Saturday, June 02, 2007

Nice, dim and principled

My House Points column from today's Liberal Democrat News. Details of how to subscribe to the party's weekly newspaper are here.

School choices

Until Tuesday the most remarkable thing about Graham Brady was his resemblance to Harry Enfield's Tim Nice-But-Dim. Now Brady looks nice, dim and principled after resigning over his party change of education policy.

David Willetts was right when he said that grammar schools are dominated by the middle classes. But he could have added that the same is true of the best church schools and comprehensives too. And it is true in spades of private schools.

It must have been galling for a grammar school product like Brady to be lectured on social equality by David Cameron. For Cameron's circle is dominated by Old Etonians to an extent which would have made even Harold McMillan blanch.

The growing domination of society by former public school boys is one of the dirty secrets of modern British life. As the former Tory minister George Walden has written:

In no other European country do the moneyed and professional classes - lawyers, surgeons, businessmen, accountants, diplomats, newspaper and TV editors, judges, directors, archbishops, air chief marshalls, senior academics, Tory ministers, artists, authors, top civil servants - in addition to the statistically insignificant but eye-catching cohort of aristocracy and royalty - reject the system of education used by the overwhelming majority pretty well out of hand, as an inferior product.
This is the real problem in education. What can we do about it?

It is would be impossible to ban private education under the European Convention on Human Rights. Even if it were possible, wealthy families would happily send their children abroad to be educated.

The candidates in the Labour deputy leadership have been talking about the charitable status many private schools enjoy. In many cases it is hard to see why they should , but removing it would make them even more exclusive.

So we are left with using charitable status as a lever to persuade private schools to share their facilities, in the way that Alan Johnson has been advocating. It does not sound like much of a solution.

Now both Labour and the Conservatives are putting their faith in the Academy programme as a way of making good education more widely available. But there is little evidence to support their faith.

What, I wonder, is the Liberal Democrats’ solution?

1 comment:

Bishop Hill said...

"nice, dim and principled"

A recipe for the ideal MP perhaps?