Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Blair and Adonis are taking our schools back to the 30s

The biggest irony of Blair's attempts to return to selection to the state education system is that a fair test of aptitude will reject many children of the middle classes whose votes are so prized by New Labour. Simon Jenkins points out:

Whoever runs a school, there are only two equitable ways of admitting pupils to it. One is central to the comprehensive principle, that entry be open to all in the local community as determined by catchment area, warts and all. The task of the state is to make that school as good as can be. The other way sees children admitted to school on some other criterion. In that case the admission must be seen as fair, especially if so critical a decision is to be made at the tender age of 11. There is only one such fairness, a universal examination sat by all. The fairest was the 11-plus. Those who cannot bear catchment areas have no alternative.

The horrified middle class parents of "failures" of the 1940s and 1950s first forced the 11-plus to become a test of middle-classness (e.g. previous education and social connections). When that still led some of their children to be labelled as duds, they demanded that the test be dropped.

The UK education system is ever thus. Don Foster MP made the following telling comment on previous education reforms:

On a more general note, after looking at the code of practice overall and at the way in which it is packaged, one wonders whether the Government have not gone out of their way to try to produce a policy deliberately designed to maintain the English class structure and to protect the interests of upwardly mobile white middle-class parents.

Just for clarity, I think any system that labels 70% of children as failures at the age of 11 is morally repellent.

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