Thursday, July 24, 2014

Judging Michael Gove.

The most puzzling aspect of Britain's (mainly England's) educational system to foreigners must be its diversity. Whereas in most developed countries schools are broadly consistent in their construct and activities here there is virtually no consistency at all. We have Independent Schools, Grammar Schools, Comprehensives, Academies, Free Schools, Faith Schools and a host of minor variants of almost every conceivable type (and probably some you couldn't conceive of at all).

The education a child receives is directly proportional to the wealth of his or her family. Richer kids get better education than poorer kids. They are either in the 7% in the Independent where Daddy pays, or their parents can afford to buy a house in a good area with good State schools. It's a postcode lottery, but one that is fixed. You can buy your way in.

If you are old-fashioned enough to be a supporter of the long-replaced Grammar schools do not despair. Move to Kent where they still exist! If you want a religious experience daily for you good little Catholic, or Jewish or Muslim child - no problem. There will be a Madrassa (or equivalent) somewhere for her. Prayers seven times a day and nuanced teaching - even creationism. You'll find it if you want it.

This has to be "all good" doesn't it? Freedom of choice. Little Jimmy or Jane can get the education that is right for them. But of course it isn't good at all. Little Mohammed won't get a proper education at all - he'll get one with a hefty dose of indoctrination thrown in. And Tracey in Sunderland will get a totally different, and less good, education to Emma in Ewell. Tarquin will go to Daddy's posh school and come away with exam results that will guarantee Oxbridge entry. And will have played sport on playing fields that his State school equivalent will have sold off long ago. The "culture" of Tarquin's school won't guarantee success - but look at the results. They deliver, at a price.

And that's the real test of Gove, did he change all the above in a positive direction at all? Under his longish jurisdiction did equality of opportunity shift? Did he make any move towards creating a fairer education system? Not by levelling down, but by levelling up? We have great schools across the board in Britain, and some truly appalling ones as well. "Give me a child to the age of seven" say the Jesuits. Build on that another ten years or so of education and I'll give you the man. The better the school, the better the prospects, the better the life. Education. Education. Education. 


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