Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Lib Dem response to Ruth Kelly

Ed Davey, the Lib Dem shadow education secretary, has issued a press release on Ruth Kelly's education statement today. It begins:

The Government should focus on standards not structures.

It is what happens in the classroom, not the boardroom that makes the difference in a child's education. The Government's proposals today won't change anything, in any classroom, anywhere in the country.

Handing over admissions risks a free-for-all between schools, producing a shambles that will confuse parents, not help them.

If "standards not structures" sounds familiar, Estelle Morris will explain why. Last month, in her first outing as a columnist in the Guardian's Education section, she wrote:
Anyone remember that 1990s mantra, "standards not structures"? I do, mainly because those three words crept into almost every speech I made from about 1995 onwards. They were the headline for Labour's policy in the run-up to the 1997 general election and became the guiding light through much of the next five years.
It is sad that the Liberal Democrats can do no more than pick up a discarded Labour slogan. You could understand it if it were a particularly good one, but I am not sure that it makes much sense.

First, everyone cares about structure. If a Tory government proposed bringing back the 11 plus and grammar schools you would soon see Estelle Morris taking the greatest of interest in structure.

Second, structure does matter. If you get it wrong, standards may well suffer. An educationalist who says "standards not structures" is like a business manager who says "sales not administration". You need both, and it is silly to pretend otherwise.

Ed then goes on to say that Ruth Kelly's statement "won't change anything, in any classroom, anywhere in the country", before warning that it may produce a shambles.

Proposals that change nothing but produce a shambles? Hmm. Ed Davey is an engaging fellow, but this release strengthens the impression that the Liberal Democrats have some hard thinking to do on education.

1 comment:

James Graham (Quaequam Blog!) said...

Have to agree with you there. After all, if we are in favour of decentralisation of education and cutting targets, something which Lib Dems coming in all flavours support in one way or another, surely we are in effect calling on national government to do the exact opposite of what Davey is demanding.