Tuesday, May 22, 2007

One Brain?

I don't like to be a bore, but isn't there a fatal flaw in the reasoning that drove David 'Two Brains' Willets to conclude that the Tories should no longer press for more grammar schools (thereby plunging the party into an entirely predictable crisis)? He was no doubt right that these institutions aren't the engines of social mobility they once were - but this is surely a product of their scarcity and the fact that they can now recruit from far and wide. Hence they've become ferociously competitive and dominated by the aspirant classes. If there was, as Major envisaged (but did nothing about) 'a grammar school in every town', this effect would disappear. Has one of Willets' brains fallen out? Or is it just that the so-called Conservative party has fallen totally for the 'forward not back' mantra? Where does this leave us reactionaries? Grumbling on the sidelines as usual, I suppose...
Anyway, enough of that - here are the day's top stories: gay flamingos and hamsters on Viagra. That's more like it.


  1. Haven't more students passed and achieved better grades at both GCSE and A level since the abolition of the two-tier system? that's what I heard.

    Well, I went to grammar school myself and it was very over-rated. I recited amo, amas, amat when I could have been stripping down an IC engine. I know which one would have been more useful, nevermind of greater interest. State education could do with improvement but let's not go back to the educational sausage machines.

  2. is it just me or wouldn't anybody rather put up with the jet-lag?


    have you come over on long haul or are you just pleased to see me?

    penile disfunction?! no, no, frequent flyer!

  3. aren't the gay ones pink then? isn't nature confusing?

  4. I agree entirely with Brian - the only fault with grammar schools (when I attended a 2 or 3 or...God.. decades ago ) was that children with relatively high IQs were not given the chance to opt out of academic work, and ,there were some, such as Ian, who would have preferred that. Otherwise it gave many more children a chance to escape their class and to aim for and achieve higher standards. Catering for the lowest denominator, and the consequent lower expectations will never give our children the education they deserve.. Please please do not say that today's children are achieving better results and are better educated. It is such rubbish and makes me furious, as each government lies about it...(though I think Boswell was bemoaning the same thing in the 17th century) The marking system for Class work is totally and absolutely appalling and is no indication of the individual's application or potential - teachers and parents assist all the way (for some fortunates more than others)

  5. In all the debate about grammar schools one point seems to have been forgotten - Margaret Thatcher shut down more of them than any other education secretary. Why then, does everyone keep talking as if support for grammar schools is a basic conservative value? This kerfuffle has convinced me that if the Conservative win the next election we will get a re-run of the Major years.

  6. Strange times.

    I'm going to stuff envelopes for Jon Cruddas tomorrow, but I liked a Tory speech. Best expression of Labour values I've seen in years! Crosland would have been delighted!

    The argument, as I understoof it, was that there are about 15% of kids eligible for free school meals nationally. The grammars are in leafy areas - there are something like 10% free mealers in the catchment areas where there are grammar schools. The grammars themselves only admit 2% free school mealers. That means that even in the areas where the schools exist, they are not representative of the locals.

    I guess your argument, Nige, is that aspirant types would hae moved into the area with pushy kids and so the 10% FSM figure hides that the true 'pushiness' of the middle class in those areas?

    I've heard that argument before (when I was pushing for a ballot to end Kent's grammars...). but Willets explained that wasn't right - he gave some pretty fancy stuff about early years development which suggested that wasn't true.

    Don't like all this privatising education stuff though.

  7. Simon - after the Blair years, a rerun of the Major years sounds almost alluring to me. For all the kerfuffle, it was those years that laid the groundwork from which Blair and (especially) Brown have been benefiting ever since - and they now seem remarkably 'clean', compared to the corruption of public life under Blair/Campbell.

    And Macavity - I don't know how it is in other areas, but certainly my two local grammars, which used to be truly local, now recruit from far and wide, so the leafiness of the schools' setting (and boy it's leafy - we're tree worshipper down my way) hardly matters.
    I like the sound of Cruddas though.

  8. no, I would have preferred not to have gone at all. it was run with the same idiocy that suggested single sex education was better for children - so it was double disaster for me.

    it's easy to sneer at children's achievements but I actually think standards dropped just prior to their abolishment - last ditch hope of reprieve? I think what's changed today is the method of teaching, choice and attitudes. This equates to a higher average achievement record for our students compared to the 60s, 70s & 80s.

    I'm not sure opting out of academic study would have been viable - academic study was what grammar schools were about.

  9. the problem was, as I saw it, competition - you had to fight for everything. now I see education as a fundamental right for everyone to enjoy.

    but first you had to compete for a grammar school place, then you had to compete for a place in the top two streams, then a place for oxbridge... in some cases you had to compete to study a particular subject you liked. I mean, enthusiasm was no credential for learning - you had to be a certain winner! In our school I would say about 20% stood a chance of gaining entry to oxbridge, probably up to another 50% to the other top universities.

    70% is regarded as a successful academic year - give those boys the support and the school looks good on record.

    but you've got 30% effectively failing. you might think this is statistically acceptable until you realise that these students were selected as being of the brightest 11 yo. in the country. you're throwing away good minds just because you couldn't inspire them educationally in a grammar school environment. but it's a system of competition, so who cares?

    what saved my goat was that second chance often referred to as modern apprenticeship - basically learning on the job in tandem with part-time applied studies. thi is the other thing to consider when vacantly wishing back the two tier system of yesteryear - the second chance options have all but disappeared. Every job that requires an iota of brains is degree qualification entry now. It works because more comprehensively educated students are going through to university and entering work with qualifications in their hands. I don't think you can tinker with one part of the system and pray it'll still work all right.