Academic and sporting discrimination

The government we hear thinks it wrong that elite universities should discriminate in favour of students who achieve the best results. They point out there are others who might be able to achieve whose backgrounds have prevented them. Some of us think it would be a better idea to sort out the worst performing state schools to deal with this problem.

I inivite the government to consider another bad example of discrimination of a similar kind. All my life people like me who love cricket but who cannot play to a high enough standard have been ignored by the England Test Selectors, on the very reasonable grounds that we would not be competitive. I wouldn’t pay good money to see people like me play cricket. Yet isn’t this a bad case of discrimination?

There is age discrimination, as I note they always pick people in their 20s or low 30s, never anyone older. Isn ‘t this discriminating in favour of people who have had privileged sporting backgrounds, as they have been to elite academies which clearly helps them play better than the rest of us? And isn’t it financial discrimination, as most selected have been paid to play cricket, so they get in much more practise than the rest of us who have to earn a living doing something else? Who knows how good the rest of us might be if we practised much of the time and had good coaches.

Isn’t the truth of life this? If you want your country to be good at something you need to discriminate in favour of those who are best trained , most suited and most committed to doing well at their chosen area? Doesn’t that apply to academic as well as sporting life? Isn’t the issue the results of some state schools, not the insistence by top universities on taking the best and the most highly motivated people?

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61 Comments

  1. David
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    Absolutely spot on, John!

  2. J Mitchell
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    The problem with this debate is that the Government uses this alleged issue of discrimination against the socially less advantaged to cover up its own failings and bigoted view against academic selection. Instead they peddle the myth that every child could achieve equally well academically if only given the same advantage as those children whose parents paid twice for their education. Until it is recognised and accepted that we cannot all do equally well academically, in the same way that we cannot all achieve the same sporting prowess, the education debate will never move on. The answer is to bring back school selection. It does not necessarily need to be selection on academic merit.

  3. no one
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    Re “Isn’t the truth of life this? If you want your country to be good at something you need to discriminate in favour of those who are best trained, most suited and most committed to doing well at their chosen area?” well the most suited and most committed are not routinely identified by the current exam system are they? And most trained introduces all sorts of bias.

    Re “Isn’t the issue the results of some state schools” to some degree yes, but you know I went to a state school, I was in the top 0.5 % by various measures (very poor A levels by your standards…), I escaped, but I have always been at a disadvantage against the top 50 % of the public schools. I happen to think the top 1 % of state schools is at least as good as the top 1 % of public schools BUT not only do the state schools dish out generally lower standards of teaching on tighter budgets BUT also the exam system etc is biased towards the public school folk.

    Re “the insistence by top universities” actually I don’t think the universities you have in mind are intrinsically better these days, what you get from Oxbridge/Imperial/Durham is contacts and a confidence and accent, having had grads from these places work for me I don’t recognise any intrinsic superiority versus some humble ex polys

    Re “the best and the most highly motivated people?” they measure this very poorly. Yes in the UK public school and Oxbridge grads tend to do better longer term, but that’s largely bias in the system/contacts/accent and so much more. So many businesses and state employers, the forces being the obvious example, are so heavily public school biased. If you looked at British grads who have for instance emigrated to the USA and their background you will find a very much more proportionate set from the old polys and so on at the very top of their trees out there in the States.

    I think we are missing out on some great talent!

    And while at the same time we are flooding out country with 3rd world nationals, here on inter company transfer visas, but in practise immediately subcontracted to our largest companies as cheap labour, working for the Tech Mahindras, the Cognizants etc of the outsourcing world, it is sad that there is often less discrimination to such folk than there is to our own nationals with regional or working class accents.

    So the system DOES NEED FIXING, yes the labour party has so much wrong, because for one thing they have allowed the terrible schools on the worst council estates to continue as bad as they are, but at the same time your simplistic “let the cream rise” argument is flawed for many reasons one of them being the overly simplistic way the cream is identified

    • Mike Stallard
      Posted July 29, 2009 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

      Grammar Schools?

      • no one
        Posted July 30, 2009 at 8:03 am | Permalink

        part of the solution maybe

        but the kids stuck on the sink estates currently going to the sink schools are hardly likely to pass an eleven plus and get to go to the best senior school in the town without other action also

        you also need radical action so that the junior education available to the kids on the sink estates is a viable way to success

        real choice to the parents sure, but actively shut down the worst schools, and actively expand the best ones

        and so much more

        • a-tracy
          Posted July 31, 2009 at 8:35 am | Permalink

          well said. I agree.

        • no one
          Posted July 31, 2009 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

          a-tracy,

          thanks

          you know when mrs t won her election and stood on the steps and said something like “we need to remember the folk in the inner cities” i really had hope, hope that the values of freedom from the conservatives would also help the kids going to the worst schools in the country, hope that we would see real chances for all, sadly that vision largely fell by the wayside

          cost cutting and efficiencies which john is laying out will only be a success long term if the electorate can see a real chance for their kids to improve on their lot, and im afraid much better education is one of the few ways of doing it

          its also the only way for the country to be economically viable long term

          we shouldnt be devaluing education, we should be ramping up the quality, being more tough, but more tough in a way which gives more opportunity to all, and which does to some degree counteract the imbalances in the system, not in the stupid ways the labour party does it by dumbing down, but by (for instance) writing exam papers taking into account a much wider set of backgrounds amongst the kids

          we need a conservative party which is pro people getting on in life, pro helping them help their kids, pro the hard working

          it just needs rounding more from the point of view of genuine folk stuck on a poor council estate or similar, trying their best to escape, and frustrated that no matter how clever their kid is even if they are the brightest in a school of 2000 they will still never get a decent education or chance in life, these realities need to change

          im all for cutting down management overheads, but these policies need rounding with the issues that matter to the people through the generations, issues which most of the labour party politicians have no idea about either

  4. David B
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    Unfortunately your suggestion has the misfortune of using common sense, the concept this current government dislikes most

  5. Paul
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    To the left, the answer is “no”.

    TBF there is actually some truth in this and a significant problem, but as always with the left, they will not fix the real problem, relying on their warped view of reality to fix it.

    My daughter was moved out of the state education system at age 11. She is smart and hard working but by no means an academic high flyer. However, since she left the state system she has moved streets ahead of her fellow pupils socially and educationally. (She is now 14, but the gap was already noticeable after two terms ; at 13 she was doing GCSE standard work. As a teacher myself it’s actually quite scary).

    I don’t doubt that there are children in the local (rubbish) state school who are more core intelligent than she is, but the reality is that she will do better than them all the way down the line.

    I think the gap is probably insurmountable *now* ; the size of it at eighteen will be vast. For example, some pupils have moved from the state school she would have been in to her school ; they have required extra support in class not because they are dim, but simply because of the vaste swathe of topics they hadn’t yet covered in the state system.

    The problem for the unfortunate smart children in the state system is that it’s often a lousy education (the local ‘rubbish’ state school is a rural small comp, not a sink school) and the child learns so little that however ‘core intelligent’ they may be, the gap is simply too big.

    The solution, of course, is to fix the state system to provide a decent standard of education in subjects worth studying and to fix the rampant behavioural problems therein.

    However, to do so involves admitting that it is well and truly stuffed up already, so they won’t do it.

    The real difference between left and right is not policies ; it’s the acceptance of reality.

    • Mike Stallard
      Posted July 29, 2009 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

      I took my own daughter out of the state system too. Now she is a vet, having chosen her University from all the top ones because of her very strong A level results.
      It’s not just you.
      Your last sentence says it all.

    • Stuart Fairney
      Posted July 30, 2009 at 10:36 am | Permalink

      I have to agree. I went to something of a sprawling “sink” comprehensive in the 1970’s and now seriously think my formal education stopped at 11* and it only restarted under my own steam some years after leaving the place.

      I agree with both you and Mike. The left simply cannot admit there is a problem with the state system because that would be admitting all the “investment” was money down the rat-hole of a fundamentally broken system.

      (*Although to be fair, I did learn a great deal about self-defence during the various break times due to the behavioural problems you alluded to)

      • Paul
        Posted July 31, 2009 at 8:10 am | Permalink

        Your sink comp. would be a paradise compared to a modern sink comp.

        Seriously.

        While all state schools suffer drastically from targetism and bureaucracy (see all JR’s recent posts !) and a politicised massively simplified curriculum (it’s embarrassing) the real problem is behaviour.

        At it’s worst it is worse than you can possibly imagine. Even the ‘good’ schools have problems.

        This is almost (IMO) entirely down to the children’s rights mob. For example, the regular demand for ‘fun’ lessons. When I was at school we had fun lessons (e.g. Science practicals) but we understood they were balanced with hard ones (e.g. Science theory).

        • Stuart Fairney
          Posted July 31, 2009 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

          I agree with much of it, I saw some filming of an ‘English lesson’ where they allegedly studied Shakespeare by looking up bits of it on the internet (those who weren’t accessing porn anyway). I seriously wondered what they could have gained from that in terms of contextual understanding or appreciation of the prose.

          At least at 14 I knew enough to be ejected from a live performance of “The Merchant of Venice” the school had taken us to, for rather vocally telling the Prince of Morocco to choose the lead casket. I doubt the kids of today would get the joke (though in all fairness my English teacher at the time didn’t seem to entirely see the funny side if memory serves).

  6. Stuart Fairney
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Great illustration, I cannot for the life of me understand why the England selectors don’t pick and ageing 40-something Welshman to bowl dead straight, slowish medium-pace long hops, it’s just not fair!

    Of course if they did, we’d lose a few cricket matches (not unimportant but not vital) whereas not picking the best students to go to world renowned universities, means they don’t stay world renowned for too long and that IS rather more serious.

  7. Peter Turner
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Yes, you would think so and you would be right. However, while it is politically correct to admit that we all have physical differences and that we should nurture a particularly appropriate physical attribute we seem to reject that approach when we come to appreciating mental talent. We all know that an Einstein or a Hawkins have intellectual abilities way beyond the average and yet we make no effort to select and nurture these talents.

    The Conservatives are not free of blame in this matter. Even now they (or most of them) reject the idea of returning to the Grammar School principle where entry was related to academic ability. There is a tendency to accept the Socialist philosophy that Nurture, not Nature is all important

  8. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Labour is still wedded to its politics of envy. As a consequence its actions are progressively destroying this country. Much to my amazement, I understand several of the current cabinet attended our elite universities. It is hard to believe that they had the necessary academic intellect when you observe their performances in government office. The Conservative party appears, currently, to be too timid in its approach to tackling the whole range of government spending activities to change this.
    Of course you are correct, but if you can’t get a position on your party’s frontbench then I’m inclined to the view that nothing much will change with a Conservative government.

  9. Neil Craig
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    In a purely utilitarian sense it is much better to improve the educational attainments of the very best – equivalent to pushing up genius level from 140 to 145 – than to spend time helping those at the far end of the curve in the other direction – helping those at 70 to match 75. The fraction of 1% at the top end of the curve are any society’s greatest asset.

    I must admit to a lefty preference to not completely abandoning the lower end as well.

  10. Michael
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Absolutely. I spent three years as a full-time apprentice footballer, and I am now, 6 years later, about to start a PhD at a top university. And the prime difference is this; in the footballing world, everything (and I mean everything!) is geared up to making you perform better, and as a result minimum standards are insisted upon. In universities, certainly at undergraduate level anyway, their newly assumed role as social engineering institutions, enacting the bizarre educational philosophies of the left, means that you actually spend most of your time self-learning in an effort to make up for the lowest-common-denominator teaching you inevitably receive during lectures.

    One can’t blame the lecturers for this – what else can they do? When teaching a class with some students that received top grades at a-level, and some that received c’s and maybe even d’s, there is probably little other option. Indeed, I wonder if the demands of the league tables combined with the ‘bums on seats’ managerialist orthodoxy amongst university Chancellors means that lecturers are encouraged, even if indirectly, to prioritise future income streams (necessary to continue with the social engineering) before thinking about academic excellence? It is something that has been hinted at in the past, by more than one lecturer.

  11. Acorn
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    There are people behind me saying they HAVE paid good money to see people like John Redwood, DPhil, MA, play cricket 😉

    Fortunately, so far, our socialist government has not produced a piece of legislation to compel the England Test Selectors to include the “discriminated”. Perhaps they will discover a little known clause in the DDA that will cover it.

    Socialism equals spite plus envy. Reduced to the lowest common denominator. Better that all should win prizes than elite individuals should gain knowledge that might invent the next 10GHz, 256 bit microprocessor, that will fit in a Smartie.

  12. Liz
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    This Government, particularly Ed Balls, would rather every child had an equally awful education rather than academic and non academic children had an education fitted to their needs, as say in Germany. They have worked tirelessly to this end and it is the one area of Government that can be said to have succeeded brilliantly: since Labour came to power we have fallen steadily behind almost every other “first world” country, and many third world ones, in practically every aspect of educational achievement. The Government, of course, has spent more money and energy trying to cover this up rather than do anything to rectify the situation.

  13. oldrightie
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Is this not the heart of Socialist hypocrisy? Advantage is OK if applied to themselves ergo look at the standard of this Government over 12 years. Their philosophy flies straight in the face of human nature and success.

  14. Archbishop Cranmer
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Ahh, Mr Redwood, you are confusing selection by ability with selection by aptitude.

    According to Mr Blair’s academy philosophy, the former is anathema; the latter wholly to be encouraged. Thus those who manifest an ‘aptitude’ for science may be selected for an academy with a science specialism.

    Quite how that ‘aptitude’ is to be established other than by academic test is not clear.

    When you have worked out the difference between aptitude and ability, could you please let His Grace know because he is damned if he can work it out.

    He posted on a similar theme a few days ago.

    It is quite unacceptable that the ugly are excluded from beauty contests and the tone deaf from joining the choir.

    • Paul
      Posted July 31, 2009 at 8:15 am | Permalink

      ….. especially if they don’t know the words of the song 😉

      The difference between aptitude and ability as I see it is that aptitude you are born with and it can be almost entirely hidden and eventually lost by a rotten education ; ability you already have.

      This is the “problem” with my private educated daughter ; her aptitude is probably about middling, but her ability now after 3 years private is way ahead of her peers in the local state school.

      I think she could have done her GCSEs at the end of Year 8. She did Common Entrance and the difficulty looks about the same ; maybe CE is slightly harder.

  15. Archbishop Cranmer
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    His Grace apologises for not closing the hyperlink.

    He has had a rough night.

  16. Mark M
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    Hear, hear. If the government want more students from poor backgrounds in university it should be looking at how they can bring those students up to a university level, not trying to force the universities to lower their standards.

    Of course, this will involve some form of selection, whether by the state, in the form of 11+ equivalents, or by the student (and parents). I’d like to see a new wave of elite secondary schools that base their selection on ability of applicants. Intakes can come from years 6, 7, 8 and 9 so that students have 4 chances to get into the elite school (ends the argument of not fair to place such a burden on a child) before their GCSE years 10 and 11.

    Based on the catchment area for the elite school, the top x% of students in the exam get in. Yes, it does leave those less able behind but they can be taught at an appropriate level as can the brightest students.

  17. WitteringsfromWitney
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Exactly!

    Which is why socialism with its ‘in-built’ equality and diversity ethic will never work.

    Your post is yet another example of your perceptiveness and ability to ‘hit the nail on the head’.

    However……(ahem) use of a ‘spellchecker’ might not be a bad idea?

  18. Richard Holloway
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Hear hear!
    Logic was, and never has been a particular skill that the Labour Party has had. Presumably because they discriminate against those who are logical by barring them from standing as Labour MPs.

    John Redwood for third in the England batting order! It’s outrageous this wanton discrimination of our country’s finest players who didn’t get a fair innings at the wicket when they were younger.

    Keep up the good work Mr Redwood. The time is coming where this sort of nonsense will be stopped.

  19. Discrimination - so very Old Labour!
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Isn’t the truth of life this? – Well of course it is. But ‘social mobility’ and all this positive discrimination is not really about achieving the best for UK citizens, it is all about a self-selecting bunch of left wing ideals that bear little or no relation to reality.

    Over the past decade we have witnessed incredible hypocracy from senior Labour politicians – who increase the burden on the so called middle classes (which apparently encompasses any one living in the South of England, or earning more than an average wage), who dumb down state education, whilst sending their own children to private or selective schools.

    Having seen both GCSE and A level papers recently set, it is ridiculous how they standards of questions have fallen. No wonder the results continue on their ever upward path, Ministers have simply overseen a massive dilution of standards.

    The next Government must reverse this trend if we are to improve educational standards and maintain the quality of our top universities.

  20. Robert Eve
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Absolutely correct as usual John!!

  21. THE ESSEX BOYS
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    BRILLIANT ANALOGY!

    As we’ve often said they’re a really good way of getting a political point across.

  22. Blank Xavier
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    If discrimination is bad, what about genetic discrimination?

    I mean, I know people who are singers – beautiful singing voices. Why do they get the singing gigs and I don’t? that’s not fair! all because they have beautiful voices. If I had the genetics, I’d have that too.

    What about IQ, while we’re at it. I know people with high IQs – they have great lives – high pay, nice houses, travel. I’d have that too, if only my IQ was higher. That isn’t fair! it’s not my fault my IQ is low.

    There’s an old science fiction story, where everything is ‘fair’, if by fair you mean everyone is equal. Beautiful people were masks, to make them look average. Bright people have explosive noises going off in implanted headphones, to keep their intellectual effectiveness average. The C grade (of A to E) is the highest rated grade. An A is a fail, as is an E.

    The fact is, equality achieved by *degrading* the lives of those who are doing well is the pursuit of failure.

  23. figurewizard
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    A central tenet of the most successful private schools is that of a ‘well rounded’ education. An outstanding example as to how this is often found wanting in the state sector is in the attitude towards sport.

    Some years ago my company approached the deputy head of our local comprehensive; who had played senior club rugby in his time with a view to sponsoring the development of rugby within the school. A week later he told me that it was not possible for him to take up our offer because his headmaster had reminded him that he did not believe in the virtues of competitive sport as a matter of principle.

    What I found quite shocking was that such a person was allowed to be in charge of the education, well being and preparation for life of so many young people.

    • Mike Stallard
      Posted July 29, 2009 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

      We have two Comprehensive schools locally and my old Cambridge College is out there, with an outreach officer, looking for people from Comprehensives. I wrote to both Heads asking them to consider asking her to come and put the case for looking at her two Colleges as University for school leavers.
      No reply from either Head……
      When I told one of my students this, he said: “Is Cambridge College the same as Anglia Ruskin? We went there and it was awful.”

  24. Aidan Burley
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Well done John! I have been saying precisely this for years. What I find utterly contemptable and hypocritical in the extreme is that these same Labour politicians who would deny any sort of ‘selection’ or ‘streaming’ or ‘setting’ on academic grounds, as you say on the basis of supposedly ‘discriminating’ against less able students, are the same ones who proudly boast ad nauseam of their comittment to their local football team!

    Ed Balls bangs on about ‘proudly being a season ticket holder of his beloved local football team, Hartlepool United, but as Education Secretary would deny the same selection procedures that team has to pick and nurture its best players, to those people who happen to prefer to be competitive in the class room and not the football pitch.

    This would be funny if it wasn’t so perverse. After all, which is the more important in our society; having the best football players, or having the best educated people?

  25. Johnny Norfolk
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    You would think you were dealing with children having to spell this out to them. they just have no idea about life in the real world

  26. Demetrius
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    A school mate of mine got to a top Cambridge college with two bare passes at “A” level, and zero intellectual interests. Also, he came from a lower class home. Well, he did play for England at rugger. As well as him I recall a few Welsh chaps from mining families that were better qualified in that they played for Wales or leading Welsh clubs. They got by OK. Back to the 1950’s I say.

  27. Adrian Peirson
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    I actually agree with the Govt on this, I have a similar problem with the World Boxing authorities.
    They only allow usually Black Boxers who are incredibly fit and athletic to win millions of pounds of prize money, fast cars and women etc.
    I as a weedy white non boxer think this is discriminatory, will you raise the Issue in the House of Commons for me.

    • Number 6
      Posted July 30, 2009 at 10:02 am | Permalink

      Discrimination is rife across all sports in this country, when oh when will Labour make it all fair? I race historic stock cars and as a fat middle aged man I am constantly being beaten by younger, fitter, and keener male and female drivers. It is not fair at all, I insist that these drivers either start 2 laps behind me or they must arrive with the mandatory middle aged spread, failing eyesite and degraded reflex actions so as to make things fair for has-been drivers like me.

  28. R. Goodacre
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    On the contrary, I’m sure that watching you take guard against Brett Lee and Glen McGrath would have been well worth the price of entry..

  29. StevenL
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    I’d pay good money to see one or two politicans face Brett Lee.

  30. Paul
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    Totally correct as always John.

    I’m surprised you’re not a hockey player though as your alma mater has a bit of a good reputation on that front

  31. David Belchamber
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    “If you want your country to be good at something you need to discriminate in favour of those who are best trained , most suited and most committed to doing well at their chosen area? Doesn’t that apply to academic as well as sporting life?”

    I am delighted to see you write this. As a former teacher (and cricketer), I have argued that there is a close analogy between intellectual and sporting development.

    You do not get to play for England by going through a ‘comprehensive’ stystem of development. You are selected because you excel among your peers.

    Similarly in education, I see it as the school’s responsibility to discover the innate abilities in every child and then develop them to their greatest potential.

  32. Steve Tierney
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    Yes. As long as the system is open to people coming in from the sidelines along more unusual paths and proving they have what it takes.

    Universities should take people with the best grades and not accept people with bad grades. This should be true regardless of which social group they call home.

    But there should be an option for people to prove they are up to the required standard, despite not coming along the “approved” route. Thus allowing determined, talented people to overcome obstacles.

  33. Jim
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    Excellent, and precisely echoes my use of the Manchester United case in everyday life. I’d have dearly loved to have been spotted, played my heart out and earned millions, but in the end you just have to settle for what you’re good at, make the best of it, and take your chance as to whether that’s flavour of the month at the time. My local club Reading has a strong Academy to bring on its young players. Happily John Madejski hasn’t (to my knowledge) yet been obliged to take on the lads who might have made it if only they hadn’t been living half a mile from the nearest park…. I guess ambition and skill overcomes adversity…

  34. alan jutson
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    The cream will nearly always rise to the top eventually, but if given some help, tuition, and encouragement, it will do so much earlier.

    We should be trying to improve the poorer schools, not giving a handicap to the better ones.

    Some people develop at a much slower rate than others, some after formal education has finished, so this applies not only to education, but in many other walks of life as well.

    Its The Dumbing down culture again that worries me. But there again the Prime Minister chose not to take the test of an election in case he failed so what do you expect. !!!!!

    Anyone fancy being a brain surgeon ???

  35. Mark
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    Hear, hear!

    However, education is not just about ensuring selection of those most able to fulfil potential. I’d submit that the “prizes for all” culture is actually failing to stretch middle achievers, who now need to go to “university” to achieve a standard that previously was attained at school: education has become much less efficient at inculcating knowledge than it used to be, at cost to taxpayers, and to the economy. It doesn’t even help those less able, who are encouraged to believe they have aptitude they lack, and instead of finding a useful niche, wind up as NEETs.

  36. no one
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    A lot of the responses on here make me very sad

    I don’t think many of you realise how bad it can be being a very bright kid going to a sink comprehensive, (as some of my cousins did and their kids and grandkids still do years later)

    The conservative party does show a lack of understanding by filling its front benches with public school folk, the majority of the country agree with George Galloway and Prescott when they point out the lack of balance in the Conservative front benches, the Conservative party does itself no favours here

    On the contrary to many contributors the cream very often gets no chance whatsoever to rise to the top in the UK and that is the problem, we are very inefficient with our talent and potential

    While we end up with some second rate folk in positions of power simply because their parents could pull strings or finance a private education

    It is a complete myth that poor folk, or folk on bad estates, or catchment areas of bad schools do not want a first-rate education for their kids, there are more votes in this than you would imagine – but nobody really believes any party is really going to kick ass and shake up the dire state of their local school

    Sadly I feel both labour with their nutty politically correct ideas, and the conservatives with their lack of drive for success of folk going to the worst schools, are both wrong

    Much more decision-making should be taken away from the state and given to individual parents, real ability to choose the school their kids go to without having to move address etc

    For the benefit of the country as a whole we really need to leverage the talent of our kids much more accurately, and that means supporting some of the poor kids in crap state schools who really do have untapped academic and other prowess to become great, and it also means some fairness in the system so that the dumb kids at public school really do end up working at the burger bar or whatever

    Returning ever more to the days when your destiny was completely determined by the status of your parents is not the way to maximise the earning potential of the country

    And some fairness is a noble aim

    So I think the various rants, and back slapping that we are all so right, are far from the mark

    I’m a Conservative supporter, but I want real radical action to sort out the system, and I want some real opportunity for all

    Having worked in the States I can say I definitely feel there is much more chance there for kids of poor families to escape in a generation, for the benefit of the whole country, and there are many other countries where its done so much better than the UK

    I feel so passionate about this, and I am sure I am closer to the majority than most of you

    I do think “most suited and most committed to doing well at their chosen area” could be measured a lot better than A levels do it, and for me being in the top 0.01 % of a large school where none of the kids ever get A levels still shows a lot more potential than a straight A student from a public school etc

  37. Jim
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    So can we all agree to inform Mr Cameron following his interview on the Marr Programme on Sunday that life isn’t necessarily fair… the emphasis on fair should follow the emphasis on national recovery, not precede it. Over to you, John

  38. Mike Stallard
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    So where has all this lunacy sprung from? It is a very new thing.

    Fear of pedophilia and insistence on letting pupils get away with it has led to a very women dominated education industry, especially at Primary Schools.
    Mums and Dads though, (teachers are “in loco parentis”, in place of the parent), are quite different to each other.
    Dads (look at all the men above in the thread) want the very best from their children and they expect their children to improve and get ahead, even if it means discomfort or competitive suffering.
    Mums have a totally different outlook.
    Every child matters to a mum. There can be no favourites. She understands her child with learning difficulties and loves him just the same as her England Cricketer son. What most mums want is for their children to be contented and happy. Any form of unnecessary suffering is to be avoided.
    Put a Mum in charge of educating your child and – BINGO! – that is what you get.

    • Mike Stallard
      Posted July 30, 2009 at 7:00 am | Permalink

      Please don’t dismiss this as sexism. It isn’t. I am NOT saying that women ought to be barred from teaching or that they are inferior to men.
      What I am saying is that women are different from men and that we need to recognise that for the future of our children.
      At the moment, we are, in fact, penalising men and that is discrimination.

      • Acorn
        Posted July 30, 2009 at 7:55 am | Permalink

        Spot on Mike. The situation gets worse when Dad is also missing from the boys home life, I have seen it too often. The lad gets to year six and his life has been entirely directed by women. After numerous years, I never had a man apply for a teaching post in an Infant School, but I did get a male head teacher eventually which made a subtle but noticeable difference to the School.

  39. Adml J Sparrow Rtd
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

    If the Tory party feel uncomfortable with the return to Grammar schools (a state-maintained secondary school providing an education with an academic bias) how about the minor adjustment of privatising all State schools.

    • Mike Stallard
      Posted July 31, 2009 at 7:01 am | Permalink

      Impossible!
      What about all the vested interests like the quangos, the County Education Authorities, the Unions, the advisory bodies, Ofsted, the Examination System including SATs, the ancilliary bodies like cleaners and builders, and, finally, the University Teacher Training Units?
      All would have to change!
      Comrade, this is very counter revolutionary!

  40. Kenny
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

    No Mr Redwood that does not work as an argument. In sport if you are good enough you get in, regardless of class culture or upbringing. Did Man Utd reject Scholes or Giggs as they did not go to private school? Would any soccer or rugby side reject people as they did not go to the right school? Not any sensible club.
    Look what work Barcelona did for Messi.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted July 30, 2009 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

      If you’re suggesting that a top university would reject an otherwise suitable candidate because they didn’t go to a private school, you’re wrong.

      Eg Oxford makes great efforts to encourage state school pupils to apply, as I know because my own daughter having gone to Oxford from a comprehensive, along with several others from the same school in that particular year, was later asked by the university if she would go round all the local comprehensives to do just that – positively encourage their pupils to consider the possibility of applying to Oxford.

      It was hardly her fault, or Oxford’s fault, that most of the schools she approached didn’t accept her offer, with a couple not even bothering to reply to her.

  41. Faustiesblog
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    Absolutely.

    /diskrimminayt/

    • verb 1 recognize a distinction. 2 make an unjust distinction in the treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, sex, or age.

    i.e., to choose. Every time we make a choice, we discriminate. Labour wants to take choice away from us.

    Every chance it gets, it adds something else to the forbidden phrases in the database of political correctness.

    Every inch we give in this regard emboldens them to take the next “baby step”.

    Take a stand against all forms of curtailment of free speech, before we have no free speech – or freedom.

  42. adam
    Posted July 30, 2009 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    I would like television to stop discriminating against the intelligent, personally. Hope to see an equality bill on this soon.

  43. Winston Chesterfield
    Posted July 30, 2009 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    I largely agree with this post. The best of ‘what we have’ – i.e. the best results should always be central in considering potential applicants to university, no matter what school they come from. I do think it is important to consider motivation, depth of talent (i.e. hobbies, pastimes) and background but not to judge it socially speaking. In other words, don’t throw a CV in the bin because the sender happened to attend Eton College/Local Comp.

    What I do not agree with is that A-Levels should have such an impact BEYOND university studies. I have achieved a 2:1 LLB and a Merit in my LLM and yet many trainee programs I attempt still focus on the A-Level results. It seems that intelligent graduates, not such high flyers at school, who excel at university will find it perpetually difficult to get a look in – there is such a thing as late blooming after all.

  44. Adml J Sparrow Rtd
    Posted July 31, 2009 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Agree with you but it would be great fun exactly what the country needs, and why stop with education?

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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