Friday, August 20, 2010


It's that time of year when we see what a mess successive governments have made of our education system. The only reason there is such competition for university places is because necessary qualifications are being given away.

Last year I remember seeing a lad who had got four top grades at 'A' Level. After his exams he had gone to India for a few months helping in a school in his father's birthplace. They were still doing the internationally recognised GCEs rather than GCSEs. He was amazed at the difference in standards and admitted that he would have struggled to even pass his exams if he had taken them in India, let alone get top grades. That said it all really.

Years ago, when they got rid of selective education, the politicians laid the foundation for today's educational mess. I've never yet been convinced by a supporter of comprehensivre education that it is good or successful, it is based on the most small minded and spiteful class warfare of socialism. 'We are all equal, we are all the same and we will impose that belief when educating the young' sums up comprehensive education.

I went to grammar school, my wife went to a comprehensive. I was given a good start, my wife has got on in life despite her education. I was fortunate being a Catholic in that our schools in Manchester became comprehensive years after the others and we still had the 11+ untl 1976. There was a great social mix at my grammar school, probably as near representative of the populace at large as you could find. At my wife's comprehensive they were virtually all kids from the surrounding council estate with a high level of unemployed parents and an atmosphere of failure and despair.

At my wife's comprehensive only a handful of children went into the sixth form. At my grammar only a handful didn't go on to sixth form and only a handful didn't go on to higher education. Having said that those few places were filled by lads from secondary moderns who had achieved academically at 'O' Level despite having failed their 11+. The system didn't confine 11+ failures to the bin, it nurtured them in a way that suited their particular talents. I know plenty of lads who failed the 11+ but went on to develop hugely successful businesses or developed academically later in life and then went on to university or college as mature students.

What we now see is university being 'comprehensivised'. Even our radical coalition government wants to stop so many people from 'better backgrounds' getting into unversity to make places free for people from 'poorer backgrounds'. Why not just have them selected on merit, whatever the social make-up that produces?

What comprehensive education has done is ensured that the middle clsses have a better chance than those in poorer areas. On sink estates the parents don't care, the councillors are often ill educated and don't care which is why so many parents are desperate to move to 'better' areas so that their kids have the chance of a decent education.

What next? Manchester United forced to take kids into their academy who can barely kick a ball in the interests of fairness? The Halle Orchestra having to take me on as a saxophonist to prove they are not elitist? No, that's stupid. So why do it in education?

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