Friday, 2 March 2007

Education. Education. Education.

D-Day for many families who discover today if they have been successful in getting their kids into the secondary school of their choice. We were in this position last year and happily got the result we wanted - eldest daughter now goes to one of the 'least bad' comprehensives in the borough.

Earlier this week it was revealed that in Brighton school places are being allocated by lottery. Is this a capitulation of the authorities' juggling of parental choice with the engineering of social equality ? Or is it a refreshingly honest recognition of the fact that the whole process has broken down and that an unofficial life-lottery is replaced with an official one ?

Ironically for the people who make the most noise about this, (middle class parents), it actually matters least. Their kids generally seem to do ok in the end, even in the crappiest of schools.

This is certainly my personal experience. At my not-really-so-bad-at-all comprehensive, many kids were failed by the system and did not achieve their potential. Those of my friends who were middle class overcame this by doing re-takes and possibly entering higher education a couple or years late, or just by good career advice. Either way, by their late twenties they has redressed earlier set backs. Not so my working class friends, failure at school pretty much sealed their fate in terms of life chances.

For this reason I can't accept the idea of private education or anything other than a truly comprehensive system. And no faith schools or selective schools either.

Again, this is from personal experience as someone who was the first for over ten years to make it to Oxbridge from my comprehensive. I saw there at first hand the privileged arrogant mediocrities from private schools who had been groomed to consider themselves as an elite.

As a parent I am now a bit less judgemental than I used to be about individuals who do opt for the private/selective sector - it's a bit like private health, the state alternative is so bad you can't blame people who 'can' trying to get something better. But as far as governments are concerned, a flourishing comprehensive education system has to be the only way to go.

Blair was right to say Education. Education. Education. It is probably, for all of us, our first and most fundamental experience of social inequality.

Shame that New Labour has made bugger-all improvement to this .

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