schools. These, especially in rural areas, are not a matter of choice. If your only local secondary school for seven miles (or more) is a specialist in sports, you are stuck with it whatever your personal preference and skill. There is no transport to go anywhere else. The core academic subjects are, of course, taught but three-single-science A-level students are, by the school’s designation, going to be ‘non special’ although, should they beat the system and achieve that 3A science, then they are truly special individuals. Rural children see shiny city technology academies on television and know that kind of education is not open to them. Their education may be very good and they may be very happy, rounded individuals – but if we want same standards in same subjects, the rich:poor debate is probably the wrong one; it should be city:rural.

  27. Cameron and Willetts owe you large one, Boris, for trying to extricate them from their grossly misjudged pronouncement on grammar schools. But you still miss the point.

    Ed W, the first poster to this thread, nailed it. “No discipline = no education”. It matters little what you call a school if teachers are unable to do their job in a system based entirely on the cockeyed values of children’s rights.

    “I’m afraid there’s no simple answer”, says Agent Provocateur. Oh yes there is. Permit me to resubmit a piece I posted on Boris’s forum several weeks ago. I realise it’s bad form, but this blog seems to have a wider audience and the content is as relevant as before. My proposal is that the law of the land is applied firmly within the school gates.


    Of all the downward trends blighting our country in the last 10-20 years, none can have caused more lasting damage than the decline in school standards.

    Ten years after Blair uttered his “education, education, education” mantra we now have:

    • One in five school leavers classed as unemployable and destined for a life on welfare
    • A Unicef report on the education, behaviour and general well-being of children placing Britain bottom of 21 industrialised nations
    • Only one in four leaving school with GCSE at grade C or above in five subjects including English, Maths, one science and one language. To put it another way: Three out of four leave without what used to be the basic qualifications for a decent job (ignoring grade inflation).
    • 40 per cent of primary school leavers unable to read properly
    • Employers and universities having to provide remedial tuition in English and Maths.

    And this despite a torrent of teaching initiatives, targets, benchmarks and all the other paraphernalia so loved by trendy educationalists and politicians, along with a rise in education spending from £29bn in 1997 to £60bn this year (England).

    I have spent some time trying, in an amateurish way, to get to the bottom of this. Wherever you look, the trail leads back to one thing: Anarchy in the classroom.

    I’m not sure if those of us who last sat through a lesson in the pre-comprehensive era realise how far discipline has slipped. (I use pre-comprehensive as a landmark in time, not a cause, although there may be a connection).

    Quite the most shocking discovery was two forums run for teachers – the Times Educational Supplement
    and Infnet. With their unique vantage point behind the school gates, they make truly alarming reading.

    There are stories of how teachers cry themselves to sleep after a day of near-torture in the classroom from brutish children over whom they have no control and are powerless to exclude. Stories of children from poor countries whose families had scrimped and saved to come to England for a better education, only to flee a term or two later after experiencing the mayhem of the British classroom. Of teachers who have left the profession in despair at a job where “I felt I’d done a good day’s work if I had managed to stop a riot breaking out. Actually teaching them anything didn’t enter into it.”

    In a particularly chilling example of classroom lawlessness taking over, this one describes “terroring” or “griefing”, a fashion where children set out on a carefully planned programme of intimidation of the teacher, executed over a period of weeks, in an attempt to destroy his/her confidence and morale.

    Hand in hand with classroom anarchy is, according to many teachers, the government’s obsession with inclusion. Rotten apples who should be in a special needs school are let loose in “normal” classrooms to disrupt others and foment trouble. One teacher sums it up…

    The changes in school discipline (mainly centred around inclusion) have ensured that it is now normal for teachers to be subject to physical and verbal abuse and for school management to be engaged in concealing it. Even more than the removal of trust in teachers’ judgement, this has downgraded the role and status of teachers. The ability to survive in the jungle of modern secondary schools, to put up with the abuse, to have patience with the unwilling and uncooperative, are now more important than subject knowledge or the ability to explain material. By extension school management cannot be about managing the students, this battle is already lost, it must instead be about managing teachers, scrutinising them for signs that they are not doing their job rather than creating the climate where they are best able to do their job.

    and another…

    These factors have made many classrooms a teaching-free zone. It is no longer taken for granted that a teacher is an expert who is there to give direct instruction to students who will be all be ready to learn at a similar level. Appeasement of the most disruptive students, entertainment and “activities” are the basis of much modern pedagogy. The mixed ability classroom ensures that some students will understand nothing and others will find the material covered trivial.

    Discipline is a dirty word today. I cannot for the life of me understand why. Talk to people who underwent an old fashioned education and you’d be hard pushed to find anyone who will not admit to being grateful that full attention in class was demanded, talking was forbidden, and you were made to learn your times tables.

    As an old drinking companion – a jobbing builder – said the other day “I may be a silly old sod with a Cockney accent but, by god, they made sure I passed my exams when I was a kid. And that’s one thing I’ve never regretted.”

    It beats me why the government devotes so much money and energy to tinkering at the edges when the most obvious cause of declining education standards – the broken relationship between pupil and teacher – is virtually ignored. Worse, now they have finally woken up to it, the solution is to instruct teachers to heap praise on troublemakers (in a reward/sanction ratio of 5:1) and give them iPods, while the diligent pupils get nothing.

    And what is the government’s answer to the NEET epedemic – the one-in-five not in employment, education or training?

    “Work is under way to develop a delivery strategy for reducing the NEET population, building on the experience of Connexions partnerships in multi-agency working with other services supporting young people (Every Child Matters).

    Heaven help us. Have they not missed the point completely? The education boat is shot through with holes and sinking, yet all they do is buy more bailing buckets.

    There’s a simple answer to all this: Make all children over the age of criminal responsibility (currently 10) face the full consequences of breaking the law.

    It does not need NuLab or anyone else to dream up more wacky initiatives. Laws already exist to cover the reckless behaviour we have seen in schools. For starters: Threatening behaviour; affray; common assault; breach of the peace; theft; conspiracy; possession of an offensive weapon; possession of controlled drugs; criminal damage; incitement; assault occasioning actual/grievous bodily harm; harrassment (important one, that); demanding money with menaces. Not to mention civil torts like slander and libel.

    The full weight of the law should be brought to bear on schoolkids who cause serious trouble. Even the under-10s would get the message. I’m told that in Swiss schools violent behaviour can lead to a prison sentence for offenders and their parents. And why shouldn’t it?

    I fail to understand why the classroom is still seen as a sancuary providing protection against blatantly criminal acts. Kids are there to learn; proper application of the law would learn ’em quicker than any government target.

  28. Boris it does seem to me that you are in a party which, for the electoral consideration of occupying the “middle ground” has now rejected one of your & arguably their, core beliefs.

    I am going to speak for proportional representation so readers here should know my agenda. I believe it would be far better for British politics if we had a system whereby it was possible to have a number of stable parties. You might be part of the rightist come UKIP party. This would probably not get you government but would allow you a seat in Parliament. The real point is that it would give you (& the remaining Bennites) a chance to really put forward political ideas & argue them out before the electorate. Currently all the parties jump on any member who says anything out of line since not disagreeing with the centre ground & not being disunited have become the Holy Grails of UK politics. This not only leads to bad government it limits the choices the electors are offered.

    While it is arguable that the FTPT system has given the Tories a comfortable role in our governing duopoly a Tory part that broke with this & embraced PR would be almost guaranteed electoral victory, partly because the LibDems would happily do a deal & partly because, particularly since it has worked in Scotland, Wales & NI, it is clearly, while not a major issue now, one which the electorate clearly favour.

  29. Onanist ? Tut tut

    medical retirement on grounds of ill-health from such institutions, –

    Retirement on the grounds of ill health is due to the soft cushion available for doing so . I used the run the teachers and supply teachers PA and sickness schemes placed in the London market and they were a well known joke for ” Moral ” hazard . That is the hazard that accrues when the claimant cannot be trusted. Other advantages include having your job kept warm for you during periods when child rearing is required short hours , absurd holidays total security and a vastly more pleasant environment than most endure .The police are also guilty of defrauding the system with fake early retirement and personal injury and this absence figures mirror those of teachers . This is precisely the sort of jobsworth un-incentivised behaviour that drives parents and tax payers to distraction.

    I recall years back teaching A level literature (as well as a full course of lower school classes)in a grammar school, I would spend all day every Sunday marking their essays, and I spent every evening preparing materials for the next day. I really would love to see you, and those who talk like you, try their hand at this job, particularly in a sink secondary.

    You should try dealing with some of my clients if you think dealing with a few children is so desperately taxing. I would be embarrassed to say such a thing . I knew teachers at school of course , I know many now and they have no idea of the shock that awaits most of us when we leave the educational system . Why would they ? As to the huge value of a “Degree is Psychology” , even when I was at university these degrees were worthless and they all are now .I would take with a pinch of salt any claim to have access to a huge ” City Salary”. This is something you have seen on the television perhaps ? Women prefer working in the Public sector for some of the reasons I have given and are twice as likely to be in it. I saw the other day. Partly because it is less stressful , easier more secure with a gold plated pension and benefits .

    It is quite clear that we can expect no help from teachers in reforming the system. We can predict their suggestions which involve even less work even more money and even more job security. They should be subject tot same insecurities as those paying for them . That’s one of the reasons I favour the lottery system so direct comparisons can be made and the antiquated Unionised system broken up.

    As for Key Worker grants I know for a fact teachers are de-frauding this system and why the hell they should be saved from commuting I have no idea.This whole scheme is an outrageous con but thats anther subject

  30. I agree with you 100% PaulD, the point I was making was with regard to those who seemed to think that the cane was a solution, and that modifying behaviour in schools would itself be an end to the social problems. Even enforcing the law and holding parents culpable would not necessarily modify attitude, but it would sure as hell be a large stride in the right direction.

    Gillian, I don’t know much about rural secondary schools, but the Church of England village primaries are some of the finest schools I’ve ever encountered.

  31. Well, well Newmania … and to think Boris told me that the Tories had changed … you seem to give the lie to that statement and will probably ensure an election victory for Gordon’s Goons with your attitudes. But how about taking up my challenge and trying your hand at teaching in an inner-city sink secondary? Then come back and tell us all about it. I note that you’ve never actually done the job, but have sat in an office making groundless judgements and probably working on a one to one basis. ‘A few children’ … I’ve worked with gang leaders who’d be tough enough to pick any of us up and snap us in half, get off your pontificating ass and try it!

    Oh … and I did get out of education and went into business for myself. Despite the hard work, it was a damned sight easier than teaching in a sink school.

  32. AP- If by “Attitudes ” you mean a disgust with the waste indolence and free ride given to many in the public sector. I think you’ll find it is shared more widely than you seem to imply. It is the reason the Conservatives are doing so well. It is the reason Labour are finished in the South. It is also a view more or less acknowledged by the Labour Party as having merit recently.
    My brother is a teacher locally to me in a London Comp. I have on occasion looked in. It terrifies me ….ho ho. It’s a comfy part time job ideal for women who want a work life balance and a large proportion of the staff fit this description . A lot of what I know comes from him and a couple of others who changed over to teaching later in life and were staggered by the lack of demands on them. I would like to see teachers empowered legally though as well as subject to accountability and competition..

    I enjoyed your Hemmingwayesque recollections of the terror and danger of the life of a teacher and hope to read the next instalment when you stowed away on a whaler in due course.
    (Perhaps a nap and a glass of warm milk might be a good idea before you get started ?)

  33. New Mania (the ‘mania’ is certainly appropriate, I doubt it’s a reference to the good Cardinal though) … I would cite Bourdieu’s research on the reactions of working class males when they encounter the ‘dominant language’ in office situs, but since you don’t believe research findings there would be little point. I assume that you take no medication, have no truck with technology and, since you don’t accept research, you can’t possibly be using a computer … you must therefore be a ‘figment of my troubled mind’. I like the ‘Hemingwayesque’, even if your literary allusion is more in the direction of Melville. It’s more apt than you think, as a wayward radical child of the 60s I did 10 years on the road around the world prior to settling down, and although I didn’t set sail on a whaler, I did do labouring work on the wharf in New Zealand and in the Oz hell-hole of Port Hedland, as well as overlanding up Sumatra in the monsoon. But I’m afraid you’ll have to wait to read any of the chapters, my memoirs of the crazy years have been frozen at chapter 17 for two years now. You sound as if you’re qualified in one of those cushy memorisation and regurgitation subjects, the kind that requires no original thought or ability to critique, yet awards the absurd status and financial rewards enjoyed by doctors and lawyers in this society. Still, since your brother has assured you it’s so easy, I expect you to complete a full five days in a sink secondary on a Rotherhithe estate next week. Let us know how you get on, if you’re still alive that is. If you fancy it, I could ring one of my ex-kids who keeps in touch, he’s in Brixton with his yardie brother, I could ask him and his mates to drop round your place and you could explain to them how soft they are. Or would you prefer some of the ones I know down here who are linked to the East End gangsters (yes, real ones)? Please don’t take this too seriously, but I assure you these kids do exist, thankfully I’ve been out of it for long enough for there only to be a select few who still keep in contact with me.

    Teachers are subject to accountability and I doubt if most would object to more scrutiny, and it’s difficult to see just how competition would work given the immense divergence between the tasks entailed. The usual claptrap is to reward by performance, as I’ve tried to point out, anyone in a sink school should walk out immediately such a scheme is adopted … or are you suggesting that there’s no difference between a secondary with 50% special needs and one of these grammar schools?

    I’ll refrain from being offended by your ‘nap’ comment, you’re not to know that I suffer chronic fatigue after being infected with hepatitis C by the inept incompetent British medical profession and the stigmatising department of health (they still claim it’s sexually transferable whilst the kind of research you don’t believe in indicates that it can only sexually transfer when it ‘piggy-backs’ on HIV), and that I have undertaken 48 weeks chemotherapy in the worst country in the western world, under the worst PCT in that country, at diagnosis and treatment of this virus. [Sorry, a bit of Hep C campaigning]

    I’m holding my judgement on these urban ex-Eton Tories until I hear some solid policy statements, but I don’t make the mistake of equating local elections with a general election, nor should you or they. Since we have a candidate off Cameron’s A list, and since I can’t stomach our careerist NuLab MP, I might well be voting Tory. But given how atrocious Bliar and Broon have been, I figure you should be doing much better than you are.

    I’ve found most medical personnel excellent, the problems seem to lie with management and clerical staff where the public sector is concerned. But that’s just based on my experience. Simply empowering teachers legally will not solve the situation, but it would certainly help … I’ve witnessed a father and his brother walking on to school property holding baseball bats looking for a teacher. Back-up is also required. In that instance they got off with a caution!

  34. Northern Ireland still has Grammar Schools:

    – Only 3% of our students complete their GCSE course with no qualifications as against 4, 5 and 6% in the rest of the UK.

    – Ulster schools are outperforming England not only at the bottom end of the academic spectrum but also at the top end.

    – 42% of Northern Ireland university students come from less privileged backgrounds, as against just 28% in England. (Blowing apart the leftist claim that Grammar schools are elitist. They favour brains over bucks.)

    -In Northern Ireland, 10% more pupils achieve five A*-C grades at GCSE than in England, and 30% of A level candidates gets an A grade compared to 22% in England.

    – If the Department of Education’s household survey is anything to go by, some 64% of those who took part in the 2002 poll supported academic selection.

    That makes the government’s recent legislation intended to abolish selection in Northern Ireland particularly regrettable. … Especially as they have no mandate here.

    By the way, my girlfriend is the only classical student in our school, and supports your campaign to save ancient history. So bully for you Boris.

  35. Why is it wrong to have academic selection for secondary schools, but right to have financial and social selection at university level? It does not make much sense.
    Unless Cameron is going to back up his stance on grammer schools with a policy of free higher education for all then he is just going to come across as trying to buy brownie points with traditional labour voters and increase his appeal in the north of England. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.

  36. k, if Cameron doesn’t win any inner city or Northern seats then he won’t win a general will he? No one has said they are going to scrap remaining grammar schools, just proposed an education policy.

    Up here (in the North of England) we have no grammar schools, ‘selection’ is purely on where you can afford to live. For young parents, after 6 years of house price hyperinflation, it’s a nightmare. There aren’t any grammar schools to scrap either, from what I hear they’re all in Kent.

    A cheap two bed house in the town where I live (in a good catchment area) is at least £150k now, so you need a £45k joint income and a £15k deposit to buy. That’s the equivilent of two well paid jobs up here, so staying at home and looking after the kids is impossible. Add to that there are plenty of couples to earn considerably less than that, what they need is good schools across the board. Labour’s years of throwing money at the situation hasn’t helped other than to make sure they have more computers. I don’t pretend to know what the solution is, but re-introducing grammar schools nationwide would be a practical and logistical nightmare. How would you actually do it exactly?

    Incidently, my mates wife (a trainee teacher) was telling me last night some exams boards are now using multiple choice GCSE papers!

  37. I’m with Ed W on this. It’s mostly down to discipline. Teachers no longer have any sanction with which to control an unruly pupil. In the rough areas, teachers who make a vain attempt to discipline these brats are likely to receive equal abuse from the parent as the child. I don’t like the binary categorisation of children into ‘passes’ and ‘failures’, but I completely understand the desire of most parents to obtain the very best education for their children.

    Until we focus on resolving the deeper problems in our education system selection, by one means or another, will remain. Free teachers from the strictures of a meddling state and let them teach. Remove those that are insufficiently competent from the profession – our children deserve better than a second-rate education. Ensure that all children are taught at a level that suits their abilities. Do this, and solve the problem of lack of classroom discipline and the call for academic selection will largely disappear.

  38. jamie said:
    May 17, 2007 6:18 PM | permalink

    so although the Tories are against selection by ability, often providing a route out of the endless cycle of poorly paid jobs for the poorer in society, yet do not speak out against selection by finance. disgraceful.
    selection is essential to ensure that all students of all abilities get the education in the way they need. at my local comprehensive there are nearly 2000 students of wide varying abilities. it is impossible to say that people predicted a F at gcse level can be taught in the same class room as those who are predicted an A*.
    yes, i do go to a grammar school and am extremely grateful of their continued existence as i know that i have benefited from it, and that every one of my peers would agree. i just hope that future generations will have the opportunity to profit from such a system.”

    I totally agree.

  39. Barzun, in ‘Begin Here’, regards multiple choice questions as highly detrimental and credits this approach as being largely responsible for a fall in comprehension scores in the US. If they can’t write essays, they can’t do joined up thinking.

    The amazing success rate of both small schools and home tuition should perhaps be considered. This is the only western country that doesn’t fund small schools.

    Steve_L, I agree with your political analysis. But perhaps it’s just as well if all the Tories can do is wheel-out tired old left-wing radical ideas such as voucher systems. Then perhaps ‘Pneumanic’ (don’t expect politeness when he disparages a young lady whose intellect and perception I have high regard for, even before I consider her degree in psychology) isn’t representative of Cameron’s new Tories … I hope not. If nostalgia is the game, I would suggest a return to Ivan Illich and ‘Deschooling’, not that it makes any more sense, but at least Illich is fun to read.

    I did try and get a mate of mine, Pat, involved on this blog. But I’m afraid that all he did was post an advert for his latest book. Pat’s much more Marxist than me (I only use Marx as a tool for social analysis, although I do go with ‘dialectical materialism’, though not with the ‘dialectic of history’), and so probably has a greater aversion to dialogue with Tories. He is, however, a professor of education and very knowledgeable about the subject, so his reticence is unfortunate.

    There is a secondary school, not a comprehensive, in Kent (Hythe) that is competing with the grammar schools for numbers of university entrants. It proves that it’s not impossible.

    To go right back to the beginning, certainly discipline is necessary, but that research stuff, the garbage that some nonentity doesn’t believe in, clearly demonstrates advantages in learning outcomes from co-operative learning environments, other than in maths, where imposed discipline shows a significant improvement in scores. The trick is to create self-discipline and motivation, but how to do so is the problem.

    Much as I would like to see free higher education, I’m afraid that the costs are not sustainable given university expansion.

    Setting is fine and is widely used, perhaps it should be expanded to include more subjects, streaming becomes soul destroying for those kids stuck at the bottom, and hence should probably be avoided whenever possible.

    But Tories usually charge high prices for their knowledge … what am I doing giving it away for free to an audience that most likely doesn’t like it, and doesn’t want to hear it?

  40. I feel that I have benefitted hugely from a grammar school as I can communicate well with my peers in an eloquent, well educated and understandable manner. Whilst I feel that a great decline in the behaviour of youths is still greatly prevalent in grammar schools, I feel the effects are far less detrimental to the overall education environment within grammar schools for the simple fact that the students can tell when they are being stupid. If there is a class of mixed ability students, I believe that those with “lesser abilities” often just pull the ones who are much more able down with them. Grammar schools are a great idea, and I think that selective eduaction is the only future for the next generation.

  41. Just a brief side-story on the issue of teacher/student disciplinary relations:

    My High School, and subsequent Sixth Form was in a rural, upper/middle-class area of North West England. As with many Sixth Forms attached to High Schools, the class sizes are only a fraction of the size of Secondary classes.

    During an A-level History lesson, me and my half a dozen class mates were silently studying over some past exam papers, our teacher, who also serves as the Head of Year in the Secondary part of the school, was laying the proverbial law down on a pair of rambunctious young teens. After reaching the end of his teather, he decided to leave the two youths to disrupt our British political history learnings, whilst he went about deciding what the Blair doctine on discipline – or rather, the lack of such an article – would allow him to do. As this happened, their conversation went like this, in all of its regional accented glory:

    Youth A: “Oh my God, what a [Removed]ing [Removed]head [Teacher] is!”
    Youth B: “I’m just going to walk out, I don’t [Removed]ing care.”
    Youth A: “What about [Teacher]?”
    Youth B: “So [Removed]ing what? Just walk past him, he can’t do anything!”

    This was but one of many incidents we in Sixth Form were subjected to. Therefore, as a result of the Blair state education system and the restrictions of disciplinary measures teachers have available to them in dealing with troublesome children (see: nearly none); A-levels are now suffering.

    However, Boris, I know how you feel in regards to corporal punishment, and I am not advocating a return to the cane. That would be a £40 solution to a £10 problem.

  42. AP,Now wherefore stopp’st thou me I wonder ? I have fought my way through the tangled thickets of what you evidently believe is a fascinating autobiography and trust me I `m not panting for chapter two . You plonklingly refer to an ancient Marxist French “intellectual” apropos of nothing whatsoever , in a passage straight from Potter.If you meant it as parody it would have lacked subtlety. Your ‘withering sarcasm’ is supported by a transparently fatuous premise and sinks forlornly .The irrelevant guesses about me are quite wrong and your hinted threats ..a bit nutty . Fishing the strange and fetid waters of self delight I think I can summarise as follows.

    ” In my opinion I am an extraordinary and clever person who , having wandered about a lot is in a position to tell you whats what”

    Yes? (stifles a yawn)…. .What then , does Moses bring down from the mountain ?

    Tablet One –Teachers are subject to accountability

    Wrong – They are not. They cannot be fired or made redundant. In fact they tend to get promoted as a desperate measure . Getting through inspections wouldn’t trouble a trained monkey. That is the problem you refuse to address. We will continue to pay for the dead wood currently floating through the system unless we do. Voucher schemes , first suggested byMilton Friedman, but “Left wing ” according to class dunce AP ,would provide some market accountability I do not believe they are workable for the reasons I have given ,most especially the erratic cycles of markets. We will have to look at performance the alternative is to accept the teachers estimation of their own worth which as we see is almost infinite and informed by fragile pride , insecurity and no conception of cost. Other countries from Chile to Sweden have had some success with vouchers though and my mind is not closed to the concept

    given the immense divergence between the tasks entailed. The usual claptrap is to reward by performance

    Pay attention at the back !-Exactly why I recommend the lottery system being tried in Brighton . With a homogenous intake there would be far less divergence far more judgement and less opportunity to hide in “Divergence “, like a collection of snickering loafers. You are to keen to return to the mesmeric subject of yourself to bother reading what I have said . We can expect the NUT to resist transparency at every turn..
    My problem with the Willets initiative is that it fairly states the problem but does not supply the answer. We are suffering from catastrophic social divergence particularly in the Cities , and Comprehensive schooling suffers from all the faults he claim Grammar schools would not cure . They have become selection by wealth and Labour`s determination to maintain a serf underclass in situ has exasipated the problem. We need schools to undertake remedial social engineering at eleven by which time there is no hope of a fair allocation and this will begin to attack the downward spiral problem of so called “sink schools”. The fact that under performing teachers will be more readily unidentified is a very welcome additional benefit .
    Within this context setting should be rigorously introduced and teachers and schools given a free-er hand. Those systems that work will be identifiable and best practice shared. As I mentioned punitive taxes on private education would assist greatly and the Labour Party ( unfortunately form my point of view) is moving in this direction.
    It is really clear thinking and I fear the conservatives will lose out badly here . They have explained why the sacred cow cannot be sacred but not supplied any thinking as to how the problems we all see can be solved As each Party has the political power to make the worst of its own policies . Labour will have to bow to the NUT and the Conservatives will not dare upset the hidden exploitation of the state system by those with resources. I fear Labour are going to steal a march and by abandoning Grammar school the Conservatives have left themselves no defence

  43. Milton Friedman the originator of the concept of vouchers? WRONG! Send £10 and I’ll give you the correct reference, the ones Friedman took it from. Here’s a couple of clues, there were two of them and it goes back to the same period as Illich. Try to get it correct next time or it’ll be a detention for you, I’m afraid.

  44. OK … another set of clues … the main instigator of this idea was a US professor and he’s been dead for awhile.

    Still not got it?

    I guess you really have been ‘Dumbed Down’ … now, for a bonus five points, who first came up with that term?

  45. I live in Northern Ireland and my child attends a fantastic Grammar school. The last time anyone tried to get rid of them was an education minister in the NI. assembly several years ago before they all got caught,again. He was martin mc guinness. Before he had a pen he used other methods to further his ends.

    Trust me: this plan of the Cons. is a disaster which will bite them in the ass.

  46. Friedrich von Hayek explains:

    “As has been shown by Professor Milton Friedman (M. Friedman, The role of government in education, 1955), it would now be entirely practicable to defray the costs of general education out of the public purse without maintaining government schools, by giving the parents vouchers covering the cost of education of each child

    Before 1955? You`ve got me but if I `m as wrong as Hayek that`ll do.

  47. There are just not enough different types of secondary schools in uk.

    The answer to the problem in UK

    1. improve primary schools (if thewse don’t work nothing else will)

    2. Make parents make many poorer parents take education and child rearing as serious issues.

    3. In poorer areas there should be several types of seconary schools catering for several career paths.

    4 Give teachers in all schools status

    5. Grammar schools DID work in poorer areas – I went to one in a mining valley of S.Wales. But now there are not enough schools for high achievers in poorer areas – Why – Because inner cities have LABOUR education authorities who choose comprehensives – which underserve poorer more able children. Academies are not seen to work.

    I hope Boris reads ALL of these comments – they come from people with experience.

  48. Remember the reality of rural education

    David Willets’ speech to the CBI on the future of secondary education has been headlined as a debate about grammar schools which, in essence, it was not. While saying: “We must break free from the belief that academic selection is any longer the way to transform the life chances of bright poor kids” he also gave support for traditional, “setting and streaming”. He said, “We ought to raise them to the same standards in the same subjects.” If that is the key aim, then more needs to be done with one area his speech did not mention: ‘specialist’ schools. These, especially in rural areas, are not a matter of choice. If your only local secondary school for seven miles (or more) is a specialist in sports, you are stuck with it whatever your personal preference and skill. There is no transport to go anywhere else. The core academic subjects are, of course, taught but three-single-science A-level students are, by the school’s designation, going to be ‘non special’ although, should they beat the system and achieve that 3A science, then they are truly special individuals. Rural children see shiny city technology academies on television and know that kind of education is not open to them. Their education may be very good and they may be very happy, rounded individuals – but if we want same standards in same subjects, the rich:poor debate is probably the wrong one; it should be city:rural.

  49. Today (Monday), David Cameron has mentioned the grammar schools issue again and talked of ‘delusional’ debate. Perhaps such language is less helpful than it could be. The Willetts speech, as I mentioned before, was not really anti-grammar so much as it was trying to find a new way forward. It specifically included and promoted selection within secondary schools. Surely we can devise schools that allow all our children, no matter where they live, access to challenging education? All children should have access, without ‘catch-up year’ penalty, to the kind of education that, if they have the ability, lets them have at least 3 straight Agrades at A2 in single sciences or modern languages or technology.

    Academies do currently seem to have heralded a new type of exclusivity based on simple geography. Financially, they may help but they are not the answer to a truly public educational policy unless every child has easy access to their advantages and any disadvantages are held to public account in a timely (academic year) manner so that 99.9% of individual children are kept moving forward in the way that suits them rather than lobbyists, accountants and lawyers. (There will always be the child who is a real exception that the system needs to find some method of accommodating and, being pragmatic, that child may not get a ‘same year’ answer.)

    Having ‘academic’ sets and ‘practical’ sets under one management structure with – crucially – individual students moving freely between the sets for each subject and being expected always to aim to move up a set/year, is not the sheep/goats divide but nor is it the one-class ‘comprehensive’.

    Grammars work well and used to work well. I went to one. We had ‘cross-over’ students who either found the grammar not to their skills or secondary mod students who found their academic skills a bit later than 11-plus. It worked fairly well. Incomers could not join Latin in what would now be Year 9 but could pick it up in the 6th form if they so wished along with all those who had already dropped Latin and moved to the ‘German’ set. Where such flexibility exists, let them continue. David Cameron has indeed said they should.

    Bringing them back in areas that have not had them for two decades or more is, however, a different issue. Children will, as of old, have to be taken miles by bus from the age of 11 to get to the exam-defined school. Why not have grammars and sec-mods under one roof? Call them something else (the rather pretentious ‘academy’ if you must) and make certain that the aim is that at whatever level one enters, one is expected to exit with the highest academic achievements – something that the old comprehensives often seemed to forget as they struggled with with whole year-group teaching. Sets, yearly (or termly) teacher-led assessments and high expectations that children will progress can do much. Yes, if you set the standards on an academic high, there will be children who do not achieve the target outcomes – but at least all children will have been given a full school career of opportunity to develop and ‘go up’ a set as and when they are ready, with great speed if necessary.

    In the semantics, of course, what we do need is to banish the idea of ‘staying down’ and the implied permanency of ‘failing’. That’s not Utopian stupidity: it’s an acknowledgement that in setting the standards high and expecting everyone to reach for them, some people will be slower getting there than others (by months or decades) and others may never get there at all. The applause for the lady aged 83 who has learned to read is very real and I hope she goes on to read more books and discover things that have long been closed to her. Schools, however, need to challenge those who are there to be the best they can, not just to meet the right standard in the number-next set of SATs.

  50. Gillian P

    Very thought-provoking points you have made and I agree that Academies do sound pretentious. Big city-rural differential there.

    As you say – we must encourage children to reach their potential and not just fulfil the SATs requirements.

    My memory of setting is not too good – I was bottom set for French and got an A and bottom set for maths and got a B… not sure what went wrong with setting there but perhaps it spurred me on as I didn’t want to be bottom of the heap… I was given no hope of getting to university but then got to a top league one.

    We must give greater hope to our youth. I hope that the next education policy announcement will be one that upholds the highest standards of excellence in teaching and discipline.

  51. Newmania … I’ll have to grant you that one. It’s usually (dis)credited to Neil Postman and his mate, whose name I can’t recall. Thank you for the reference, 1955 is most certainly earlier. Fun crossing swords with you though, I’m sure we’ll do it again. Still don’t think much of the voucher idea, it assumes a wisdom in utilisation, that old Frog reconstituted Marxist geezer refers to such things as ‘capital’. To use capital one has to know how to invest it, the parents of a lot of kids wouldn’t have the first idea. But I mentioned him because reference was made by you to those you encountered, and hence I thought his research on situated dialogue/dominant language relevant to your situation.

    The probable answer to the question I asked for the bonus points is John Gatto, a New York school teacher who wrote an interesting little book ‘Dumbing Us Down’, though it may have been coined earlier. Gatto quit the state system to work with ghetto teenagers and achieved remarkable results.

    If you want to improve schools first remove the disruptive 10-15%, don’t exclude them, as one kid said to me, “It’s like an extra holiday, their mothers give them money to get them out of the house.” Remove them from mainstream. Don’t integrate non-English speakers into mainstream until they’ve learnt the language. Put much more effort into peer education, the bright kids teach those that are not so quick after the teacher has introduced it and they’ve mastered it. The whole art of the Renaissance was based on it and it’s damned effective. When the catchment area is a single sink estate the only realistic way out is to modify catchment areas. Realise that in the present system some schools tend to become dumping grounds for the kids other schools have kicked out. Stop the absurd Windscaling whereby failing schools change their name, as if changing the brand makes a difference. Make the city academies the technical schools that Butler thought should be built and that his act envisioned, although it’s suffered financial constraints in recent years the German model is still fair. My main objection to grammar school selection, and I sure as hell wouldn’t close those that are left, is that the transfer system between secondary and grammar within a locality seldom functioned, and where it did function it didn’t function well. Please consider this aspect if you, as Tories, plan to reconsider academic selection for schools.

    And I’ve had some great news from the hospital today, I’m clear of the virus, so I’ve beaten hep C.

    Newmania, my mate Trace said you sounded like a pen pusher. But what does she know? She was expelled from Sherbourne. Professor Pat just commented “Eeek! Cripes!” But he too reads Private Eye, so what can you expect?

  52. Not sure I agree with that Mel I usally like her stuff.

    PLeased to hear things are looking up for you AP. Been a bit busy

  53. Bloody-hell Melissa … dialogue with Tories is one thing, and I do like Boris, but you can’t expect me to buy the Telegraph, that’s going too far.

    While we need to increase our computer per child ratio in schools if we are to compete, something else we don’t hear enough about. Don’t we also need to consider a re-emphasis on a book culture at higher levels? I’m afraid I can’t recall the reference, but I could find nothing wrong with the Scandanavian research that categorised learning as ‘surface’, ‘strategic’, and ‘deep’. It didn’t go down too well with UK academics as I recall, the system has tended to ‘strategic’. Computers are very useful tools, but they produce abstracts, depth can only come from the work itself. Now, you see, I am sounding conservative.

  54. PS: Newmania, I’d dispute your assertion over class size, I’m sure there is solid outcome research evidence, but it’s not a direction I was looking into, so I can’t recall it. I may get back to you on it. Anyone who has been there knows it makes a difference without considering proof. I suspect that all the techniques and technology we see used to teach more students in further and higher education have more to do with finance than learning.

    It’s possible that there’s data on second language aquisition, the British Council restricts the school’s class sizes. I think it was Locke who believed that all learning should be based on the principles of second language aquisition.

  55. Hi Melissa. Thanks for highlighting the city:rural divide. All children everywhere in UK State education deserve access to the same ‘best’ and that ‘best’ should be set high. Geography should not be an issue. Maybe, just maybe, ‘sets’ should help in the inevitable rationing of who actually makes use of the resources on offer. Modern timetabling programmes have eased the grief of the teacher slaving for the six-week Summer break over a huge paper schedule so a flexibly-minded teaching staff can allow children to develop at something near their own pace.

    Whatever the case: non-City children do not deserve to be forgotten. A few fields and a lack of buses may, for some, be ‘leafy suburbs’ or ‘rural safety’ but that’s no substitute for equality in access to modern education.

  56. Agent Prov

    Did you mean your comment about the Daily Telegraph – really?… go on, I dare you — try it! and if you read the J Daley column you’ll be hooked

  57. Well I’m not so sure about the Telegraph, it’s perhaps the best of a bad bunch, but it doesn’t half try to convince you how bad life is.

    I prefer idlex’s idea of using the internet to make your own newspaper.

  58. I think the Conservatives are missing a trick. The whole schooling issue seems to be split between Grammar or City Academy. Surely education requires a less generic solution – it’s like suggesting G.P. and A&E services only for health.

    Children are already tested at 11 and seperated into ability groups within state schools. This really is just as elitist as a seperate school – worse in my opinion to be the ‘bottom set’, knowing you are the lowest of the low.

    By the age of 11, like it or not, there are already significant differences between the ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ in every aspect.

    Academic achievement is the only focus in this whole debate. For some reason, removing the most academic children from a class lowers the quality of the school. Is ‘quality’ delivered by these pupils? No wonder schools fail.

    Far better to allow all schools to specialise and select.

    Selection in not necessarily ‘top 5% academic only’ – otherwise our schools would be 95% empty.

    We are already used to the idea of schools having a specialism (science, sport etc) however they cannot interview on that basis. Let them.

    Let the sports academy select the children with athletic prowess and provide a good basic education.
    Let the science academy select the children with aptitude and interest.
    Perhaps schools with a focus on Music, Art ….. I’m sure head teachers will come up with remarkable ideas tailored to the needs of the local community.

    Bespoke education solutions for our children please, not this formulaic “one-education-fits-all-prescribed-by-central-government-politicians-who-opt-out-of-it-themselves” failure of a system.

    Come on Boris, sort this shambles out – you can do it! 😉

  59. Since schools for all specialisms cannot be built everywhere, the only realistic solution for rural kids would appear to be a rapid, safe, cheap, efficient public transport system. This would also be the solution for several other serious problems, but it seems unlikely to happen. Whilst I’m no lover of the old nationalised industries, it does seem that there are some initiatives that are so large and require so much attention to integrate effectively that only central government can be the motivating force, however that is expressed in real terms.

    The school in Hythe that I mentioned earlier might be a model in certain situs. It incorporates a working farm as part of the school. This provides excellent experiental training for all natural sciences, as well as for more agrarian studies and management/accountancy skills. This school also divides buildings by subject in a more campus style. One can observe accepted behaviour modify as children move between departments.

  60. All you needed to do to win the next election is to keep quiet about policy and keep your dicks in your pants, just like Tony did 10 years ago. It’s not looking good is it?

  61. Might be worth checking just what the percentage of working class participation is prior to using it to validate middle class aspirations. Might also be worth checking the percentage of children of unskilled labourers who gain university places.

  62. Come on Boris, this article is a master of evasion. Surely the key debate should be on how Dave Cameron has adopted the Blairite tactic of deceiving his own party and springing policies on them via the backdoor?

  63. speaking as a 16 year old who is coming to the end of compulsory education, and has become thoroughly dissapointed by the lack of challenge or motivation, or in many cases, simple logic applied in secondary education, i am in favour of bringing back corporal punishment.

    to suggest that the solution to this problem lies merely in the disciplining of students is vastly ignorant, but a stricter system of punishment would deal with a great deal of the problems the education system faces. i cannot see pedros point that students should be scared of teachers. judging by the level of constraint that some of my peers show, that would be asking for a chav attack.

    i have lost faith in schools. without extreme self motivation, students are left without any reason to work or achieve anything that could be considered outstanding.

  64. Ed W I think your early comments about teachers are spot on. Discipline is a major issue that isn’t being addressed and it is also the main incentive for good teachers leaving the state sector.

    I did however, read Dave’s email on grammer schools and thought it was pretty
    sensible. It is better to simply stream classes.

    This is what they did in Ireland with very good results.

    I do think though that teachers in many subjects work damned hard for what they get paid. I’ve never understood why you can’t have streaming/whole class teaching and set lesson plans designed by professionals. There is more than enough for teachers to do without going home and reinventing the wheel for every new lesson.

    The job should be made easier. There should also be posts that pay very well to attract talented graduates. Its silly to pretend that all subjects/teachers are valued equally. When you pretend that this is the case you create a situation where talented people with skills that are valued highly in the private sector leave.

    Returning to the issue of discipline/streaming etc.
    Its not an election winning line to take but the reality is you can’t actually provide a fantastic education for every British child. The British are too varied in a way that Fins Danes and Koreans are not to make universal high attainment a reality.

    You now have good sometimes vulnerable kids sitting next to violent, thick students who haven’t the faintest idea what is going on in the world outside their ipod and intergang relationships.

    I don’t think its worth while getting uptight about the poor results of some students. Addressing their problems is too complicated and diverts energy and money away from other students who will provide the community with much higher returns over time.

    If there was a way that like could be schooled with like British kids would be better off. Educationally Britain will never be able to compete with the Finns but at least you can make the best of what you’ve got.

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