I went to 2 State Comprehensives in late 1970's and early 1980's , one in Birmingham, the other in Hertfordshire and I got a good education, like many of my classmates. Granted both were good comprehensives which at one of which had previously been a Grammar School. Because my grades were good I got to go the the Top end Comprehensive near to my home, whilst my brother had the misfortune to go the ex-Secondary Modern School further away which wasn't as good. I have lived in Buckinghamshire since with it's eleven plus test and seem the panic in parents to get their child into a grammar school and the life impact of the Secondary Modern. I am not ashamed to say that I believe in Comprehensive Education and that wealth had no right to purchase the best education, which should be a right of all. When the time came for my own children, I decided to move to Yorkshire rather than to subscribe to a Grammar School system which operates in Buckinghamshire.
In the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition we have an Education Secretary Michael Gove who left a Comprehensive School to get into a Public School on a Scholarship and is fast tracking the Academy System across the country. I am not idealogically opposed to Academies as such but would oppose a system which recreates Grammar Schools and Secondary Modern Schools again. I am not opposed to Grammar Schools in principle having attended an ex-Grammar School. But I am opposed to Secondary Modern Schools and the pressure to decide life outcomes at age 11.
What of the Government - of the 22 Cabinet Ministers 55% are Public School boys (and Girls), led by the first Etonian Prime Minster David Cameron, since Alec Douglas Home (aka Lord Home) in 1963.
Public Schoolboys (10)
David Cameron (PM) Eton
Nick Clegg* (DPM) Westminster
George Osborne (Chancellor) St Pauls
Andrew Lansley (Health) Brentwood
Michael Gove (Education) Robert Gordon's
Andrew Mitchell (Int Dev) Rugby
Owen Patterson (N Ireland) Abberley Hall
Michael Moore* (Scotland) Strathallan Sch
Jeremy Hunt (Culture) Charterhouse
Lord Strathclyde (Lancaster) Wellington
Public School Girls (2)
Caroline Spelman (Environment) Essex/Herts HS
Cheryl Gillan (Wales) Cheltenham Ladies Coll
Grammar School Boys (6)
William Hague (Foreign) Wath upon Dearn GS
Ken Clarke (Justice) Nottingham HS (Grammar)
Philip Hammond (Defence) Shenfield School
Vince Cable* (Business) Nunfield GS
Ed Davey* (EnergyCC) Nottingham HS (Grammar)
Eric Pickles (Local Gvt) Greenhead GS
Grammar School Girl
Theresa May (Home) Holton Park Grammar
Secondary Modern Boy
Iain Duncan Smith (Work Pens) St Peters RC Secondary
Comprehensive State School
Justine Greening (Transport) Oakwood Comprehensive
Danny Alexander* (Treasury) Lochaber High School
Baroness Warsi (No Portfolio) Birkdale High School
It's interesting to note that only the Junior Cabinet Ministers such as Justine Greening, Danny Alexander and Baroness Warsi are from Comprehensives , and moreover Baroness Warsi's School Birkdale High School is reported as due for closure, which is something I can see happening to Cameron's school - Eton any day soon - (more's the pity.)
So not only is this Coalition , a cabinet of millionaries with people like George Osborne having a reported fortune of £4 million but it is a Cabinet of Public School Boys.(10 our of 22)
Will Greening, Alexander and Warsi speak up for benefits of Comprehensive Education - I doubt it.
The Majority of the Conservative Party in the Commons is privately educated and has 166 Public School members (54%), as against 36 Labour (14%) and 22 Liberal Democrat (39%)
Comprehensive Education is not a panacea for schools, good resourcing (average state funding per pupil is still 60% that of Public School) good teaching, a learning environment (free of stress, bullying and racism) and parental support are key elements for success.
5 Things to improve matters would be:
- Make it easier to sack Head Teachers (They are virtually unsackable)
- Abolish OFSTED - it costs a £200m terrorises teachers, and doesn't improve standards only creates a culture of failure in schools which need support.Much better a covert system which quietly routes out the bad teachers (and yes there are some) and monitors improvements without labelling schools.
- End Tax breaks for Public Schools.
- Abolish school SATS tests and let children enjoy their education - I enjoyed a test free (sadly not homework free) schooling until aged 14.
- Focus on re-establishing a good learning environment (monitoring and lowering stress in children) by a zero tolerance for bullying & racism.