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Social mobility.

Eddie Mair | 16:55 UK time, Tuesday, 21 July 2009

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In the programme tonight we hear from the barrister Constance Briscoe, talking about Alan Milburn's report on social mobility.

You can read the report here, its summary is here and the BBC News coverage is here.

Comments

  • 1. At 5:09pm on 21 Jul 2009, thtone wrote:

    So what happened to state education?

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  • 2. At 5:13pm on 21 Jul 2009, paulaatrustymonkey wrote:

    I think that the social inequality argument is always used to deliver more controls over people who live on low incomes, more taxes, more intervention.

    This report appears to me to be within a social context where the legal system is being moved out of the ambit of lawyers who, becuase their fees have been capped by this process, have parasiticised a living out of the dna labelled and excluded in their 'buy to let empires' of ex council houses, the NHS which is now just a lobby for big pharma to access the poor, the vulnerable as research guinea pigs and small start up companies providing personalised medicine for the professional middle classes who can't conceive and who can pay for their flu jabs, police services who linked themselves up with smart water, tagging and security companies to protect the homes and property of the wealthy who felt they had the right to demand an instant response at the expense of the rest of the neighbourhoods, where it's now acceptable for police to 'know' of issues, individuals, of 'crimes' for many years but not act on them in any way that might enable restitution or inclusion, schools who with the consultants and companies who inspect the lives of everyone through the Criminal Records System, now having 'won' the right to 'groom' the children of the very poor for a better life where they will be embarrassed by their homelife and 'anti-social' parents....and this is where the problem lies.

    We have a real issue and it really is the class system, compounded by the norm of nepotism in our everyday working lives where the child of a cricket player, for example will be invited into an inner city project run by a quango blinded by the 'celebrity' of the parents, to work on the inner city project for his or her work experience but that noone will even think it's possible that the same courtesy and succesful outcome be extended to a child of the same age and the same ability from a poorer backgorund or an ethnic background be 'shown the way' to enjoying the world with such 'straightforward' grace.

    We live in a wonderful world with many brilliant possibilites, it's just that these possibilities are being used against the poor as if they are an enemy.

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  • 3. At 5:26pm on 21 Jul 2009, David_McNickle wrote:

    Shoulda used the photo of John Cleese and the two ronnies.

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  • 4. At 5:41pm on 21 Jul 2009, Looternite wrote:

    The last time we had a government to do anything meaningful about social mobility and that was Saint Harold Wilson's were we had the white heat of the technological revolution. This meant that many of us who had a second class secondary modern school education were able to get apprenticeships and get our qualifications from the local FE college. Also the establishment of comprehensive schools, these would have been better if they were not undermined by the penny pinching tory run councils. The obsession is always lowest taxes and under the tories schools are squeezed. Why, well because they send their kids to public schools. It is a disgrace that we accept the levels of under achievement of the working classes. All we ever hear about is the ethnic minorty kids not doing well, however we have been complacent about under achieving for generations of the native working class. It is a disgrace and it is time it stopped.

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  • 5. At 5:41pm on 21 Jul 2009, arrowflyte wrote:

    The UK has one of the worst records in the West for social mobility, mental illness, teenage pregnancies, prison populations, drug abuse ................etc.

    Why? Because income inequality in the UK is growing. If don't believe me, just read "The Spirit Level" by Richard Wilkinson.

    It's high time broadcasters and politicians wake up to the true facts about this country.

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  • 6. At 5:44pm on 21 Jul 2009, watriler wrote:

    Milburn's suggestion may make a marginal difference but I say for an understanding of the problems you need to start with primary education which is a mess and grossly under resourced particularly in the inner city and urban areas. The resourcing issue is manifest in the increasing use of unqualified TA's to fill in where qualified supply or temporary teachers used to be. In addition both teachers and headteachers seem to have to undertake a wide range of administrative, clerical and organisation duties that add no value to the child's education. Furthermore there are more and more pupil casualties of the broken society requiring mental health treatment and support.

    The reducing availability of employment continuity and family breakdown militate against equal opportunities for what use to be called working class children. Career advisors with sharp elbows will have little impact.

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  • 7. At 5:45pm on 21 Jul 2009, H wrote:

    The way out of a life of limited opportunity is now, as it has always been, hard work and selection.

    In education that selection has traditionally taken place at 11 +. The 11+ examination was correctly referred to as the "ladder of opportunity" for those with limited resources.

    In striving for an unattainable competition-free education system, the powers-that-be have overlooked two matters.

    1) Life is a competitive process. You can deny it if you like, but the process will take no notice - and continue to be competitive.

    2) Selection takes place anyway, by wealth and inherent privilege. Did Princes William and Harry go to their neighbourhood Westminster comprehensive? Did Tony Blair's children?

    What is the answer? It is to reconstitute the modern equivalent of the County Grammar School, with provision of the fullest range of facilities; specialist teaching, sporting facilities, music, art and drama facilities. And selection.

    And with two important differences.
    Reconstituted grammar schools would be required to open their privileged facilities to those pupils who missed out on selection. Those facilities would be open to those who earn it; those who show ability, and certain norms of respect and behaviour.

    Private schools who want to retain charitable status would be required to adhere to that requirement of access as well.

    The aim is to ensure that grammar schools and the best private schools are on a par.

    Remove the pretence of non-competition - no-one believes life works that way, and "get real".

    Restore the ladders of opportunity - and everyone will benefit.

    And, of course, all school level education should be provided with finance and vigorous management.

    Manageable is beautiful in education, and manageable means not too big, like grammar school size for example. That does not mean manageable is financially beautiful, but 'so what?'. This matter is far more important than the fantasy of Trident, or the lunacy of intervention in supposedly sovereign states.

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  • 8. At 5:50pm on 21 Jul 2009, Jonathan Morse wrote:

    Your cynical Judge thinks that this is cynical timing, but mentions recent changes presumably by this government on how QC's are made which are no longer selected based on who you know.

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  • 9. At 5:53pm on 21 Jul 2009, Jonathan Morse wrote:

    Today earlier R4 did a show on Barrister's chambers, where it was said that there's going to be a new way of opening up the law in 2012, maybe this will provide the opportunity for ordinary people to get into the law, if it takes away the tools the existing lawyers use to keep their kind in power.

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  • 10. At 5:54pm on 21 Jul 2009, somerset55 wrote:

    Assisted places, abolished by this Government, used to allow for social mobility.

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  • 11. At 5:58pm on 21 Jul 2009, paulaatrustymonkey wrote:

    Ordinary people getting into the law...? What this really means is that all the students from average or below average social backgrounds can be utilised to provide law centre advice which will enable well networked solicitors to earn quite a lot of money...but access to the legal profession or to the law for ordinary people?

    Puff!! The cloud of smoke you see is the reminder of how treasonable it's always been to beieve the law is founded on the anvil of the ordinary person's experience of life.

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  • 12. At 5:58pm on 21 Jul 2009, funnyJoedunn wrote:

    What sticks in my gullit is, you get people like Harriet Harman, minister for equality, and those other hangers on spouting on about how we have become more unequal, and how we need more representation from the lower orders.

    Then, they go and send their kids to private education that perpetuates the social prejudice and widens the divide. How can they speak as if their own actions don't matter and that we don't see their hypocrisy?

    We deserve them if we allow them such crass abuse of our intelligence.

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  • 13. At 5:59pm on 21 Jul 2009, unwelcomeincomer wrote:

    To hyperboloid: I live in Buckinghamshire - a county which still has a Grammar school system. I have seen it as a pupil, a teacher and now as a parent. Having talked with working class Grammar school kids who were educated in - say - the 50s and 60s, I can see that things have changed a lot since those times, when a clever working class kid could justifiably see it as a way forward.

    Now, believe me: this is a system which hugely fosters class difference, which reinforces it. Most middle class parents in Bucks pay their child's way into grammar school by paying for 11+ tuition at £20 an hour. Middle class kids are massively more likely to 'pass' the 11+.

    And once kids are in grammar school (and here, perhaps, things have changed little), grammar schools teach more than the official curriculum - they teach children how to be middle class. Anecdotally, I can say the working class (and interestingly the non-white) kids I taught were disproportionately unhappy.

    My partner and I have talked many times about moving into a comprehensive area before my kids reach 11 - this is a nasty little system; it will solve nothing.

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  • 14. At 5:59pm on 21 Jul 2009, rajahb wrote:

    I know a QC and judge from a working class background and I wonder whether Constance Briscoe's problems are largely in her own head.

    Obviously to become a judge you first need to be a barrister and there are few of those from a working class background but once a barrister it is up to your performance in court to impress judges sufficiently to receive a reference. If she cannot obtain a reference based on her performance in court one has to question how good she is!

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  • 15. At 5:59pm on 21 Jul 2009, vinnyroe wrote:

    I have little sympathy for your Lady Judge and her so-called "Lewer clahss beckgrind". Sounds to me like she's doing just fine - a successful judge and author. Perhaps she has trouble making contacts in her job because of the enormous chip on her shoulder; enough to make anyone shy away from her.

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  • 16. At 6:00pm on 21 Jul 2009, Jonathan Morse wrote:

    I'm not a fan of Gordon Brown and the way he's ruined Labour's standing but I'm not so sure he is being cynical with this report. He has a tendency to call for a report for everything, normally I assume he's kicking the problem into the long grass but maybe it's good politics to have a report prior to dealing with problems in general, it means the thinking has already been done, you can argue it's points, it may encourage the report authors to support consequent policies, and he didn't do a report on solutions to MP's expenses and look what a mess that's been. He may also have promised this report as part of his way of securing office, it started shortly after he became PM.

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  • 17. At 6:10pm on 21 Jul 2009, Jonathan Morse wrote:

    The Harry Potter actress Emma Watson is going to university in America because there they do general degrees not subject specific degrees. I've not been to America but as I understand it you choose your classes and you 'major' in a subject you choose later, whereas in UK universities you choose your subject and you're given the classes you attend accordingly.

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  • 18. At 6:14pm on 21 Jul 2009, ybborb wrote:

    I hate to put a dampner on this politically fuelled debate but my own experience may be of some interest. I grew up in a two up, two down (literally) house in a Lancashire cotton town. My parents were working class. I passed the 11 plus and was awarded a place in the local grammar school. As a result of that opportunity I got to university and ended up with a good professional career in industry. - - - So far so good.
    In the part of Cheshire in which I live, the grammar schools were abolished some years before my own three children reached the age of 11. As a result they were educated at the local comprehensive school. Like all responsible parents I took an interest in the education that they got and as a result ended up envious. The education (in all its forms) that they received was infinately better than anything that I got in a grammar school. All three of my children are doing well (one IT specialist, One hospital doctor, consultant from September, and one physiotherapist). I conclude that it is not what you call a school but how well run it is.
    My own children's school had a number of advantages over my grammar school owing to its size. Firstly it was co-ed and so was twice the size for starters. Add to that it was "for all" and so was even bigger. This meant that the range of subject combinations it was able to put on were far more wide rangeing than my limited number grammar school. It also had a far wider range of fringe activities that I had available to me.
    The current debate about social mobility misses the point I think. Re-introducing grammar schools is a red herring. There are social mobility opportunities (for all) in the current system if parents and there children want them. It is time I think to bring some logical discussion to this debate rather than smear it with political dogma.

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  • 19. At 6:15pm on 21 Jul 2009, steelpulse wrote:

    Thought of the Moment:

    Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest. -Mark Twain, U.S. Author (1835-1910)

    No Mark. No! I hear the yawns of disinterest from here!

    A batting innings that has taken more than three years and is still ongoing.

    Enough words to fill several volumes. Social Immobility.

    I have been sorting out papers from my other life (kept in the attic - which seems to me apt - with the other toys) and the dates make me sigh a lot. 2006 - earlier months of that year. 1988 before that and listening to Judge Briscoe I can understand the difficulties encountered by someone in that rarified atomosphere. Judge Briscoe? Respect.

    But I echo her query about Mr Milburn's effort. "Why now?"

    And why should I - who has only ever been on Jury Service and once as a witness for a licence request - have to learn what words like "recusal" mean? I have educated myself somewhat and life is good enough but when it is limited - without explanation - then having learned minds put towards the problem seems like mere "lip service" - to delay something further.

    Oh those papers were on that boring family tree I was researching. Nowt to see here - move along now!

    Subject: Not very often social mobility - dire media - will you miss scarlet
    Anagram: Molly Id - semi cad bio I irate - Tort fen envoy I Mollys wit recusals

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  • 20. At 6:16pm on 21 Jul 2009, Jonathan Morse wrote:

    Grammer schools didn't automatically push people up the system, they were a cheap way for connected parents to educate their kids and if there was a surplus of jobs, once those that would be allocated based on who knows who have been allocated the rest were given to Grammer School kids as they would have had a similiar, not necessarily better education.

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  • 21. At 6:18pm on 21 Jul 2009, literarysquirrel wrote:

    One of the most difficult areas in which to succeed is in publishing and the media. I don't think people generally realise that if you don't employ the services of a publicist, which involves paying a big fee and knowing the right influential people, there's no way you'll get interviewed about your work on programmes like Woman's Hour or PM. Also, if you make a stand against the publishing industry in any way, it being very incestuous as editors move from firm to firm, you will find it almost impossible to get your work published again because it is very much a closed shop. Surely this is worse than having a struggle to get to the top of your profession, because at least there, you have a chance, by reaching standards of excellence, to make your way through on your merits. With the media, which after all conditions so much of what we hear and from which many people form their opinions, most people don't realise how very difficult it is to get through the glass door without knowing the right people or greasing the right palms. The media holds by far the greatest power today.

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  • 22. At 6:19pm on 21 Jul 2009, oxforduniprole wrote:

    The barriers to social mobility start at the top, with Oxford and Cambridge. They lack quality standards, because of the collegiate structure and tutorial system. Wealthier, better connected students are able to appropriate the best tutors, the best facilities. Even if less privileged students are allowed in, they are often not made welcome. Oxford and Cambridge Universities need state school students to justify their vast state subsidies, but many of the authorities are uncomfortable with them, and have the attitude that it doesn't really matter if the proletarian types underachieve.

    It would be interesting to see an analysis of the differential benefit gained from attending Oxford and Cambridge, by state school and private school students. Major company chief executives and finance directors, if they are Oxbridge, are predominantly from wealthy, private school backgrounds, as are judges and other senior members of the professions. For somebody from a working class background, an Oxford or Cambridge degree can be frustratingly disadvantageous.

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  • 23. At 6:26pm on 21 Jul 2009, funnyJoedunn wrote:

    (15)

    No, what you don't understand and can't see is that you have experienced an interview with someone who dosen't recognise what kicking the ladder away once they have gone up it means.

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  • 24. At 6:28pm on 21 Jul 2009, funnyJoedunn wrote:

    (15)

    Oh and PS, I didn't hear her asking for any kind of sympathy!

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  • 25. At 6:41pm on 21 Jul 2009, Big Sister wrote:

    Joe (12): Just for the record, Ms Harman's children were all state educated and she has particularly strong views on that particular issue.

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  • 26. At 6:50pm on 21 Jul 2009, Charlie wrote:

    "C. J." aka John Barron, can that really be you in the Bowler?

    Anyway I, like you, "...didn't get where I am today by..."

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  • 27. At 6:59pm on 21 Jul 2009, U14056677 wrote:

    25

    Just for the record:

    Choice of school

    She was involved in a media controversy when she sent her eldest son, Harry, to a Catholic grant-maintained school[56] the London Oratory School in 1993, on the grounds that her family were Catholic but then sent her younger son Joseph to the non-Catholic St Olave's Grammar School, Orpington in 1995.[57] Harry was head boy of the Oratory School from 2000-1. Labour policy opposed these forms of education[citation needed] Labour abolished them in 1998 but she retained office with the support of the Labour leader, Tony Blair.


    Harriet Harman's Wikpedia entry.

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  • 28. At 7:04pm on 21 Jul 2009, Big Sister wrote:

    Ms Harman speaks for herself here:

    2nd April 2007

    Dear xxxxx,

    I am pleased to have the opportunity to set the record straight and assure you that none of my children went to private school.

    I would like to answer the following questions:

    *"Did you send your children to private schools?"

    No, none of my children went to private schools at any time during their education

    *"Do your support comprehensive education?"

    Yes, I do support comprehensive education and think it is an essential part of Labour's mission to ensure that there is a good school in every area.

    *"Do you believe that the opportunities of the young should be based on parental income?"

    No, I do not and I believe it is the most basic duty of government to ensure opportunities for every child and to tackle inequality.

    Our local school was failing badly (it subsequently had to be closed and a new school re-opened on the site), so I searched for the best schools in the state system that I could find for them. One of my children went to a state grammar school (there was no interview and they did not know who the parents were). This was under the Tory government 11 years ago.

    The local school in my area has, under the Labour government and the Labour Council, now been transformed. The new Charter School offers children in this area a good comprehensive education. But it is regrettable that still not all schools have been turned around. Most parents, like me, would prefer the local school - but not if it is failing. It's our task to ensure that they can choose to go to the local school or further afield if they want. But that should be choice, not the necessity to avoid a failing school.

    I'm not surprised you asked if I sent my children to private school. That is what the newspapers led people to believe. There was such a row about my school choice at the time that I felt that to correct it would only make the story run on further.

    Thank you for raising this issue. I hope it has clarified my position and that it wont affect your decision in the upcoming Deputy Leadership race.

    Best wishes,

    Harriet Harman QC MP

    Source: http://209.85.229.132/search?q=cache:xBVgykMFeVEJ:www.harrietharman.org/harriet_school_choice_letter+Harriet+Harman%27s+children+%2B+state+education&cd=8&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk

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  • 29. At 7:04pm on 21 Jul 2009, funnyJoedunn wrote:

    Big sis,(25)

    I stand corrected...Thank you.

    Retired (27) Thank you for coming to my aid. This is where I got confused but you have explained it.

    Didn't Blair do a similar thing to Harman with one of his?

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  • 30. At 7:05pm on 21 Jul 2009, Big Sister wrote:

    Sorry, this is the link:

    http://www.harrietharman.org/harriet_school_choice_letter

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  • 31. At 7:08pm on 21 Jul 2009, H wrote:

    Yes, unwelcomeincomer @13 social mobility means that you leave one stratum of society and join another, just as an athlete moves from regional to national to Olympic levels; that's life, too. But you are quite right to remind me that the experience of Grammar School was itself variable from school to school. I can only speak of the schools in Middlesex prior to 1960, which were incidentally, co-ed. ybbob @18, "There are social mobility opportunities (for all) in the current system if parents and their children want them". What you are saying is that social mobility is available if the parents are already socially mobile. You were very lucky to be in the catchment area for a big comprehensive that is truly successful.

    The underlying stance is "know your place". Do the privileged classes buy further privilege for their offspring, or do they not? If there is privilege going, I want it for my kids. That is a family need. At the level of a citizen, of course I will ask that my taxes are used to minimise social inequality - in theory. Various theories have been tried. But all the do-gooding in the world is predicated on "know your place".

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  • 32. At 7:08pm on 21 Jul 2009, rainbow2zy wrote:


    In local government the distinction between lower grades and higher grades was supposed to be abolished an agreement termed Single Status. A lot of the opposition emanated from metropolitan Labour Councils.
    So if the government is serious on equality in local government and education why did they oppose single status?


    All local government employees are now covered with the obvious exception of agency workers) under the Single Status equality of conditions agreement. How are children to value education if their parents are working in environments where education it is regarded by management for them as unnecessary?
    There should palatable evidence that the BBC will be able to present of the equality revolution in local government.

    Surely it would be better to remove the restrictions on workers on local grades to advance themselves through education. In general in local government it would be assumed there are budgets for training and education for lower grades in local government. Do these lower grade workers have control of these education budgets?

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  • 33. At 7:09pm on 21 Jul 2009, johnrist6988 wrote:

    I have had the pleasure of meeting Miss Briscoe and seeing her in action. I can say that with 20 odd years experience in dealing with the legal profession never have I seen such a more "grounded" barrister. There is no chip on her shoulder. She is a fighter for what is right and that is a breath of fresh air in the legal profession.Yes she has done well in her career only from sheer hard work and sticking to her principles.We could do with more like her.She came through the hard knocks in her life and got where she is without the aid of any silver spoons.My contact with her restored my faith in the legal system that there were actually lawyers at the highest level that had integrity and would fight for what was right not just for what they were paid for.

    Rest assured we will see more of her and the sooner the better

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  • 34. At 7:18pm on 21 Jul 2009, fitieskid wrote:

    It's already been said but it's worth repeating. The report points up the fact that social mobility has decreased since the Fifties and early Sixties. I wonder if the abolition of the majority of grammar schools in the mid Sixties had anything to do with it? The biggest con trick ever perpetrated on the working class by a combination of the parents of middle class kids who couldn't get into grammar school and the teaching profession who detest testing of any kind as it reflects on their ability and, as a result, their pay packet.
    I could say, if I were cynical enough, that the whole thing is another long-term political strategy by the Socialists to ensure that their vote holds up in the years to come. They propose that kids should go to the local primary school, then to the local comprehensive and now to the local University. How is that going to increase social mobility? Answer, it isn't. But it will ensure that the working class stay in "ghettos" which will be staunchly Labour-voting. Of course, nobody could be that mistrustful of politicians. Personally I am Tony Blair's dream constituent because, as he wanted, I have abandoned all scepticism and believe everything the Government tells me. I do think, however, that the problem of education does not lie in a vain re-running of the class war but in politicians who, on assuming power, abandon all pretence of trying to change the country for the better and concentrate instead on keeping themselves in office (and in a job). Nothing to do with fiddling expenses more a complete failure to be of any public service at all.
    But then, what do I know. I'm just a grammar school boy.

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  • 35. At 7:25pm on 21 Jul 2009, funnyJoedunn wrote:

    Big sis (30) Don't take this the wrong way...

    But isn't this like saying, yes, I support it but not in my back yard?

    "Mrs Harman do you support comprehensive schools?" "Yes"

    But the fact that I sent one of mind to a grammar happens to just be coincidence? It was the best I could find. Well of course it would be...there the best funded with the better teachers.

    Tell me what is the difference between this and a very rich person sending his offspring to say...Rugby or Eaton...simply because it was the best he could find. Isn't it all about gaining advantage over others? There are those who have purposely sent their children to the local school thinking this is the moral and right thing to do for the greater good and to gain a sense of local community. But then I guess this kind of moral thinking would be put down to mere personal choice to Harman and the like. Anyway, its no secret the labour government perpetuate class and social divide through education. As do all the main parties. And probably most of the minor ones too.

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  • 36. At 7:27pm on 21 Jul 2009, John_from_Hendon wrote:

    Isn't decreased social mobility just a reflection of a more unequal society?

    There has been a substantial widening of financial inequality since the 1960/1970's hasn't there?

    The cause of this may have been the directly desired result of the changes made to the nature of job security etc. by Mrs Thatcher's regime, perhaps!

    The toffs were successful in tilting the table in their favour! They even managed to stop the Labour Party from be a party of the left and created a second conservative party so that the electorate could have change without lessening their position of power and influence.

    Toffs 1 People 0 - but the game isn't over is it!

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  • 37. At 7:30pm on 21 Jul 2009, alphabramble wrote:

    I am a working class woman on a low wage, a single parent with a 25 year old son who qualified as a barrister last year. I have chosen to make sacrifices to support and promote my sons education, as he has taken out loans to complete his education so far and worked extremely hard. There are no lawyers in my family but there is a tradition of encouraging education.
    I have listened and watched with great interest to radio and tv programmes on the legal system and equality of opportunity, as of course has my son, and we have debated the issues etc.
    My son has recieved three pupillage interviews so far, and has not yet secured a place at chambers but has had favourable feedback and words of encouragement.
    It was very heartening to listen to Constance Briscoes comments, and I absolutely agree that it is extremely difficult for working class people to enter the legal profession without the benefit of contacts. It is obviously a hurdle that working class people need to fight against and I am delighted and inspired by her example.

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  • 38. At 7:43pm on 21 Jul 2009, Big Sister wrote:

    35: Joe, I don't take it the wrong way at all, and I suspect Ms Harman would understand your points, too. Also, and thinking back to The Street last night, I wonder how many people live in an area where such an option would be possible. But, like that mother, and like my own mother, I also can see that there will always be the drive to try to do the best for your own child, and when you're also bound by socialist convictions, I guess that does produce something of a dilemma.

    I'm only musing here - I'm not in Ms Harman's skin, just trying to see another person's point of view.

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  • 39. At 7:43pm on 21 Jul 2009, U14056677 wrote:

    We only need to agree about it and we can organise it

    Those who's inter-generational turn it is, let it be their turn.


    'Researchers spent six weeks investigating the veteran interviewer's roots but failed to unearth anything of interest among the miners, labourers and domestic staff that make up Parky's antecedents.'

    Parky's creds for the job seem ok.



    "We lived for three months in a paper bag in a septic tank. We used to have to get up at six in the morning, clean the paper bag, eat a crust of stale bread, go to work down t' mill, fourteen hours a day, week-in week-out, for sixpence a week, and when we got home our Dad would thrash us to sleep wi' his belt."

    That's the job of Footlights comedians. To make the real complaints of real hardship of millions of families sound like whinging.




    In genteel poverty I include all those artists, poets, academics etc who come from generations of such twicers but who still didn't make it themselves. They are like minor royals or aristocracy.
    If they don't have a Parky ancestry, then they know who they are.


    Why isn't every University course and tutorial, both live and recorded on internet?

    Actually, I give up.

    You lot know what's right, those of you carguing everything from unique motivation, unique ability and other counterfeit claims, that you, your ancestors and your future generations have a sort of divine right to avoid factory benches, being 'miners, labourers and domestic staff' whether rich now or 'poor'.

    Good night.

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  • 40. At 7:55pm on 21 Jul 2009, funnyJoedunn wrote:

    Sweet dreams thinker...

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  • 41. At 8:02pm on 21 Jul 2009, Gillianian wrote:

    Thinker - what sort of factory bench do you work at?

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  • 42. At 8:06pm on 21 Jul 2009, studiomeic wrote:

    This is probably going to be an unpopular point of view but it strikes me that, when it comes dealing with the problems of social inequality, the whole argument about social mobility is rather missing the point. It doesn't really benefit their community if one or two people from a poor background manage to jump up into a different social class; all their old school friends and ex-neighbours are still poor and badly housed. Surely what we should be doing is questioning the very means by which some people, get paid so much more than others. Why should a non-executive director of a company (non-executive means that you don't really do anything) get paid 100 times more than the woman who cleans his/her house?

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  • 43. At 8:13pm on 21 Jul 2009, ybborb wrote:

    to hyperboloid (31) - thanks for commenting on my blog and I have two comments on your input. 1- your experience of a co-ed grammar school was one of the minority. The next local authority to my own still has segregated education, its grammar schools being for either boys or girls - but not both. Similarly Manchester is within reasonable travelling distance from here and that still has segregated grammar schools.
    Where I do wish to take issue with you is in relation to your comment that "I was fortunate to live near to a good state school". Fortune does not come into it. The local school here is a good one because that is what local parents demand of it. Had I not been satisfied with it when my children were there, I would have waded into it via the PTA and got some changes made. So would the vast majority of other parents around here. That is why it is a good school. This is not a class issue as I know any number of "working class" parents who would do the same. It does matter I think that a fair proportion of the population around here is well educated and as someone in the media said recently, " The middle classes in this country have loud voices and sharp elbows"!

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  • 44. At 9:09pm on 21 Jul 2009, H wrote:

    Thanks for your reply ybborb @ 43.
    This is not directly related, but further explores my own thinking. We haven't had any comment from inner city London, or Birmingham, or Manchester, Leeds, etc., I notice.
    I want top rate state schools, comprehensives if you will, but well funded, and well managed. But then I want centres of excellence, too. They have to be selective to match the excellence of Eton, Winchester, whatever [I don't know the hierarchy of excellence].

    Or it's "know your place" for the rest of us.

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  • 45. At 9:42pm on 21 Jul 2009, ybborb wrote:

    Hi again hyperboloid - Strange that you should quote Eton and Winchester as examples to be aimed at. After all they are classic "comprehensive" schools, in that academic attainment is not a qualification for entry. You gain admission to those schools according to your parents ability to pay and not your own attributes. The question we all need to address is how we make all our state comprehensive schools as good as those comprehensives. I venture to suggest that the 11 plus exam will not do it.

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  • 46. At 10:00pm on 21 Jul 2009, copelatimer wrote:

    I am 54 now. I was educated in the tripartite system of the 50s and 60s. My upbringing was poor my father was hardly literate and mother was an underachiever. I spent most of my childhood in poverty and found school difficult I never had the self esteem to achieve. Consequently I left school at 15 hardly having attended too busy worrying about the debt collectors being at the door when we got home. I married at 17 and started a family. In my 30s I went back (that was a real opportunity) I got a BSc Hons in Occupational Therapy (dominantly a middle class profession). I now lead a team in the NHS. Its still hard to have that self believe having been conditioned to be factory fodder. When I left school my head teacher wrote on my report that I would be motivated by a weekly wage. I earn a good salary now way above the national average but that has never been the prime motivator in my life. I work with people with dementia and I feel my life experiences allow me to emphasize with their condition and understand the intolerances of our society. There are no easy answers but the thing that worries me most is the loss of life chances in later life for adults that had no hopes and aspirations has children.

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  • 47. At 10:01pm on 21 Jul 2009, ladyoletters wrote:


    This is a comment from inner city London teacher, who has also worked in a grammar school and is the product of a grammar school herself.

    The children in inner city London are stigmatised and isolated from mainstream society. These same children we are talking about who are not going to university, not getting the top jobs - these are the kids in the hoodies and on the street corners because there's no where else to go. When I took year 11 students to Cambridge, we were racially insulted by passing undergraduates. A former student of mine who did make it to Pembroke college has to gently explain to her peers that some of the jokes they make are inappropriate and offensive.

    We have to change the way we treat these teenagers, the way we see them and depict them in the media if we want them to have even a chance. We have to really examine our own prejudices and reactions - if one of my brightest boys walked in to your office tomorrow morning, dressed in his hoodie and tracksuit and with his diamond earring, would you give him the job or the place on your university course? Or would you throw him out and call security?

    And it's not only about individuals. Grammar schools do nothing but perpetuate the two tier system - they are not, believe me, full of working class kids done good. They are packed instead with middle class children whose liberal parents paid their way in - just through tutoring instead of fees.

    The irony is of course that the teaching in comprehensives is often far superior to the teaching that goes on in grammar schools simply because it has to be. I learnt far more about how to be a good teacher in my current national challenge school than I ever did in a grammar school - because as all comprehensive teachers know, the best way to get good behaviour is to teach good lessons. This is no offense to my grammar school colleagues - their pressures often exist out of the classroom - but it is important that we recognise what state comprehensives already do really well - and that's teach!

    There are excellent examples out there - Sussex university run a scheme that works alongside inner city schools like mine, that actively recruits students and encourages them to visit and that will fast-track their application. But they are too few and far between, and it is up to those universities who don't do enough and who aren't diverse enough to look long and hard at themselves and contribute more not just to raising aspirations but to helping students actually achieve them.

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  • 48. At 11:00pm on 21 Jul 2009, profoundMcGrails wrote:

    It does not take very long to put the following points:
    1: At the beginning of the 20th century, Irish immigration was as active as at any time, probably before, since or anywhere migration happens. Class migration provides the same type of theme.
    2: By the time I was born, in 1954, only one of my grandparents was alive. They had not been very healthy, although my father's father was a Territorial and fought at the 3rd Battle of Ypres in the First World War. He ended his career as a charge hand in a fertilizer factory in Liverpool. I never met him.
    3. During the Second World War, my mother (who contracted tuberculosis immediately afterwards, while waiting for my father to return from war service in the course of which he was awarded the Burma Star) worked at Bletchley Park as a Senior Aircraftwoman.
    4. My mother got TB again in 1967, which almost killed her, from working in a hospital at Kidderminster as a radiographer. Scarred lungs were vulnerable, and she died in 1990.
    5. Anger and guilt seeps into my post, because:

    - I went to Grammar School
    - Most of the boys in my sixth form class were living in council accommodation of the old-fashioned sort (i.e. in a house)
    - I had free university education and a grant of 48 pounds for my first term in 1973
    - I recognise that views may differ, although being a barrister (not wanting much money) and being married to a schoolteacher (not wanting much money) presents a sahrp slide of logic between posh and victim.
    - Summary - not too impressed by the theme.

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  • 49. At 11:23pm on 21 Jul 2009, U14056677 wrote:

    You know, the people being excluded from the 'top' jobs are capable and well qualified.

    20, 40, 60 years ago they wouldn't have had the chance to go through the hoops to prove they WERE capable of being doctors, lawyers and scientists (and experts on the Gallic Wars, if you must)


    it seems not unreasonable to assume that those who still don't get the opportunity to hoop jump are just as capable, have just as much potential, as those who do.

    We can't all be High Court judges, with or without the Latin. (I feel like saying facetiously 'Some of us need to be the accused')

    Not Africa, not China, nowhere would accept that we are a country entirely of judges.

    Who would clean the Court Roooms, empty the trash cans, deliver the meals on wheels, mend the roads, stitch together the robes, etc, etc, etc.

    The simple truth is that the REAL problem is the GLASS FLOOR that the incumbent classes so carefully construct for themselves to walk on.

    They never fall through. They think they appear to those below them to be walking on air.

    But we know its a GLASS FLOOR stopping them getting proper jobs, last generation, this generation or next generation in factories, hospitals, schools, public parks in NON MANAGERIAL plain manual roles.

    The bankers, BBC chiefs, MPs, the financial whizz kids, the experts KNOW we've been watching them in their crisis and found them lacking, obviously no more capable than the rest of us.

    That was what ordinary soldiers discovered about the offiver class in WW2. There by dint of hereditary wrong.

    For goodness sake, hand them out the shovels and overalls.

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  • 50. At 06:37am on 22 Jul 2009, H wrote:

    ybborb @ 45. Indeed they are classic comprehensives, I have made the same observation elsewhere. They are also small/manageable, and have the best possible facilities and some of the best teachers. Not selective on the grounds of academic attainment, except that all the kids have been to prep school, and can speak and write (at least) English accurately; have a good command of geography and history; have at least a head start. But selective by wealth and privilege. As I have said, the rest of us cannot match that - indeed some of us do not want to because we are conditioned to low self-esteem. If we do aspire to match it we have to select by other means. Tough, but life.
    profoundMcGrails @ 48. Muddled, ou quoi? I hope you don't take your chips to court.

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  • 51. At 07:44am on 22 Jul 2009, thtone wrote:

    So state education is an important factor and it is not going to be
    solved by setting politically correct 'setting quotas'?
    Education of course is more than just passing examinations, I believe.

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  • 52. At 4:48pm on 22 Jul 2009, Janda wrote:

    Priveleged private education

    How many of the privately educated professionals, mentioned in the recent report, attended the Grammar Schools which left the State system in the 60s? Prior to that they were in the state sector and a method existed, however flawed, which allowed children from less advantaged homes to attend some of the best schools in the country - Manchester Grammar School as an example

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  • 53. At 5:37pm on 22 Jul 2009, simonh64 wrote:

    Just listened to the barrister saying there are no glass ceilings and all is well. I would believe that more if I could hear regional accents instead of the curse that is RP from spokespersons. Rarely do we hear from those outside the system and those inside are unlikely to be rocking the boat by agreeing with rabble rousers who might shout loud enough to be heard.

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  • 54. At 5:41pm on 22 Jul 2009, TinTin1964 wrote:

    Could she have been "bumping her head against the glass ceiling" on the basis of ability or even her chippy attitude?

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  • 55. At 5:55pm on 22 Jul 2009, bluelampahead wrote:

    Just listened to Kim Hollis QC on PM refuting claims about the social exclusivity of the Bar. She suggested that 'getting connected' is not really that difficult or important anyway. But that's not what she was saying in this article.
    http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/law/student/article578693.ece

    And is this the same Kim Hollis named here who apparently took 'networking' to a whole different level!

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-436988/Was-Goldsmiths-mind-job-betrayed-loyal-wife.html

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  • 56. At 6:24pm on 22 Jul 2009, Ctrl_Alt_Doh wrote:

    This wouldn't happen to be the same Kim Hollis that was educated at Cheltenham Ladies' College would it?

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  • 57. At 7:06pm on 22 Jul 2009, simonh64 wrote:

    What sweet joy to read the above posts. The establishment really needs to be a bit sharper these days with razor edged internet access and people who pay attention.

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  • 58. At 7:16pm on 22 Jul 2009, sunnyoldjohn wrote:

    Sorry, ybborb, but you are incorrect about qualification for entry to Eton. My cousin's son is there because he was awarded a Music Scholarship. This entails real talent and a capacity for hard work; money does not come into it.
    My cousin's forebears, like mine, were framework knitters in Leicestershire. The year 1870 was the Miracle for them all.

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  • 59. At 9:53pm on 22 Jul 2009, unclesocial wrote:

    Having listened to the comments from Constance Bristoe last night I agree with everything that she said. For example, the conception of charging fees to access university has meant that people from the lower social scales wanting to give themselves better employment opportunities now have to get themselves into debt they can ill afford to pursue a university education. Those from the upper classes have never had to deal with this because daddy's cheque book and connections have ensured that their path to riches is very much smoother.

    What was that story from the House of Commons about Viscount Tollypandy when he overheard two parliamentarians expressing their distaste because their "tailor" (his previous profession) had been elected to the commons. This established view is still prevalent in our society as the priviledged few feel it is their automatic right to pass judgement over the rest of us.

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  • 60. At 09:09am on 23 Jul 2009, H wrote:

    Where does your comment take us sunnyoldjohn@58? That there are a (very) few opportunities to get to Eton by way of a competitive (selective) scholarship? I believe there are toff scholars at Eton, as well, but the possibility of hoi polloi getting there on "hard work and talent" is remote if you haven't been to prep school. Music, yes - but what else?

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  • 61. At 1:57pm on 23 Jul 2009, studiomeic wrote:

    Oh dear back with talk of Eton again (why would anyone want to sent their child there?) What we need is a more equal society in general not just lottery tickets giving the chance for a few paupers to become kings.

    As "ThinkerRetired" pointed out we will always need cleaners and auxilary nurses; we can't all be High Court Judges even if we are all capable. The main result of more people going to university is that you see University graduates working in Sainsburys - this is fine if their Degree Courses genuinely interested them but unfortunately it is mostly just a paper-chase.

    We need to work on giving people in ordinary jobs proper pay and self-respect. I'll say it again: this whole social mobility issue is a red herring which distracts us from the more central issue of increasing inequality. Ambition is just a fig-Leaf word for selfishness!

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  • 62. At 2:52pm on 23 Jul 2009, mittfh wrote:

    On the one hand, people from "under privileged" areas should be able to aspire to the professions if they have the aptitude for the job.

    However, while the under privileged section of society contains potential high achievers, there are also those who are employed in more menial jobs and are content - e.g. factory workers, farm labourers, cleaners etc.

    So what do the lower achieving sections of the wealthier parts of society do for a living? Especially amongst people from areas of the country with significantly higher wealth than the average, it's difficult to imagine them allowing any offspring of theirs who struggle with academic subjects to apply for "menial" careers...

    Whenever the media talk about "social mobility", they always refer to the one way process of people from less affluent sections of society gaining employment in the professions etc.

    Theoretically, if we were to aspire to true social mobility, then we should accept downward mobility as well as upward mobility. However, this appears not to be the case - almost every time border controls are tightened, farmers moan about a potential loss of fruit pickers. The fact that farmers are having to recruit abroad for these posts indicate that the section of 'native' society who were originally employed in this field have found other fields of employment...

    Of course, whether the people who are not fruit picking any more are employed in a post with a higher social status is presumably unknown - unless someone has researched this issue...

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  • 63. At 5:46pm on 23 Jul 2009, ybborb wrote:

    Further to Hyperboloid's comment (60)on the Eton music scholar, may I say as an amateur musician myself that I wish him all the best. however as the old saying goes "one swallow does not - - - - - "
    More oertinately I am sure that all of us out here in the real world are well aware of just how these fee paying schools go about retaining their tax exempt status!

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