Monday, 25 June 2007

Think-tank calls for more grammar schools

More grammar schools and low-cost private schools are needed to raise the "dire" standards of the education system, a report by one of the most respected economic think-tanks says today.

Millions of people cannot read, write or count and millions more can barely do so because of the "socialist" state-directed system and comprehensive education, the Economic Research Council says.

Better off parents have escaped the worst aspects of comprehensive education by paying private fees, buying tuition or moving home to be close to the best schools, says the report. It is families on the lowest incomes that have suffered from the progressive theories and dumbing down of standards.


Prof Dennis O'Keeffe, the report's author, says leading Tories who claim grammar schools no longer offer a ladder of opportunity for poor, bright children fail to understand the importance of selection.

"Unlike David Cameron's parents who sent him to Eton, certain members of the modern Conservative Party appear not to understand the dramatically effective way competitive education encourages, identifies and rewards talent and consequently increases social mobility," he says.

"Comprehensive schools with soft and easy access for all have not served the community well. They have served only to eradicate upward mobility, and done so, perversely, in the name of eradicating privilege," adds Prof O'Keeffe, the professor of social science at Buckingham University.

Of course, all this flies in the face of the policies of the Tory Party, which has become virulently anti-grammar school under David Cameron. Cameron's policy of playing exclusively to the liberal-left gallery, while ignoring the views of the majority of the public, seems to be beginning to fail, however, with the Tories 3% behind Labour in the latest opinion poll. Of course, this is only one opinion poll, but for the Tories to be behind at this point, ten years into a Labour government, does suggest that Cameron's policy isn't really working. Perhaps if he were to come out and advocate policies which actually resonate with the public, then he might do rather better. Given that grammar schools are not only an area of particular importance to traditional Tory voters, but are actually supported by an overwhelming majority of people across the country, he might like to consider whether he would be doing better had he pledged to build more, rather than attacking the few we still have.

To be fair, Labour are no better on education (or, indeed, on anything else). Today, in a spectacular display of joined-up thinking, one Schools Minister, Lord Adonis,
pledged that by 2020 80% of schoolchildren would get five good GCSE qualifications, while another Schools Minister, Jim Knight, announced that schools would have to make efficiency savings in line with planned cuts (in real terms) in funding levels. Now, it is of course the case that the solution to the problems of the education system is not to simply throw money at it, but it is still rather inconsistent to, on the one hand, call for an increase in standards, and, on the other, reduce the funds going to the schools which are supposed to be the motor driving that increase.


Anonymous said...

"Millions cannot read, write or count....millions more can barely do so."

Millions....? Might that be a bit of an exaaggeration or are we talking non English speakers here?

Fulham Reactionary said...

The figures for functional illiteracy in the UK are astonishing:

"Some 7 million adults in England - one in five adults - if given the alphabetical index to the Yellow Pages, cannot locate the page reference for plumbers. That is an example of functional illiteracy. It means that one in five adults has less literacy than is expected of an 11-year-old child."

And 1 in 16 adults (around 2 million people) can't read a simple poster so as to derive from it the key information that it is intended to convey.


Anonymous said...

I will admit to taking longer to understand a simple poster because of having to plough through several languages in order to find one that makes sense to me.