Labour’s pseudo-egalitarian approach to education

 The affluent bourgeoisie use either fee-paying schools or private tutors to entrench their advantages, while kicking away the ladder of opportunity for bright kids from working-class backgrounds.

The lesson from the story of Georgia Gould is that if you restrict the opportunities of the many, the few will simply lengthen their lead.

Come on comrades, stop beating up on Georgia Gould – you created her

Since no one else is likely to do so, it falls to this column to spring to the defence of Georgia Gould. Telegraph readers may not be familiar with Georgia. One day she will probably pupate into some hectoring Labour health or environment spokesperson, telling us all when to turn the lights off or how many units of alcohol we may consume. But at the moment she is still trying to win the Labour nomination for the London seat of Erith and Thamesmead, and the Labour Party is having one of its amusing fits of hysterics about the matter. Georgia may be brilliant; she may be blonde; she may be captivating. But she is only 22, and the Labour rank and file are furiously protesting.

Georgia‘s enemies say that she is only the front-runner because she is the daughter of the famous Blair spin-doctor, Lord Gould, and his kick-ass publisher wife Gail Rebuck. It’s nepotism! say the old-fashioned members of the People’s Party. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know, they say. It’s elitist and corrupt and against everything we stand for. A former Labour MP called Alice Mahon has torn up her party card, and there seems to have been some botched attempt to fiddle with the ballot. So before things get out of hand, I want to say something direct – and stern – to those angry Lefties.

Look at the composition of the modern parliamentary Labour Party, as smoothychops lawyers and well-heeled journalists replace the old trade union boys. Look at the case of Georgia Gould, and you can see that Labour party politics is now just like any other middle-class profession, and the middle-class professions are increasingly dominated by the children of the middle classes. Last week we had the first taste of former minister Alan Milburn’s long-awaited study into declining social mobility – and it found, to no one’s surprise, that it is becoming more and more difficult for children from poorer backgrounds to penetrate the bourgeois professions. Or, to put it another way round, it is becoming ever more likely that these professions will be full of the kids of richer parents. The apples are falling closer and closer to the tree.

On average, lawyers born in 1958 grew up in families who were 43 per cent richer than the national average. But lawyers born in 1970 grew up in families with incomes 64 per cent above the national average. In journalism, a profession that used to be genuinely open to untutored working-class genius (think of Frank Johnson), there is an even more frightening agglomeration of middle-class power and advantage. Journalists born in 1958 grew up in families with incomes only 6 per cent above the national average. Journalists born in 1970 grew up in families 42 per cent richer than average. Milburn says it is all caused by nepotism, and networks, and pushy middle-class parents securing internships and work experience for little Toby or Georgia, and there is certainly some truth in that. The offices of professional Britain are infested with nice, clever amenable kids, doing the photocopying and writing first drafts of articles – and nine times out of 10 they are there not by some competitive process, but because one of their parents knows someone in charge. It may be reprehensible, but then you have to ask yourself why all this “work experience” has been made necessary, and why you need it on your CV.

The answer is that A-levels have been so dumbed down that an A grade is no longer much use for an employer as a distinguishing tool, and pushy parents know that “work experience” is a good way of giving their kids the edge. And why have A-levels been dumbed down? Why are there so many As sprayed around that universities are now demanding an A star? The answer is that it has become ever more politically essential to try to bleach out the appalling reality of the difference in performance between the maintained and the independent sector. Maybe it is true, as the Government tells us, that state schools are getting better. But if that is the case, then the fee-paying schools are simply getting better faster. The gap is widening, and it will go on widening until the British ruling class finally wakes up to their hypocrisy. The affluent bourgeoisie use either fee-paying schools or private tutors to entrench their advantages, while kicking away the ladder of opportunity for bright kids from working-class backgrounds.

It is not a question of cash, or any cant about “giving parents more control”. It is about ethos, and ambition, and the self-demand that goes with academic competition. I know a lawyer from Belfast, a man of my age, who believes fervently that he would never have gone to university had it not been for the grammar school system, and who cannot believe that no one – no one from any party – is objecting to their abolition at the hands of, yes, Martin McGuinness. I don’t care what you call schools that allow selection on the basis of academic ability. I don’t care at what age the selection takes place. But until someone is brave enough to restore academic competition and selection to state education, the inequalities will simply grow. The lesson from the story of Georgia Gould is that if you restrict the opportunities of the many, the few will simply lengthen their lead.

28 thoughts on “Labour’s pseudo-egalitarian approach to education”

  1. It is indeed the abolition of selection in schooling that has reduced opportunities for working-class children, because one’s quality of education in the state sector now depends only on one’s postcode. Only a quite exceptional person can excape a culture of learned and enforced ignorance. I write as a somebody who went to a bog-standard-comprehensive.

  2. What is education for? Labour have poured millions of pounds of tax payers and PFI money into building new schools, pay rises for teachers and introducing new national testing and yet 12 years later what have they got to show for it. We have the CBI descrying the state of our graduates and school leavers because they haven’t mastered even the most basic of skills. The problem as I see it has arisen because Labour puts ideology before anything else, before the interests of the pupils and the interests of the country at large. It is the fundamental difference between the Left and the Right. The left see it as their role to make people’s lives better, whereas the right understands that only individuals have the ability to implement that change. The left thinks it can create quotas for excellence, the right knows that excellence comes about only through hard work.

    The result of 12 years of Labour’s education policy is the reduction of our entire state school system to the lowest common denominator. But Labour would rather than the most able are held back to the pace that suits everyone, because for them that is what ‘equality’ means. I recently had a debate on twitter with a Labour MP about what academic excellence is, pretty tricky in 140 characters! The government is putting pressure on universities to accept more state pupils from deprived backgrounds. To facilitate this, prospective university students will be assessed on the grades they achieved as well as a string of social and background factors. Thus someone from a school in a sink estate who would normally have achieved a D grade A level might be treated more favourably because of all the additional hurdles they have had to overcome. The argument being that a middle class pupil at a good school who achieves a B grade has had it easy. But Labour are focusing in the wrong place, making it easier to achieve just lowers the bar and devalues the achievement. The government should be focusing on how we raise the bar in those schools that perform badly, asking why they are under performing and what needs to change. Instead Labour have frittered their time and budget on tinkering with the examinations, creating league tables and attacking independent schools and elite universities. Unfortunately Labour’s misguided and blind adherence to socialist ideology means that those children from disadvantaged backgrounds will never have the experience of being challenged, nor will they get the sense of achievement. They will be told they have achieved, but they will not have experienced it, they will have learnt very little.

    The analogy I gave to the Labour MP was of an Olympic running contest. Suppose we have two runners, one from the developed world and one from a developing nation. Now the runner from a developing nation has had to struggle all the way; to find time to train, to get kit, to find a trainer, to get on the team, to get to the tournament. The runner from the developed country in comparison has been able to rely on a fairly structured sports ‘system’ to get all the resources and support they require. Both runners compete, but according to Labour we should shorten the track for the runner from the developing country because they have had to overcome more hurdles just to get there. Labour honestly believe that that would make the world a better place. But would it really? Would the runner from the developed world want to know that he had an unfair advantage over the UK runner? Would this system produce the best runners? The competition would be ‘who can prove that they are the most disadvantaged’. Surely the fact that the runner from the developing country can compete and beat the other runners, despite all the hindrances, will mean more to him and show just what a brilliant runner he is? Moreover, it ensures that the competition produces the best runners in the world.

    So what is education for? Is it for governments to conduct social experiments with taxpayer’s money for ideological ends? No, the point of education is to invest in the next generation of citizens. That means fostering talent, both academic and non academic, and rewarding excellence. We will find that just as Labour have acted irresponsibly with the country’s finances, they have also frittered away the potential of a generation. An incoming Conservative government needs to start investing in excellence again. A Conservative government must help pupils to realise their potential. Where we have Grammar schools, we must support them. But the main focus of the Conservative government must be on introducing academic streaming across all schools. Education is not a competition, but only through supporting academic excellence will we create the skills that this country needs.

  3. The Labour party copied the American equality school standard where children are allowed elective subjects. The standard of education is so bad that children graduate High School and are still illiterate – they simply slide through the system! My children were so bored, having previously been schooled in both Denmark and UK (when education was still first class)that a group of parents and European teachers formed classes after the International Baccalaureat
    whereby exam papers were marked in Geneva. All the children graduated and won scholarships to universities. The programme is still in place in many High Schools in America and long may it continue. This action by concerned parents and teachers should happen here because schools are only as good as the parents allow! I did my part when abroad so it is about time action was taken here. Governments know nothing about education, health care or anything it happens to fall upon. These matters should be left to the people who are qualified for the jobs.


    “Dirty tricks in fight for safe Labour seat” was the headline in the Sunday Times on 19th April.

    On SKY, ex-Labour MP Alice Mahon tremblingly described how impossible it now is as a Labour grass roots member to influence anything. “Conferences are just for the leaders to make speeches, nothing is now open to a vote” she said. Appalled at the smears against David Cameron after his recent tragedy, Alice has torn up her party card.

    Allegations of nepotism, racism and interference by Labour high command are described int he Sunday Times, below an interesting picture of Georgia Gould with Alastair Campbell. Just another classic Labour scenario……

  5. Well said Boris.You are a shining light to guide us away from the error of our ways.Past and Present.

  6. And if Gordon as a successful PM was always “Mission Impossible”, it was when he recalled Alastair Campbell that he pushed the button marked “Self Destruct”.


    Quentin Letts in today’s Daily Mail, said that Jacqui Smith veered from resentful to near-weepy. Now is not the time to cry Jacqui. When poor Damian Green was arrested, his rights as an MP violated and he was threatened with a life sentence, when his young daughter was frightened to tears, and his wife upset, that was the time to look upset and near weepy. You were butch enough then, when you blustered that it was a matter of “national security”.

    I would stand ramrod straight, show some bottle, and apologise, instead of playing it for sympathy.

  8. Labour has dumbed down this country significantly. Now the citizens just don’t know what the hell is going on any more.

    The teachers here just can not teach when there are too many immigrant students who can’t speak English. With Labour’s ambiguous human rights law and anti-hate preaching law hanging over the whole country, the school authorities and the teachers are too scared to do or to say anything in cased they would get sued for anything they said or did.

    One Headmaster made a rule for a separate assembly for Muslim students, then he left his job. A new headmaster took over and decided to have only one single sensible, harmonious assembly for all the school’s students which is sensible and harmony. But she was sacked for hate preaching ( racism ) because 3 Muslim parents had complained.

    A school banned a Muslim girl student from wearing religious jewellery. She sued the school with the financial help from Liberty ( a human rights organisation ) and won £200,000 using Labour’s ambiguous human rights and anti-hate preaching laws.

    The French Government made the law that says all students must wear the same uniforms, banning all normal or religious head-wears and jewellery. The French schools just stick to this law and they have had no problems at all. They spend their time on educating their students.

    British headmasters just go round and round like headless chickens who just don’t know what to do.

  9. Hilde, it’s a shame that more positive attitudes cannot be adopted. There are huge benefits in mixing with other cultures. It is a learning experience for both sides. Why are the positive elements never emphasised, why is it only the down side that is pushed in our faces?

    Why can’t we learn from each other, while respecting any differences? All this tippy toeing around each other… looking for the bad side, doubting, fearing, it’s so self defeating. If you come from the place that we are individuals, not racial stereotypes, it becomes much easier.

    I totally agree with you that Labour has dumbed down this country. The ridiculous laws for political correctness, the self consciousness of everything, Gordon please will you leave now?

    Nobody believes that you knew nothing of the Damian McBride/Derek Draper fiasco. You obviously deliberately avoided the actual details, but your agenda was clear. Now you are frantically back pedalling, with your sanctimonious pious hat on again. Gordon…. nobody believes you. You are bugled. Rumbled. The British people have you sussed. It is time to go now.

  10. I am happy to be living outside Britain. I was back two weeks ago to visit my family. I do this two or three times a year. I love parts of Britain, but to get to them, I have to drive through the rest. A f***ing nightmare. The M25 and the Dartford Crossing….what a waste. The daily snarl-up to pay the toll- you sad bastards. Thousands of vehicles held up wasting fuel, and valuable time of the drivers and owner/operators of the vehicles. Boris, you scan every vehicle that comes into your zone in London to collect the charge, so why can’t they do similar at Dartford. I remember when they opened the first tunnel: the promise then was to stop the toll when the cost of the tunnel was paid for, which, of course was a lie. Since, the crossing has grown another tunnel and a f***ing bridge, and road-works are an on-going feature. Endless holdups to gain the revenue from the hapless driver, trying to get from A to B. Surely, getting rid of the tollbooths will benefit all but the greedy bastards collecting the dosh. There is also the health of the inhabitants to consider, who have to breath the air near to thousands of vehicles pumping out shit and getting nowhere,in much of a hurry. Freeing up the Dartford Crossing must make sense-dosn’t it? Maybe it’s outside of your domain. This is departure from your thread, but it’s chaps like you who can do changes for f*cked up Britain. Georgia Gould. Who is she? and who should care?

  11. Sorry to disagree with you Boris, but the time is now 2:30am and I have been sitting on this computer doing A level coursework for hours. Please never use the double dee phrase again.

  12. That the school exam system is in a pickle can hardly be denied. Whether the content is dumbed down or the exam process “easier” (course-work)for most people or the teaching everywhere better or some witches’ brew of the three, any system that gives quite so many people top marks is unlikely to be doing the job for which it was originally designed: selection. School exams are not intended as work competence tests but as indicators of knowledge and theory in a range of fields. Those showing aptitude can then move on to further study in appropriate areas. So, to that extent, Boris is right to look at reintroducing selection to all areas of education. Proper personalised learning provision that allows people to opt in and out of classes over a lifetime – not just until the age of 17 – will protect the slow-developers, the career-changers, the old in changing jobs markets, the upwardly mobile and anyone else who might have been permanently scarred by the old-style 1960s 11-plus.

    Work-specific learning happens outside school and it is true that businesses would rather not be faced with 25 year-olds who have no idea how to exist outside the classroom. The fashion for ‘work-experience’/’stages’/’internships’ as mandated by schools and colleges is, however, a mess in all countries where I have observed it. At age 14, it means the academically weak or disengaged do get a chance to see the job for which they may be headed while the rest do nothing much as the job will have changed beyond recognition by the time they get there. At age 20+, work experience/stages/internships are more complicated. Yes, it matters who you know – in every country. But that’s not just the case for high-flying business people but also for farmers and digger drivers and Indian restaurants and any other industry where it really matters that you trust the people you employ to give of their best and understand what makes the industry tick. (That’s just about everywhere?) What is wrong, in my view, is the exploitation of w-e/stagiaires/interns if and when they are doing the same work or better than those on official work contracts. It is also wrong to apply the same selection criteria to ‘experience’ people as it is to standard contracts. Rather than legislate and/or moan about parents doing as all good parents will – help their own – why not be more subtle and just encourage greater use of online social networking by all parties? That suits the technological age and is very much more open than the best-handwriting, best-notepaper, letter-on-the-desk of old. The adult who only accepts approaches from a very limited social circle will be much more obvious. Closed networks will still exist – it would be foolish to pretend otherwise – but areas that now consider themselves non-exclusive (but are) will be opened up and that will help change the overall climate.

    In everything, however, the key is that all young people should expect to have to put in some effort in both learning and employment. Responsibility and the desire for excellence may not yet be subject to double-d A* grades but they are fundamental to what is required.

  13. Even Gordon Brown now admits (and to get him to admit any error is a nassive achievement, other than that he is saviour of the world) that it was a big mistake to get rid of competitive sport in schools. Kids need the discipline and the outlet for their energy. Fitness also is key. Look at the massive obesity in this country now.

  14. Who said British headmasters just going around like headless chickens doing nothing? Shut your face! Look at our achievement so far:

    – We’ve banned that Baa Baa Black Sheep song for obvious hate preaching reasons.

    – We’ve banned old fashioned Nativity play and Christmas celebrations at schools for obvious hate preaching reasons. Instead, we now encourage our students celebrate Diwali for harmonious reasons, of course.

    – We’ve banned all sorts of headwears, all sorts of bling-blings; except Muslim headwears and Muslim religious bling-blings, for harmonious reasons, of course.

    – We insist all students must wear school-issued-uniforms only; except homemade black beddings with a built-in watch-hole for harmonious Halloween reasons and health & safety reasons, of course.

    So far so good. What else do you want?

  15. My own Dad is a classic example, the son of a docker in Jarrow he passed his 11+, went to a Grammar school then straight to an office job at 16, by the age of 40 in 1979 he was a dept manager at the London branch of a major insurance company.

    Coming from a working class family in a notoriously low income area he managed to work his way up based on his intelligence and a system that allowed him to prove his worth to potential employers regardless of the class he was born into, you would think that makes him a Labour success story but it seems the party ethic isn’t just about supporting the working class but also about keeping them there.

    If my Dad had met any of the ‘working class heroes’ in the class obsessed Labour party he would be the enemy for speaking well, earning a higher than average wage and being part of a company management team, not a success story of working class boy makes good.

    My kids however, being well above average intelligence will go through 13 years of schooling in classes of mixed intelligence, working to the lowest level in the interest of ‘fairness’ and will leave never needing to have made an effort or work hard to achieve their useless grades, somebody show me the logic in rearing a generation like that.

    This isn’t about class its about keeping the intelligent and hard working members of the public firmly in their place and powerless to alter their pre-ordained future.

  16. Kat: I would fear you are right – but I’m not sure there is enough brain power being applied to make it a deliberate mess. Education – as opposed to attending school – is just peripheral to current policy imperatives. That’s not an excuse: it’s a call to action. We need people to engage with education not as a chore but as a means to creating, envisioning, achieving real-world results.

  17. Gordon, if you wanted to ruin this country, wouldn’t it have been quicker to run us all over?

    1. Well done, Angela: you beat me to it. Looks like George O has done a good clearing of the smoke around today’s Budget.

  18. Why do Labour refuse to acknowledge the new breed of ‘Champagne Socialists’

    Can I have a go at this one? I think its pretty obvious that this is exactly what nu-labour is. They have always been a party of the sold out. Their Marxism is of a nasty Stalinist type, they want to keep the people down. That is way so much emphasis is put on attending their schools and passing their examinations and then working for one of their state approved employers. PAYE is part of this system that keeps the working man just were Labour wants them. IE right under the thumb. Well its all gone pear shaped for labour, they have run up massive debts inflating the public services after stuffing it with their cronies. There simply is no way we can continue to support so many hangers on. Boris has made a start at trimming, but of course we cannot expect to build Rome in a single day. I believe that the conservatives will bring in an era of enterprise, which will be open to everyman to exploit according to his/her ability. Rather than sending 50% of our children to university, to compete for a relativity small number of jobs. We will have to encourage our young people to equip themselves with the skills they will need to fend for themselves. We will need a very large number of enterprising people to employ themselves. The public services have enjoyed a boom time at the expense of the tax payer. Now it is crystal clear that we cannot continue to employ every psychology major somewhere in the NHS. We will have to be willing to make hard choice and set quotas on those who can study such reified and questionable subjects at university. The sad part is that we are still suffering from a skills shortage in key areas whilst we have literally thousands of people qualified in soft and relatively useless disciplines. Its time for a very big change and only the Conservative party is placed to deliver. GSTQ.

  19. Don’t all socialist states eventually become immersed in corruption and nepotism? It was all laid out for us all in George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” but I guess that’s only compulsory reading at the elitist private school I attended as a boy.

    Welcome to the fairer Britain that we’ve all been promised with a disingenuous glint in the eye for over a decade; the envious and petty-minded proletariat have got the government they deserve. Sod ’em.

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