BBC BLOGS - Nick Robinson's Newslog
« Previous | Main | Next »

Class war hots up

Nick Robinson | 11:56 UK time, Tuesday, 22 May 2007

At last, we get to the nub of the matter. You may be forgiven for thinking that the Great Grammar School Row is about Tory education policy or how best to help disadvantaged children or, even, how David Cameron runs the Tory party. Not a bit of it. At its heart is the oldest British obsession of them all. No, not the weather. Class. Once again it was John Humphrys (Cardiff High School) who took up the cudgel on this morning's Today programme (listen here). He challenged David Cameron (Eton) on the number of public school boys there were in his shadow cabinet. What, you might ask, has that got to do with anything. The answer is everything.

Many of David Cameron's fiercest critics are those who believe that the job of the Tory party is to fight for what Margaret Thatcher called "our people" - by which they mean the aspirational classes. They believe that in the years BT (Before Thatcher) there existed a cross party consensus which punished "our people". The consensus, they believed, was sustained by the political classes who were largely public school boys. In the years AD (After David) they fear a new consensus is emerging which is politically correct, green, liberal and sneers at those who work hard to get their kids the advantages they didn't have. The pre-Thatcher consensus was called But-skellism (after the Tory Rab Butler and Labour's Hugh Gaitskell). We might call the new one Bla-meronism.

Do not be surprised that it is inside the Tory Party that this class war is raging. It's been going on for years. Margaret Thatcher was attacked by the toffs for leading a party of "estate agents and second hand car dealers". Michael Heseltine was once described as "a man who has to buy his own furniture". Douglas Hurd was so nervous of his Etonian past that he ran for his party's leadership describing himself as the son of a farm worker which somewhat understated his father's background.

Yesterday, I asked the Tory leader at his news conference how he would answer those who said his policy was fine for a "posh, rich kid" like himself but wondered how it would help someone like Michael Howard, his predecessor, the son of poor immigrants, who believes that a grammar school education was the key to escape from poverty. The Tory leader retorted that focussing on his background was old fashioned and irrelevant.

Many will agree.

However, the key to success as a leader is persuading people that even if you're not one of them you understand how they feel. The Tories who feel wounded by the Great Grammar School Row fear that he hasn't a clue how they feel and never will.

Comments

If David Cameron is now dead against anything that curtails social mobility, will the conservatives be acting to remove some of the tax breaks that private schools enjoy?

  • 2.
  • At 01:14 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • Connor wrote:

Nick,

Clearly the BBC are looking desparately for a story to probe for dissension amongst Conservatives. However, this does not mean that political balance should be forgotten. In my 'umble opinion, it would have been pertinent for you to remind the electorate to the fact that Mr Blair, being a Fettesian, has a very similar background to Mr Cameron and as such, his policies towards Grammar Schools, and the decisions of his cabinet to send their children to other than their local comprehensive, are of some considerable relevance to your so called debate on class, particularly since it is they, and not Mr Cameron, who are taking actual decisions on these issues? When I read your earlier thread on Freedom of Information, your views on Mr Brown were clearly expressed, added to which, you had a gibe at Cameron. Why then on this occasion, did you choose to ignore the other side of the debate?

  • 3.
  • At 01:17 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • John wrote:

Come off it Nick you've fallen into the same lazy attack as John Humphries - this has nothing to do with the debate. Humphries' attack on Cameron over Eton was clearly in desperation that Cameron had neatly answered all his other questions. So how to keep on top? "I know I'll attack him about Eton." Hardly anyone in the Tory party or outside it thinks this is relevant so why does the BBC?

  • 4.
  • At 01:17 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • Robert Newton wrote:

David Cameron says that the issue over Grammar Schools is a "key test" of whether the party was fit for government.

I'll award him an 'F' for fail on that one.

He also asserts that "I lead. I don't follow my party; I lead them." fine and dandy, but he forgets that being a member of the Conservative Party is a voluntary thing. No-one twisted my arm to join and work for the party. No one will twist it to renew (no one could twist it that far, in truth)

Mr Cameron also said: "I'm determined to do what's right for my party and the country." I am absolutely convinced that is pretty much what Blair said as he announced his resignation.

More of the same then?

You can lead a horse to water Mr Cameron, but you can't make it drink. If the members of the party don't like the direction you are leading in then they'll leave.

  • 5.
  • At 01:20 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • George Tippett wrote:

In a few days time this will all blow over. No-one seriously thinks that new grammar schools will appear under a Conservative government - its just that the Party does not want to see them officially consigned to the dustbin of history. What is good is that this "spat" is keeping that foreigner Browm out of the news at a time when he would be expecting to be front and centre every day.

  • 6.
  • At 01:23 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • Andrew Court wrote:

There are other flaws in the conservative position aside from David Cameron's bizarre remarks. Where is their education spokesman, David Willets, getting his information from when he says that the home environment is more likely to sponsor "social mobility" than actual intelligence? Have studies been done, Mr. Willets, or are you relying on anecdotal evidence? Even overlooking the fact that measuring intelligence is an art, not a science, is Willets actually making some kind of criticism of education under Labour (presumably by opining that a child's intellectual potential is not properly developed at school)? His comment also implies that "middle class" is synonymous with "more intelligent" or, at least, "better at raising kids" - so much for the tone of apologetic political correctness the Tories have been cultivating of late. Given this hopeless state of (il)logical and unsubstantiated argument, innuendo, and credo inconsistency in the Tory ranks (apparently not just from backbenchers), Cameron should be proud (and the rest of us amazed) if they even manage to end up the "right-wing debating club" he fears they already look like to voters. The moniker is, I am afraid, too flattering by half.

Nick - one of your best posts I've ever read. As a Tory blogger I've been trying to explain what has upset many of us, so much. I think you have it here.

Insightful and precise analysis - well done. I just hope CCHQ reads your blog.

  • 8.
  • At 01:26 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • Tony Platts ( Trinity Church of England High School ) wrote:

I think John Humphries lost the plot this morning, barely giving Cameron the chance to answer the question before shouting that same question at him again. If he hadn't have run out of time he would still be shouting now in some sad belief that it would change an answer he didn't want to hear.

The whole argument itself was rediculous. Yes, I accept Humpries point, a shadow cabinet full of Etonian graduates isn't going to be qualified to understand the problems of inner city Manchester, but in terms of who I want running the economy I'd have a lot more faith in a qualifed accountant who attended Eton then the people I went to school with. Humpries didn't seem to have a handle on the fact that people who have had better educations are more likely to rise to positions of responsibility.

The fact of the matter is very simple. The Tories were voted out of power because they had lost the confidence and trust of the electorate and since Cameron took over as head of the party their share of the vote has increased. It was clear in '97 that the country did not agree with the Tories policies so maybe, since we elect MPs to serve us, they should be representing us, instead of clinging to dated ideas which saw their demise.

  • 9.
  • At 01:32 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • Peter, Fife wrote:

Of course the Conservative Party leader would wish that others would realise that focusing on his background was old fashioned and irrelevant; as with all politicians if they do not like the truth or history they will choose either to ignore it or rewrite it.

Conservative leaders in the past have failed for being 'not of the people,' Alex Douglas Home springs to mind; however if David Cameron cannot convince the Conservative faithful, who seemingly now feel in someway duped by that twenty or so minute speech, how can he hope to convince those much sought after swing voters?

David Cameron has unashamedly created an old Etonian club in the Shadow Cabinet, to deny this or try to ignore it could prove his downfall, he must be honest; Thatcher's them and us has had an additional tier added, in the Cameron Cabinet its them, them and us.

Nick, a first-class analysis. You're dead right.

IMHO Nick it is not just about class it is also about the change in generation at the top i.e. from baby-boomers (Blair / Brown) to Gen X (Cameron and myself).

Gen Xers see class as much less relevant. This is because, to a great extent, it was already breaking down in the 80's when we became adults, partly as a result of the work the baby boomers did. Class (in the British sense) is yesterday's battle to us, but will bring out the campaigning instinct in those older than us.

Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the Conservative party, given the average age of the membership.

I am from a poorish background, went to a very mixed comprehensive school with a disproportionate number of free school meals kids. I got good results and went to a Russell Group University. The reason I was successful at school? Streaming for all the key subjects, particularly Maths and English, that was reviewed twice a year.

Several of my year were moved up a stream (or two) in different subjects (and some down) as they developed at different rates and these would have been at the "wrong" school in a Grammar / Secondary Modern system. Kids should make their own (informed) choices starting at 14 not be branded with success or failure at 11.

David Cameron is completely right in what he says on this topic but you are right to pick up on the other prejudices that are inflaming the debate.

I'm not sure I understand. Are you saying that Cameron put forward the policy in the first place as an act of class war? Or just that public school privilege has blinded him to the feelings of his own party?

If the latter, he must have had some reason in addition to class for putting the policy forward. Presumably to do with actual education. Or am I missing something? Confused.

  • 13.
  • At 01:53 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • Jeremy wrote:

Sorry Nick, but I don’t agree. We seem to be harking back to a rose tinted “Bakelite Britain” which never really existed. The task surely is to raise the standards of education to the highest level, and ensure that streaming takes place within the schools and someone’s future is not dependent on the outcome of an exam at 11. In the past at 11 you were marked for life as a success or a failure as a result of that one exam. Is that what is needed for a modern Britain?
Good for David Cameron, if it takes an Old Etonian to recognise what is required then so what. The make up of his Shadow Cabinet is to my mind immaterial. Its how that Cabinet sets about improving the lot of the worst off in the country that will matter. By improving education for all, the ladder to success that a good education provides will be available to all not just those fortunate few.

  • 14.
  • At 02:09 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • John Galpin wrote:

As usual personalities obscuring issues and policies. Whilst I am no fan of Mr Blair his academies have rather quietly sought to address a real issue - the cost of bureaucracy in our State Education system starving the classrooms of assets.
The most recent treasury review, supported by statements in parliament, indicate the taxpayer pays out some Ł5,500 pa per secondary school pupil. Ask any headmaster how much of that reaches their school and the answer is rarely above Ł2,500 pa. The LEA uses the rest running itself and an occasional capital project.

Any approach which gets money away from the administrative overkill of the LEA's and into the classrooms has to be worth trying. After all if all the LEA legions are adding so much value to the classroom experience,the headmasters, when they have the money issued directly to them from central government, will flock to hire them rather than have say extra maths, science or arts teachers. Well I for one won't hold my breath.

The party which demonstrates how nationally they will get the greatest proportion of the available cash directly to the classroom with a minimum of administrative overhead has a good chance of getting my vote. And I really don't care where the leader went to school- it was hardly something they had a choice in so why pillory them for it?

Well done Nick, an excellent piece. I think that it is all summed up in the last sentence. Cameron will never know what it is like to be aspirational but poor.

The last 10 years has seen a great decline in social mobility and we were all looking to the Tories to restore those opportunities.

Some chance

  • 16.
  • At 02:32 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • Nick Thornsby wrote:

Nick,
As an 18 year old interested in politics these kind of issues fascinate me. I have studied the links between voting behaviour and class and we all know it has been declining. It strikes me as really quite pointless to bring class into politics. Those traditional labour supporters simply claim all the time that the conservative party is for rich people who want to protect their own wealth and don't give a thought to the 'working' class. However they are very narrow minded and cannot accept any other views. Thatcher did some bad things but she also dragged an old fashioned economy, dictated to by trade unions into the 20th century and made it what it is today. There also seems to be a distinction between tory MP's and party members. Those old, very conservative party members are firstly quite deluded when they elect a new and reform hungry leader like dave cameron, but they also represent the opposite to the old labour vote; bith these groups want politics determined by class. I don't know what class I am- my grandad was a firefighter, my other worked in the mines, my grandmother in the mills and my other was a nurse. But I have gone to a comprehensive primary school and a church secondary school and I am going to uni next year- perhaps that as why I am less inclined to vote by class- I understand where both sides are coming from and in my opinion can make an informed decision rather than being narrow minded and voting according to where I have come from. To an extent Blair and now Cameron are doing a good job of taking class out of poltics largely but it will take generations for it to be significantly less important.

  • 17.
  • At 02:32 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • Philip Mutton wrote:

Right from the early days of Cameron's leadership bid he said that the Conservative Party needed to change and reflect the modern principles of Britain better.

What he is doing with Grammar Schools is right. People have said they don't want their children to be separated in learning from the Age of 11 simply through an exam and I think David Cameron has taken this on board and is reflecting their views.

People who agree with Grammar Schools shouldn't be so cross, it isn't like the Conservatives are proposing to abolish them completely so what's the problem?

Being a Conservative member and supporter I will support the proposals because it is an indication of David Cameron sticking to his ground and changing our party as he promised to do. If he had proposed to ditch the Grammar School system completely then that would have definitely been a mistake.

  • 18.
  • At 02:32 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • nads wrote:

Maybe. On the other hand, supported by statistics showing the proportion of "Michael Howards" in grammar schools is well below what it should be and anecdotal accounts as to what lengths "the estate agents" go to coach their kids to get into these grammar schools (see this website...), I have to agree with David Cameron that they don't THESE DAYS sort the "Michael Howards" from the "Bob the builders".

Maybe in gone-by times (Michael Howard is not the youngest after all) attitudes of parents to schooling and teachers was very different, and therefore the system was able to sort the brighest out.
Today all it can do is sort out the best coached, i.e. the richest among the "can't quite get to Eton". And that does not help the "Michael Howards" of today and tomorrow.

  • 19.
  • At 02:34 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • David wrote:

I came from a poor, 3 children, single parent family. Worked hard at school, passed my 11+ and was glad to have entered a Grammar school - just - I was in the last year of intake. This gave me a far better education than my younger brother in the local comprehensive, who, although being bright, was constantly held back in by his classmates.

When I was at school I firmly believed that this country offered the best education in the world. Now I firmly believe that is doesn't.

Any country that puts PC ideals in the way of properly educating its youth is no longer a leader.

I now work for a University, and the quality of the UK intake is, quite frankly, getting lower each year... and that's just the students that can afford to make it through the first year with increasing debts. We now recruit 50% overseas students.

This country is going to the dogs, and is no longer a world leader of any sort - and the problems start with interfering politicians and political correctness.

Let there be sports days that children can *win*. Let there be schools where the best children (both from the point of view of intelligence, AND those who WANT to work hard) can excel.

Of course, when Blair (Fettes College) finally goes, Brown (Kirkcaldy High School) will be free to highlight the difference between his humble schooling and Cameron's privileged one.

  • 21.
  • At 02:37 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • Paul Owen wrote:

All of this misses the point. Schools policy should be determined by what will best equip children for the future, Grammar Schools demonstrably do this. If politicians are worried that this will discriminate against poorer people then the solution is simple: build more Grammar Schools and other specialist schools for non academic children and create a more sophisticated way for them to select pupils. But there is nothing wrong with selection per se. It just recognises the reality that ability varies from person to person. This goes on in most schools now anyway thanks to setting. It didn't damage me that I was in the third set for Maths. I was hopeless at Maths and knew it.

And I didn't go to Grammar or Public School. I attended a middle ranking Comprehensive. I would like future generations to receive a better education than I did.

  • 22.
  • At 02:40 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • Victor, NW Kent wrote:

Great stuff, Nick. I also particularly liked Peter's comment that Cameron will never know what it is like to be aspirational but poor. I did but I got a grammar school place despite the fact that I could hardly have come from a poorer background.

I also agree with Andrew - middle-class and working-class are not labels to indicate IQ. My grammar school, in an industrial town, had well over half of its scholars from truly working class backgrounds. I regarded it with great affection and as a truly beneficial force. Alas, it is no more.

  • 23.
  • At 02:44 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • Paul wrote:

You've hit the nail right on the head. There is so much in Cameron's attitude that reminds me of the old patrician and defeatist Tory party: the idea that they had to accept Labour's lead and follow in the same direction, albeit with a little better breeding, looking down at ordinary people from their lofty heights and murmuring "We're dreadfully sorry, but we can't really do anything about it, old boy."

  • 24.
  • At 03:16 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • themethatisme wrote:

The thing about social mobility is that it obeys the same physical laws of motion. Mobility is very easy for a body that is already in motion but is much harder for a body at rest. The advantages that arise from a private education come alongside the wealth and social awareness that accompany the ability to pay for such. Aspiration in the absence of these things is no less aspirational but it's options are much more limited and limiting. Meritocracies are a wonderful ideal but only if and when all of the bodies are already in motion or at a dead stop. The conservative party will always have within its rank, an antipathy towards the file as they are the product of social mobility which is the antithesis of conservatism.

  • 25.
  • At 03:16 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • Ben wrote:

Cameron scrabbling about for a Clause 4 moment?

  • 26.
  • At 03:22 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • David wrote:

Nick - I take a slightly different standpoint in this argument - relating to these much-vaunted city academies.
My question is this - if these are 'privately sponsored' - how do we know that the sponsors are all financially sound..? What happens if they withdraw their sponsorship, or, in fact, become insolvent..? Do these academies revert to being local authority-controlled comprehensives..? I ask, of course, as an ex-grammar school boy...

  • 27.
  • At 04:14 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • Steve wrote:

I think this issue of grammar schools is a red herring as retaining or losing 145 schools in Buckinghamshire is unlikely to rock the educational system. The real question the Conservatives are trying to grapple with is how do we create an educational system that focuses on academic excellence without creating selective schools. Labour has failed due to the underlying contradiction of their policy of trying to create a meritocratic system in which everyone is equal. By its very essence a meritocracy assumes some people are better equipped to succeed then others and they should be the ones to get to the top. An equal system tries to raise everyone up together. The result has been overwhelming mediocrity where exam standards are lowered although there are more exams to assess everyone. The response from the 'aspirational middle classes' is to take their children out of the state system and into the private where selection (academic and financial) is considered acceptable and exam success is the main objective. I think the Tories are correct in trying to look at how to attain academic excellence in schools but it appears the old issue of selection (Grammar & Secondary schools vs Comprehensives) is rearing its ugly head again.

  • 28.
  • At 04:17 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • Albert wrote:

You might be right Nick, but I come from a humble background and passed to a Grammar school with excellent results. I might be gifted, (as they used to say), but that is the way to award the ones that have it up in their heads and distinguish from the ones that are not so gifted or maybe they do not care about their own future. I still agree with the old Grammar schools and the ones that do not make it have their Comprehensive schools. Why do we always have to bring in the social ladder in this as well? I had friends of mine who came from respected and very well off families and after they failed to go to a Grammar school they went to a private school cause their parents could afford it. Did they come out any wiser? No they did not! As for Cameron, he must have been lobbied by the business people because they actually wish to donate more towards Academies (contrary to what the Tories said before last election),which incidentaly are a LABOUR idea and part of their policy!

  • 29.
  • At 04:20 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • Glynn Ashman wrote:

All the political parties seem to be making it difficult for lower paid families to have a decent state education (but leave an alternative route for the well off i.e. fee paying schools) Remember the selection to grammer schools was on the childs ability (I completed secondary education in the middle of a mining area and it boasted one of the best grammer schools in the area). But if our politicians are against selection what do they propose to do about universities. Now there is an institution for the well off, fees, books lodgings etc. Obviously no alternative for the well off except for pricing the lower paid out. As our political parties have quotas (colour, religion, disability, sexual orientation etc. for most positions how many for non university educated people.

  • 30.
  • At 04:23 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • Alan, N Wales wrote:

I take Issue with the tory statement that Grammar schools do not benefit the less well-off. As has been stated, previous Tory leaders came through the Grammar system from poorer backgrounds.

The statement that well off parents can 'groom' their children to pass the eleven plus I completely reject. All that is needed is a more subtle ways of asessing a child's intelligence than simply passing a test!

I come from a 'council estate' background. As I am now paying for my children to go through private education, I must be considered to have joined the 'aspiring classes' (sic). I took my children out of state education after seeing how bad it is and I don't live in a inner city or deprived area.

My finances won't stretch to private education through secondary school, so I look to the well respected Grammar schools in the area to continue my childrens' education at the standard I expect.

The real issue I take with the Cameron approach is the supposed bias towards providing a better education for the less well off and why this has to be at the expense of the 'not so' less well off?

Whatever happened to opportunity for all?

  • 31.
  • At 04:54 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • Freddy wrote:

Hits the nail bang on the head for me too.

I suppose I'm middle class. But if my working class parents hadn't got to grammar school, and worked themselves into the ground to make a better life for themselves, and their family, I wouldn't be.

My daughter starts at a state grammar this autumn. To get there she put it a phenomenal amount of effort, yes,supported by her family, but the graft was entirely hers. It's easy to sneer at "pushy parents," but the reality is "Dave" is sneering at the aspirations and hard work of the kids

The school is genuinely multicultural and co-educational, as testing sees no colour, sees no class, sees no gender, sees no financial threshold. I wouldn't expect a toff to understand that, and by toff I mean most of the political elite, whatever their party. How many of Brown's cabinet are ex public school, or send their kids there or to the likes of the London Oratory? Death to the aristos!

  • 32.
  • At 04:54 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • Malcolm wrote:

There are no grammar schools or public schools in Scotland, there being only state or private schools. So the "the oldest British obsession of them all" has nothing to do with being British.

Nick you are a numptie!

  • 33.
  • At 04:55 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • Joe Halas wrote:

I agree, an excellent post. I'm a zealous Labour supporter but agree with the Tory blogger that Cameron has touched a nerve that goes beyond education policy.

There is something strange and disconcerting about an Etonian espousing Labour rhetoric on education. It may be the way to get ahead in the polls but the contradictions in terms of class and aspiration have only served to enrage Conservatives by denying them what it means to be a modern Conservative.

  • 34.
  • At 04:59 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • R Sawyer wrote:

The argument should really be about the ability of parents to find a school which offers a decent standard of tuition given by good teachers.
This means that all members of a particular class will be allowed to learn.
Disruptives should be dealt with by appropriate disciplinary proceedures, they should not be allowed to interfere with the Human Rights of children wishing to learn.
The challenge is to establish an appropriate system which is clear, understood and available across the country.
Not concentrated in cities as in "City Academies".

  • 35.
  • At 05:01 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • Pete L wrote:

If conservativehome.com is to be believed many Tories are happy for David Cameron to say anything if it makes the Conservative party electable. There is is always the option to change policies (and leader if necessary) when/if elected to government, but perhaps I'm too cynical(?).
What is perhaps more interesting is the 'bun fight' that has erupted in the party when David Willetts repeats what has been the nearest thing to a Cameron policy.
The Tory threat to shower the media with newsworthy policies in the coming weeks in order to steal Gordon Brown's thunder will backfire big time if the mere mention of a firm Conservative policy sends them back to the in-fighting so common in the last decade.

  • 36.
  • At 05:21 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • Robert wrote:

Tories may not like it, but Cameron was right. Research shows that poor children who get into grammar schools do well; but they are less likely to than middle-class kids of the same ability, and those left in secondary moderns do worse than they would otherwise. Kent has the most selective schools in England - and the most low achievers. If I was poor and had aspirations for my children, I'd move where there were good comprehensives I was likely to get them into.

  • 37.
  • At 05:34 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • John, Devon wrote:

Nick

It pains me to say this, but for once David Cameron is right - at least in part - and (unusually) John Humphries got it dead wrong in his interview.

Just because Cameron went to a fee paying school (which I would nationalise along with all the Church schools etc. if I was dictator) doesn't mean he can't understand the problem with grammar schools.

As Cameron has belated realised the truth is that, despite the soft words of their proponents, modern grammar schools are divisive, choose middle class parents and do almost nothing to ensure their intake is based on learning potential rather than home background. They cream off the motivated, easy-to-teach kids and sod the rest. Pulling up the drawbridge behind the chosen few never works long term.

However, City Academies are not the solution - they have many of the same faults as grammar schools, and give away public assets to interest groups. What could a typical comprehensive do with ÂŁ35m? And what about rural communities who have no access to this route?

The real answer is to improve all schools (starting from a dispassionate analysis of which are the most disadvantaged) rather than throw money at a few, and to hell with artificial Treasury rules. This is investment, not public expenditure, and PFI should not be let anywhere near education.

  • 38.
  • At 05:36 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • Charles E Hardwidge wrote:

It could be said that the British balance between a competitive and team orientated society tracks a wobbly course between the extremes of West and East. America is an ultra-competitive society and suffers from a huge unfairness in mobility, while Japan prizes conformity and suffers from a huge inflexibility. I think, there is some merit in getting a firm but flexible grip on competition and social responsibility.

Everyone wants to be respected and liked, and at its core issues of class and society are issues of competition and team work. Looking at the world in a narrative, systems, or game design sense, the Greek philosophy that "Happiness is the pursuit of excellence along lines affording scope" condenses a lot into one place for me. At its core is power, status, and wealth. Here, developing positive consensus over the long-term is key to success. This requires the top to invest in the bottom, and for friend to work with friend.

The net gain of education and cooperation instead of greed and fighting is a simple, clear, and powerful incentive to return to a thought that has gone out of fashion, "enlightened self-interest." By harming others we harm ourselves, as hurt leads to pain, anger, fear, and loathing, with all the crime, divorce, and industrial strife that causes. By making stronger efforts to look beyond the immediate difficulties, one may draw out points of common interest, shift focus, and turn more positive pebbles into more positive mountains.

  • 39.
  • At 05:39 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • Robert McBain wrote:

I'm from the bottom rung of the ladder. And I was denied the chance of a Grammar school education when the local Labour council closed the superb local Catholic grammar school.

My comprehensive school was calm and well-funded, but still very, very lax and I was shocked by how far behind the grammar and public school people I was when I finally went away to study for a couple of degrees. (A more typical 2007 Comp must be a nightmare...).

And I'm a Conservative, so I'm pretty mad at Eatonian Dave?

No, I'm not.

Grammars could never be brought back. The ethos has gone, the teacher standards are probably not high enough (many private schools recruit trainee teachers direct from Oxbridge) and the educational establishment would fight to death against them.

Very, very sad. But true. Grammar streaming in schools is the best we can hope for.

  • 40.
  • At 05:43 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • Alan wrote:

If Grammar schools are failing the underpriviledged, where once they didn't, then the fault is with the failed experiment of comprehensive education. Yes there are good comprehensives but there are a great many more bad ones where attainment levels have been levelled down. Grammar schools provided for academic excellence, we should provide schools for each type of excellence that is recognised, academic, sporting, artistic, vocational and praise the best in these fields not punish one that has been viewed as elitist by those who had there own hangups. I came from an underpriviledged backgroud (single parent, working class) but the Grammar school system gave me my sttart on the road to greater success than I could have hope for otherwise

  • 41.
  • At 05:46 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • Anonymous wrote:

Andrew Court asks "Where is their education spokesman, David Willets, getting his information from when he says that the home environment is more likely to sponsor "social mobility" than actual intelligence? Have studies been done, Mr. Willets, or are you relying on anecdotal evidence?"

Actually, Mr Court, there is a large amount of research evidence that the greatest influences on childrens' attainment (ie exam results) and therefore longer term social mobility are the educational levels of their parents and household income. A few minutes searching on Google will confirm this.

  • 42.
  • At 05:47 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • Alan wrote:

If Grammar schools are failing the underpriviledged, where once they didn't, then the fault is with the failed double experiment of comprehensive education and the messing around with the exam system that has been taking place. Yes, there are good comprehensives but there are a great many more bad ones where attainment levels have been levelled down. The changing of the curriculum into a social manipulation machine is the biggest demotivator of pupils.
Grammar schools provided for academic excellence, we should provide schools for each type of excellence that is recognised, academic, sporting, artistic, vocational and praise the best in these fields not punish the one that has been viewed as elitist by those who had their own hangups.
I came from an underpriviledged backgroud (single parent, working class) but the Grammar school system gave me my start on the road to greater success than I could have hope for otherwise

  • 43.
  • At 05:59 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • Phillip wrote:

I think Dave summed up the situation extremely well.

When in government for 17 years the Tories did not expand the Grammar School system. Why bother now?

Grammar Schools are decisive and it is wrong for a child's future to be decided at 11. Streaming is the way forward.

My own background is Northern Ireland, so I post from a point of view as someone who went to such a school.

  • 44.
  • At 06:24 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • Mrs G wrote:

I think we've gone so far off the mark that we're lost in the wilderness. Surely the issue is getting a decent education for British children, isn't it?

Grammar schools helped my father take a step up from the "poor but decent" sector of the working classes as he calls it, what you refer to as the "aspirational classes", to the middles classes and for that I am grateful. However, the grammar schools of the 1950s were accompanied by excellent secondary schools which catered to less academic children by providing vocational courses that taught a trade. Nowadays the school system appears to be a mish mash of public and state schools and colleges, the A-Levels and GCSEs etc are constantly being tampered with, seemingly to doctor results so that we don't look as bad as we really are and the people being failed are children.

I wonder is it possible to be pragmatic about education and look at it not from the perspective of class and family background, but from the perspective of what is best for the country? Call me an idealist, but shouldn't we be thinking about the country and economy as a whole and look at what we actually want and need children to achieve in their education? Would we not be better off setting conspiracy theories aside and planning an educational system that is fair to all children?

Nothing wrong with being an idealist...

  • 45.
  • At 06:27 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • Geraint wrote:

Why are you ignoring Wales? In Wales the nationalists are on the verge of Power in a Rainbow coaltiion, which will NOT include Labour. THIS IS JUST AS BIG AS THE NATIONALISTS TAKING OVER IN SCOTLAND!!! AND WILL ADD TO GORDON BROWN'S WOES.

STOP IGNORING WALES!

  • 46.
  • At 07:34 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • Demitri Coryton wrote:

The comments by Willetts and Cameron on grammar schools are the most sensible from the Tories on education for years. In the vast majority of Britain wittering on about grammar schools is irrelevant as they were abolished, mainly when Margaret Thatcher was Education Secretary, thirty years ago and there is no demand for their return. In a selective system the only time most pupils see a grammar school is when they walk past one on their way to a secondary modern. Cameron is right. The idea that the Conservatives could win votes by a policy of offering a return to the past when most failed the 11+ is mad. There is no public support for such a change as comprehensive education works. Most Conservative Party members do not support the pro-grammar lobby as they know it is a vote-loser in the comprehensive areas in which they live. The Tories should go further. If Willetts is right in saying selection does not work as well as comprehensives - and he is, as the OECD's PISA surveys show - then logically the Tories should promise to abolish the remaining grammar and secondary modern schools. Where Nick Robinson is right is that much of the attack on Cameron is class-based. It is Tory MPs who didn't go to public school resenting someone with his background gliding past them to the leadership.

  • 47.
  • At 07:35 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • John Best wrote:

It's not Grammar Schools per se that are important in this debate it is the whole concept that "one size fits all" in the education sense.
Clealy different children have differing potentials and different education paths will be needed to help individuals achieve their potential.
Cameron and his cronies, as with Blair and his, have no idea how education operates at ground level.
Potential plumbers, bricklayers and carpenters need to share with future economists and accountants a grounding in maths and english. But only to a certain level before their paths diverege into specialist training.

I had hoped the new "colleges" would include building and similar skills but NO we have Enterprise Colleges, Art & Drama Colleges, Sport & PE Colleges but basically, inside they all do the same academic programmes,because they are the only educational institute for their geographical area in those age groups.
Yes I passed the 11+ and went to a G.S. but my brother didn't and went to the local Building College at 13 and learned the basics that enabled him to gain an apprenticeship and end up as a Gas Engineer.
Nearly all our leaders and potential leaders come from privileged backgrounds and had a very expensive education so why should they start helping the proletariate up the ladder.

  • 48.
  • At 07:37 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • J Jones wrote:

The entire grammar school debate is flawed, as indeed is the debate surrounding the comprehensive system. What critics of the grammar system assume is that comprehensives are not selective; in fact they are selective. Parents are willing to pay premium house prices in order to get their child into the 'right' secondary or primary school. Therefore, selection is based on parental income, specifically how much they can afford to pay to live in the 'right' area. Just as selection at 11, this ensures that those who are disavantaged end up in 'sink' schools. One only has to look at deprived areas in the south wales valleys to see how the abolition of grammar schools have affected social and geographical mobility. In the 1960's many bright, working class students passed through the grammar school system and progressed to university. In the 1990's, in my year group only six students in an entire year group did the same thing. I agree that much of the debate surrounding grammar schools, and our inability to accept that other schools and courses which may be vocational in their emphasis are equally valid, is largely due to our obsession with class, and a growing fear of contact with an 'underclass'.

  • 49.
  • At 07:38 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • Demitri Coryton wrote:

The comments by Willetts and Cameron on grammar schools are the most sensible from the Tories on education for years. In the vast majority of Britain wittering on about grammar schools is irrelevant as they were abolished, mainly when Margaret Thatcher was Education Secretary, thirty years ago and there is no demand for their return. In a selective system the only time most pupils see a grammar school is when they walk past one on their way to a secondary modern. Cameron is right. The idea that the Conservatives could win votes by a policy of offering a return to the past when most failed the 11+ is mad. There is no public support for such a change as comprehensive education works. Most Conservative Party members do not support the pro-grammar lobby as they know it is a vote-loser in the comprehensive areas in which they live. The Tories should go further. If Willetts is right in saying selection does not work as well as comprehensives - and he is, as the OECD's PISA surveys show - then logically the Tories should promise to abolish the remaining grammar and secondary modern schools. Where Nick Robinson is right is that much of the attack on Cameron is class-based. It is Tory MPs who didn't go to public school resenting someone with his background gliding past them to the leadership.

  • 50.
  • At 07:38 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • John Best wrote:

It's not Grammar Schools per se that are important in this debate it is the whole concept that "one size fits all" in the education sense.
Clealy different children have differing potentials and different education paths will be needed to help individuals achieve their potential.
Cameron and his cronies, as with Blair and his, have no idea how education operates at ground level.
Potential plumbers, bricklayers and carpenters need to share with future economists and accountants a grounding in maths and english. But only to a certain level before their paths diverege into specialist training.

I had hoped the new "colleges" would include building and similar skills but NO we have Enterprise Colleges, Art & Drama Colleges, Sport & PE Colleges but basically, inside they all do the same academic programmes,because they are the only educational institute for their geographical area in those age groups.
Yes I passed the 11+ and went to a G.S. but my brother didn't and went to the local Building College at 13 and learned the basics that enabled him to gain an apprenticeship and end up as a Gas Engineer.
Nearly all our leaders and potential leaders come from privileged backgrounds and had a very expensive education so why should they start helping the proletariate up the ladder.

  • 51.
  • At 07:50 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • Jordan Perry wrote:

I see, Nick, that you've used a bit of the rhetoric of Emmanuel Sieyes: 'The answer is everything'. Impressive!

  • 52.
  • At 08:01 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • Gerry O'Neill wrote:

Grammar schools were all about giving people educational opportunity regardless of their background. Unlike the Assisted Places Scheme which had a discretionary element, it was decided on the basis of a test at 11. Given that there is so much testing these days, the old objection of being unable to determine ability at 11 no longer stands.

Grammar schools were meritocratic whereas the postmodern Conservative Party seems to view education policy such that more affluent parents can save money by sending their children to state schools which provide education to the same standard as "public" schools.

Hardly providing a leg up to the disadvantaged. Amazingly enough there does not seem to be any supporters for education vouchers which would provide real choice for lower income parents.

  • 53.
  • At 08:56 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • Neil Small wrote:

"What is good is that this "spat" is keeping that foreigner Browm out of the news at "

George, please clarify your point of "foreigner Brown". Cheap xenophobic insults are fine for Have Your Say, but I would expect a more mature debate on this board.

If politicians kept out of education perhaps it might work. Why not employ experienced teachers (but not the liberal elite types) to develop an effective education policy.

  • 54.
  • At 09:29 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • Ian Titherington wrote:

Annwyl Nick,

I'm sorry to change the subject but it has clearly gone unnoticed by you and your London colleagues that Wales may be about to break the link with Labour for the first time in living memory.

pob hwyl,

Ian

  • 55.
  • At 09:40 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • D wrote:

I thought this was actually an excellent article by Mr Robinson. I am particularly impressed by this insight,

"In the years AD (After David) they fear a new consensus is emerging which is politically correct, green, liberal and sneers at those who work hard to get their kids the advantages they didn't have".

That quote, to me, appears to be very much what this Conservative Party is under the leadership of David Cameron, and doesn't fit with what the majority of traditional Conservative voters agree with. It's a cross between the Liberals and New Labour. Is the next election going to be relevant?

  • 56.
  • At 09:41 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • John Constable wrote:

You'd think it would be fairly straightforward.

In the dismal world of politics, all the Tories really needed to do was sit tight, not say anything that frightened or upset the voters and wait patiently for NL to unravel, economically speaking; as is now starting to happen.

But no, they could'nt even manage that.

Labour had goaded them to produce some 'policies' and they fell for it.

Nevermind, the 'grammar' issue will soon be forgotten by English people as the full horror of the-man-fron-Mars-Brown is revealed.

IMO, the English do not have any political organisation that truly represents their interests, all we English have are crude approximations.

Which is superficially rather strange, but really is a consequence of the English peoples almost total lack of interest in politics.

  • 57.
  • At 11:49 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • Jack wrote:

John Humphries' questioning showed the worst of the Today programme - I could hardly bear to listen. Either he was prattling on about which school shadow cabinet members went to (not because anyone cares but because it makes for a good punch up) or interrupting Cameron within seconds of him starting to answer. I'm not a Conservative, but I'd still much prefer to hear Cameron answer the questions that are put to him than hear Humphries all the time.

  • 58.
  • At 04:07 AM on 23 May 2007,
  • William MacDougall wrote:

Very interesting post, but at most I think it is at most only part of the story. Cameron invited the question about the education balance of his shadow cabinet by his relentless pursuit of some ideal gender and ethnic balance in candidate selection. Once you start choosing candidates not on their merits but rather to obtain some arbitrary breakdown by group why should you stop at race and gender? Personally I think there aren't enough with beards, and there are far too many named David.

Cameron also invited the question by adopting a policy that only wealthy children should be able to attend selective schools. Dare we call it hypocrisy?

But most of all, Cameron is having difficulty because he has abandoned the policy of the last three manifestos that an increase in selection should be permitted, and worse undermined the survival of the existing Grammars. It is a major step to the left, after far too many steps to the left, and none to the right. The party has become as bad as Labour on most issues, and even worse on some - especially in its adoption of green extremism (a progressive tax on travel?!). At some point conservatives have to say "enough is enough, why should we keep silent?"

I was a candidate in 2005 and an association chairman in 2001, yet I increasingly wonder if I should even vote for the party in the next election.

  • 59.
  • At 08:31 AM on 23 May 2007,
  • Carlos Cortiglia wrote:

Education or the lack of it is the root cause of most of our problems. I find it astonishing that here were are at the beginning of the 21st Century talking about class wars. Things like social stability depend on getting things right. Remember the French Revolution. Economic imbalance leads to political instability that in turn could make the position of the so called upper classes untenable. The so called upper classes would be safer if they understand the principle that their own survival depends on having a society in which there is less bottled up frustration and resentment.

  • 60.
  • At 09:02 AM on 23 May 2007,
  • Michael Archer wrote:

My father and mother were both raised in the poorer parts of Birmingham in the mid-50's. My mother forced my father to move to Torquay in order to settle down and start a family. My father is a bricklayer and goes to work at 6.30am every day in any weather. I was priviledged enough to attend a Grammar school ony because my mother and father worked so hard to give me everything I ever needed. However, without the education I recieved at the grammar school I would never be at university now (first in my family to do so) and it is likely I would be working on the building site with my Dad. I will fight to my last breath to see grammar schools remain part of the education system in this country as long as I shall live.

  • 61.
  • At 09:17 AM on 23 May 2007,
  • Chris Wills wrote:

They just don't get it do they? Parents want the best for their children. Grammar schools provide the best free academic education in this country at the moment. Most politicians had private education or Grammar school education. So, for them to tell us what is best for our children is a bit hypocritical.
I have always voted Tory but I worry about this pandering to pc and the centre ground. David C might win short term support by turning his back on Tory supporters but he will lose traditional long term support just as Labour has done.
David C and his namesake who is supposed to have two brains need to decide whether they run a party that has values or whether they are going down the disastrous route of pandering to focus group mentality as Labour did. If the 2 Davids ignore their traditional supporters (the older ones who actually go out and vote), we will ignore them and when the wind blows in the other direction, the light chaff they have picked up with these focus group derived policies will be blown away with it, leaving a party with few supporters.
I suggest the pair of them apply their 3 brains to what is happening in France before they move too far to the centre.

  • 62.
  • At 09:21 AM on 23 May 2007,
  • Stephen wrote:

Your question to Cameron was not only unreasonable, it sets a new low in how we are to quiz our potential political leaders. If Cameron announces a policy on housing, what is to stop any reporter adopting your stance. Imagine the situation - Mr Cameron states that he wants to offer a fairer way in which first time buyers can enter the market, but this will slow down the rate of price increase for those already on the property ladder. Up jumps the Sun reporter who states - "your policy is fine for a posh kid like you, but how is it going to help ..........". Or perhaps he wants to increase taxation on flying - the same approach might be adopted.

However, as we all know, this same set of questions could have been thrown at Blair and many others in the Labour cabinet, yet I don't recall you going out of your way to pose such a question. Why is that? Perhaps, since you are so keen on linking upbringing to prejudices, you might like to tell us a little bit more about your own upbringing.

  • 63.
  • At 09:35 AM on 23 May 2007,
  • Anthony Jaynes wrote:

Children, its my bat and ball if I can't go in first I'm going home.

Cameron, it's my policy, I'm leader, so there.

Mr Cameron, quite rightly so, has been a critic of the government's top down control, now what do we have? Camerons top down control. No policy review, no debate, no Grammer Schools no membership.

  • 64.
  • At 09:41 AM on 23 May 2007,
  • the online pixie wrote:

Interesting that Gordon Brown has already allowed the Tories to set the agenda...

I was under the impression we were going to have six weeks of him wowing the electorate with his raft of policy initiatives and his newly uncovered 'personality'. Instead the Tories decide what's going to be making the headlines.

  • 65.
  • At 10:21 AM on 23 May 2007,
  • Luke Holland wrote:

Nick

As fascinating as your thoughts on Cameron's latest orchestrated fight with his own Party are, any chance of you catching a train from Paddington over to Cardiff any time soon? We are currently in the middle of possibly the most important political moment of the last fifty years in Wales, but hardly a peep from you or your network colleagues. Alex Salmond and his SNP team are deemed worthy of coverage, but not Wales. How come?

  • 66.
  • At 10:23 AM on 23 May 2007,
  • Gary Elsby stoke-on-trent wrote:

It should not be forgotten that the one single cause that broke the Conservative class advantage that they have always sought is the European Union.

This great institution has been the single most powerful institution that actually removes the class divide.

The European Union is there to deliver power to all people and to further their rights throughout the Union.

Dave has come to reailise and understand this and has undertaken the neccessary steps to dismantle the root cause of social division within this kingdom.

It will not be long before Dave embraces the Union and runs with it as a Tory cause for our people and use it as a tool for Britain in the Global economy.

Gary

  • 67.
  • At 12:32 PM on 23 May 2007,
  • James Bewerly wrote:

First off I'll clarify my position. I'm currently at a Grammer School for my A-levels, however I failed the 11 plus and spent the last 5 years at a poor secondary modern. Fortuntly I had the capacity and mental strength to gain some very good GCSE and get a place at the local grammer. Thus I have experience of both sides.

Grammer schools simply don't work. Its just a fact, the test is easly coached and even so fails to identify 10% of those who have required academic ability to get 'in' the school. That means that out of all those who are in a grammer school 105 should not be there-and similally 10% at a secondary modern should not be there, meaning that, in total, 20% are in the wrong schools.

Grammer schools serve the intrets of 20% of the population at most. The other 80% this system fails. At 11 years of age people are devided into sucess or failures, it is a very rare case that a pupil manages to overcome that sense of failure. For the rest of my life I'm going to be dogged by the fact that I went to a secondary modern and apparently failed an falwed itnellegence test that discriminates against Dislexics like myself. Perhapse grammer schools do allow 'working class kids' to have social advancement-a pupil at a grammer school usually score 1 grade higher than that at a comprehensive and 2 as that in a secondary modern- however I can count on one hand the amount of working class kids in my school. The vast majority are those of the middle classes who can afford tuition for the tests.

Fortuntly I will be fine, I am predicted 3 A's and 1 B at A-level and am on the oxbridge list from the school. However I would estimate that 8 or 9 kids from my previous school where of equal or greater intellegence than me and yet only 2 others have gaianed entry. One has already been expelled, the other 6 will probably end up in dead end jobs always having to cope with the stigma of being a secondary modern student and therefore a second class citizen.

  • 68.
  • At 12:35 PM on 23 May 2007,
  • Ron wrote:

My father spent all his life working for a peer of the realm and never earned what could be called a decent wage. I was born in a council house in what would today be called a sink estate. However, both my parents belived in education and coached me to do well. I got into grammar school and - did well.

By doing well, I've earned enough to put my parents' polciy into practice and put my son through the independent sector - because he'd get the sort of education i got. Now he's on course for a first at a major university and aims to become a barrister.

Maybe that makes me aspirational. Just think, if my son did well and became a Law Lord, it'd be "council house to House of Lords in two generations" There's an aspiration for you!

SUSPICION
It's not a class thing. Conservative supporters aren't interested in what class David Cameron belongs to. They want to support the leader of the party. It's a political party thing. And the question is, is he a Conservative?

They have always had their suspicions. These suspicions were repressed in the hope of getting a Conservative Prime Minister. They could no longer be contained after David Willetts's education policy announcement.

Mr Cameron is now reduced to calling what should be his own supporters "delusional" and to telling them not to waste his time in pointless argument.

No Prime Minister, as far as I know, has ever spoken to people like this in public. Ergo, he won't be Prime Minister.

  • 70.
  • At 02:03 PM on 23 May 2007,
  • Dave Bartlett wrote:

Mr Cameron's parents sent their son to the best school they could, as do many others. That reflects well on Mr Cameron's parents.
Mr Humphrys suggestion that a good education somehow 'taints' the recipient, if it hasn't been paid for by the taxpayer, is bizarre.

  • 71.
  • At 04:09 PM on 23 May 2007,
  • Jack wrote:

The sheer fact that you could could coach for the 11+ shows it was designed for those who had already succeeded; and value added tables for schools show that Grammar Schools do not 'add' to their students in any marked way. I liked fully comprehensive schools--the top sets there were as bright as any Grammar schools. And my two children went to the local Comprehensive and arehappily finishing off their Ph.D.s at Cambridge University...

  • 72.
  • At 06:49 PM on 23 May 2007,
  • David wrote:

This is an example of the bbc playing directly into Cameron's hands and giving him absolutely no bad press at all. This is an easy issue for him to show everybody how he really is changing the Tory party. It is so that he can keep the limelight off Gordon Brown for a while. It is irrelovent because just like everything else he says there is no policy in it. Conservatives didn't create any more grammar schools when they were last in office despite them apparently being central to their core education policy. The idea that UKIP are going to take enough votes off conservatives in marginals is ridiculous and so he can only gain from this. That is unless the bbc actually start talking about the fact he has no policies of his own.

  • 73.
  • At 11:23 PM on 23 May 2007,
  • HHS wrote:

Isn't it time to put this class argument in the bin for the biweekly collection? There are poor kids with parents who want them to succeed. What we now have is a French style political class, a lowlife benefits class, and working people.
Only occasionally does Mr Cameron show any understanding for 'our people' but he is a skilled operator, so don't be fooled. Unfortunately Mr Brown is worse. He won't change from being a waster of public money. Anyone else, and preferably someone who is ethically entitled to vote on English matters, must be better than a political bully and waster.

  • 74.
  • At 08:29 AM on 24 May 2007,
  • Bill wrote:

I do not normally agree with you but I have to say your analysis is spot on. The grammar school is not just about the schools themselves but about what conservatism is, who conservatives are, and whose interests it reflects. This debate is as much about class and patrician atavism as anything else.

I think this article speaks more about Nick Robinson and the BBC's class prejudices than anything else. Who cares that David Cameron went to Eton? Clearly the BBC does. Has he surveyed a representative sample of Conservative activists and voters to back up his opinion, or is it based on his own prejudices?
The important thing is if he is producing policies based on the evidence of effectiveness, and for all the people of the country. And yes, he is.
In answer to Andrew Court - why don't you look at the Social Exclusion work by Ian Duncan Smith (available through conservative website). It very clearly lays out the evidence of the importance of family to social mobility. Before you make comments, it is always worth checking your facts first.

  • 76.
  • At 10:24 AM on 24 May 2007,
  • Sam wrote:

i have a lot of right wing aspirations, i believe in a reduction of state control and low taxation.

But private education is totally indefenseable. Education is a human right and sure YOU might work hard but what have your children done? Nothing. Why do your children deserve a better start in life just because of who there dad is?

The answer is they don't.

This 'system' has a nock on effect to our entire society meaning we end up being ruled by blue bloods.

Look at us? Blair and Cameron both posh rich and privately educated. Look at big business, everything in fact that has any power in this country.

We are ruled by an elite even the royals are our heads of state! Unless we ban ALL private education we will never be a truly democratic nation.

And if David Cameron doesn't think his background is relevant then he is a fool.

  • 77.
  • At 04:26 PM on 24 May 2007,
  • Archie wrote:

If grammar schools are as bad as Mr Cameron and Mr Willetts suggest, why are they not proposing to abolish those which still remain in parts of the country ?

All the arguments they put forward as reasons for not introducing new grammar schools are equally valid (or equally invalid) arguments for abolishing the existing ones.

  • 78.
  • At 09:32 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Gavin wrote:

"Grammar schools are delusional"

The so called "great leader" of the Conservative party is no officially mad.

I am currently a student at a Grammar School, taking my GCSEs, and I feel that thanks to Mr. Cameron's tactic of becoming identical to Labour, his dreams of EVER being elected are now "delusional".

I would ask him, "you went to a private school, you never took the 11 plus, you never had to work for your place to be there? What DO you know about our school's system?" Without Grammar Schools how do we distinguish between those of higher or lesser ability? Are you telling me an A* student should be put in with a class of people all doing Foundation purely because of political correctness?
I think not. With no distinction between those who are better, and those that aren't our school's system will crash and burn. Labour has tried and failed to ruin it, now the Conservatives are giving a damn good go.

If anyone in the Conservative party is reading this, here's a hint. Ditch the idea of being Labour because you believe it is what we want you to be, and wise up to the fact people will vote for you only if you reiterate what you REALLY stand for, not what some private school toff and his "ideas" say.

  • 79.
  • At 11:22 PM on 26 May 2007,
  • Les wrote:

Looks like the BBC is beginning it's predictable class war campaign against the Tories rather early. It's not time for another general election just yet (though perhaps it should be with old slopey shoulders Gordon Brown about to crawl out from his hiding place pretty soon).

The bottom line is that everyone knows Grammar schools provide a better education than any other form of schooling in this country. It is nothing short of scandalous that Tory, Labour and Lib Dem ministers, who themselves benefitted from a Grammar school education, can bleat on about how it is unfair to poor kids when this has always been one opportunity for them to escape the poverty trap.

  • 80.
  • At 10:31 AM on 27 May 2007,
  • Christian Holst wrote:

Ah the old class issue; well i personally do not believe it is solely a conservative issue, though they more than most are influenced by this. All the old class issues are creeping back slowly into what is becoming a reflection of the American system of class. IE the ruling classes such as MP's (data of information act) and businesses are be given a free ride by the media, the middle class majority are slowly pulling up the ladder. Sadly if it continues i believe this will lead to people leaving the UK in hope of a better life to places like Australia and the Commonwealth in general. House prices are becoming out of reach for many people, prices and the cost of living are increasing. But you reap what you sow, so please remember this at the ballot box, it what it is for.

  • 81.
  • At 04:03 PM on 27 May 2007,
  • Dave fae Dundee wrote:

Dear Jeremy Renwick,

I fear every mention of subject 'streaming' in your ditty should be 'setting' or perhaps it's just that educational terminology is different where you come from.

Just an observation from someone who attended a Scottish comprehensive school and, presumably, would have benefitted from an English grammar school education.

'nuff said on the matter I think.

  • 82.
  • At 01:06 PM on 29 May 2007,
  • Bob Phillifent wrote:

I regret to say that a lot of the comments on this blog are from people who tink they know a lot about education but alas they know NOTHING about teaching because he two things are radically diffrent. Education is talking about teaching while teaching is actually doing it!
As a long serving retired teacher I have worked in the comprehensive system I feel I am pretty well qualified to give he "real" picture.
Selection is both necessary and it occurs NOW. Overall I would say that he "comprehensive system has been an abject failure. I didn't pass the 11+, but I did pass the 13+ and went o an entirely different grammar school and from thence to university . You cannot make a silk purse out of sow's ear. You would not put up a world class flyweight boxer even against a pretty poor heavyweight - one clout from he latter would probably send the former into orbit! In other words: "DIFFERENT STROKES FOR DIFFERENT FOLKS" It is not possible to do justice to everybody - and I thought that this was the idea behind he comprehensive system - in totally mixed abiliy groups. In these situations teaching is dirrected towards an amorphous lump somewhere in he middle of "something" - the pupils at he bottom are lost, the subject is way above them, while those at the op are "bored" because he work is simplicity itself.Further it is physically impossible for he teacher to give "individual atention " to each or even a tiny few of the class.
As I said previously, selection takes place now. Inside the school and also outside it. Whatever you call them certain schools will end us like grammars and parents will move to be within he catchement area of hese schools. These "good" comprehensives" will become even more separated from the "others" in inner-city sink estates. The system will separate into BAD and GOOD - the grammar school system took pupils from eveywhere, catchment areas meant nothing nor did your home status, the focus was directed - on work towards academic success. All this twaddle about the 11+ dividing childen into failures and successfuls is exactly what it is - twaddle. There was always movement between he seconary moderns and he grammar and technical grammars. The main driving force in he failed comprehensive system has come from public school Oxbridge types - he notorious fouled-mouth Anthony Crossland was the prime example - who were engaging in social engineering, with other people's children or were so frightened of people from "beneath" climbing the ladder that hy dcided to pull it up and deny those who could possibly rise up the chance of doing so.

This post is closed to new comments.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.