16 May 2007

Grammars don’t help the poor, claim Tories

Extracts from a Daily Mail article:
The Conservatives distanced themselves further from grammar schools last night, claiming they do not help bright children from poor backgrounds. David Willetts risked infuriating traditionalists on the Tory Right by saying selection in schools widens the gap between rich and poor. ...

Last night Mr Willetts, the Tories' education spokesman, reinforced the message by claiming that a return to grammar schools would widen the gap between rich and poor. He rejected the long-held Tory view that academic selection is the best way to raise standards in schools and vowed the Tories would do more to develop Tony Blair's city academy programme than Gordon Brown.

Mr Willetts told the Confederation of British Industry yesterday: "We must break free from the belief that academic selection is any longer the way to transform the life chances of bright poor kids. "We have to recognise overwhelming evidence that such academic selection entrenches advantage, it does not spread it. A Conservative agenda for education will not be about just helping a minority of pupils escape a bad education." ...

Left-wing Labour MPs and teachers' unions have urged Mr Brown to dump city academies, which are built with private sponsorship. ... However, Mr Willetts promised to open more if the Tories returned to power. He said Mr Blair's academy model of privately-sponsored independent state schools was "a powerful route to higher standards"... In exchange for up to £2million in sponsorship, private backers from business or faith groups can set up an academy ... The Government pays school running costs and the rest of the expense of opening new buildings — typically about £25 million. (Daily Mail, 16 May 2007)

A return to grammar schools would widen the gap between rich and poor? But doesn’t he really mean the gap between above-average and below-average IQs? Grammar schools would fail to inhibit the academic success of those with above-average IQs so effectively as do the present comprehensives, which are better at preventing the difference between high and low IQs showing up in academic achievement.

Such academic selection entrenches advantage, it does not spread it.’
I.e. it does not spread it very, very thin like melted butter applied with a palette knife, so that it is no good to anybody.

The Conservative agenda will not, it is said, ‘be about helping just a minority of pupils escape a bad education’. Well, yes, those with high IQs are in a minority, quite a small minority. Fifty years ago, those classified as ‘gifted’, approximately corresponding to potential university graduates, constituted about 3% of the population. And we certainly must not allow the tiny minority with the highest IQs of all, over 150 or 160, say, to escape a bad education. They should have as bad an education as anybody else, in fact they will need to be discriminated against, to ensure (as nearly as possible) equality of outcome.

Not that I advocate grammar schools. I first became aware of the modern hostility to ability at the age of 14, when I was sent to a state grammar school and forced to remain there for a year against my will. What I advocate is, first of all, the abolition of state education altogether, and then of compulsory education.

And I advocate also that instead of encouraging private backers from business or faith groups to apply the resources which they have available for charitable giving to setting up city academies, they should devote them to helping those who have been ruined by their ‘education’ to recover from the damage done to their lives by making donations to my organisation, an incipient independent university supported by a cooperative entrepreneurial empire. [Still kept so small and insignificant by hostility that it can be misrepresented as a group of individuals who are so enthusiastic for particular preoccupations that they have freely chosen to live in poverty and constriction in order to ‘follow their interests.’]