X Factor Education

EducationState are interested, if not surprised, that the ‘elite’ are out in force ramping up the ‘crisis’ level in much the same way the ‘fear’ level is ramped up by NuLab.


We all know the drill. Some self-appointed ‘expert’ speaks out in public about some perceived problem, statistics at the ready, and either one of the political parties is there ready to lend support. This time, Barnaby Lenon, the headmaster of Harrow school, said state schools were opting for “soft” A-level options (e.g. media studies, always the whipping-boy!), and pupils had no chance of getting into elite universities because of it.

The meaningless statistics: ’39 per cent of those with three grade-A passes including chemistry and maths had attended private schools, as had 54 per cent of those with three As including a modern foreign language.’

It was also Mr Lenon’s duty to warn against giving top priority to improving social mobility as a government policy as it ‘inevitably’ led to a “dumbing down” of standards.

He added that if children are educated well – the main aim – then social mobility will follow.

Even Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrats’ Treasury spokesman (not Education, lest we forget!) got in on the act and questioned whether Britain was sending too many youngsters to universities, arguing they should be channelled into further education colleges to take apprenticeships instead.

This whole very familiar story can be understood in several ways. The ‘crisis’ in education besetting UK society, declining standards in education, classical education is best, education being used as a tool of government policy rather than a good in itself, the uppity lower classes getting above their station, independent schools are better etc.

We wonder, of course, whether elite universities – whatever that means – really reject a student with an A* in media studies?

Also, how can social mobility improve without qualifications – however soft – in a managerial society so fixated by them and grades?

And, would Vince Cable advise a young relative or teenage child of a friend to go to one of the FE colleges that he so admires?



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