Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Fiona Millar on 'Segregational Selection'

Mrs Alastair Campbell has written an article accusing schools which select pupils of "social segregation. It's HERE on Comment is Free. You might think that the Guardian readers of Comment is Free might well agree with Fiona Millar. Not a bit of it. Scroll down the comments and you'll see she's getting flamed. A cracking read. Here's part of her article to get your juices flowing...

What do local authorities with the worst records for giving parents their first choice of school have in common? All are partly or wholly selective and children still sit the 11-plus... Selective schools are anti-choice and lead to social segregation. Schools do the choosing using an ability test which is accompanied by an exorbitant and exclusive private tuition industry. Grammar schools take far fewer children on free school meals, from some minority ethnic groups and with special needs than their surrounding communities...

It took about a year, following the wrangling over the recent education and inspections bill to flush out and ban the many forms of backdoor selection. The next 12 months should see the same effort going into eradicating the infinitely more insidious selection through the front door.

47 comments:

wrinkled weasel said...

Sometimes, I sit here and think, "What it a sensible reply to this post and can I avoid being trivial and insulting?"

On this occasion I shall go with, "The stupid cow needs a dry slap"

Ken from Gloucester said...

I have a wonderful grand daughter.She has two great hard working parents who encourage her to do her best and two elder sisters who do the same.

Guess what ? she is doing well and is top of her class with superb reports.She is 7 and Grandma is teaching her to do codeword puzzles.

They live in Cheltenham and thank god they still have a Grammar School!!

That woman is getting flamed for good reason and long may it continue.If I was rich (which I am not !) I would pay for private education at some rather nice schools in the area.

Chuck Unsworth said...

The delightful Fiona is, we should all recognise, one of the foremost educational thinkers de nos jours.

A woman of stunning intellect, I always take her views as being irrefutable...

Gert Bruhn said...

Unbelieveable just what I want to read today. I think this is an excellent reason for people (like you and me) to stop fearing the big stacks... and to stop bullying the small stacks. It was quite useful reading, found some interesting viewpoints in here, - Thanks!
You find my Website Here

ian said...

Agreeing with Iain Dale twice in one day. This is becoming a very disturbing habit.

[NB, Iain: Spam at Comment 4]

no longer anonymous said...

The reason grammar schools in Kent are so middle class is because middle class parents can afford to buy their way into the catchment area.

In Northern Ireland results at non-grammar schools are superior to results at English comprehensive schools.

true blue said...

Will somebody dust down Fiona`s shoulders they`re covered with chips ! Has the Bagpiper returned home yet ?

towcestarian said...

But I thought that academic selection was not official Conservative policy any more. Certainly Nadine doesn't like it http://www.dorries.org.uk/Blogs/2007/Feb/24 and I'm sure pinko Cameron has publicly disowned it recently.

Bottom line is, don't vote Conservative if you want to keep hold of what few grammar schools that are left.

tony flaig bignews said...

What is it with Tory’s and grammar schools, I though you lot (Tory’s), believed in competition. Is an education system that decides the winners & losers five or six years ahead of the race, the best system?

Simply put many middleclass parents, shell out good money, for one reason, to get their little brats coached into passing the eleven-plus, either at tin pot schools or with extra tuition, thus cheating the system.

The result is that for the next few years, the competitive edge is lost and this is why authorities such as Kent fail more than they succeed.

Praguetory said...

Can someone explain the imperceptible process by which these liberal elites secure a gilded existence without any brain power? It can't all be inherited. I could really do with an explanation.

true blue said...

Praguetory-It`s called Socialism !
"All men are equal but some are more equal than others" .

Croydonian said...

If truth be told, just about all CiF items get flamed in the contributions.

Wouldn't it be interesting to know her educational background, eh?

james higham said...

Backdoor selection here, fighting for choice there. All it comes down to is that there are parents who want the best for their children. Full stop. Is that a crime?

Voyager said...

This "Free school meals" canard is a joke when you look at how you qualify...it should be abolished as it is being twisted by dysfunctional harpies like Millar who fancies herself another Caroline Benn since Cherie fired her as PR liar.

Millar whose sole claim to fame is as concubine of reformed drunk Alistair Campbell, would be better going to Moscow to persuade Putin of the merits of collective-farming

towcestarian said...

Tony flaig bignews said:
"Simply put many middleclass parents, shell out good money, for one reason, to get their little brats coached into passing the eleven-plus"

"Middle class brats" are generally more intelligent than other brats because their parents are generally more intelligent - its called genetics. However, post-Thatcher there are plenty of thick parents with enough money to cram their dimwitted offspring to a reasonable academic level (the way Brenda's kids were).

The problem is how to ensure that the intelligent minority (from any social background) get a decent academic education. Historically, grammar schools did this very effectively. So what if a few rich turds get polished in the process?

tony flaig bignews said...

Towcestarian are you sure you mean genetics surely you refer to eugenics.

The simplest way to get the best out of children is to keep them in a competitive environment throughout their school years by scrapping grammar schools you achieve this.

In Kent, the only truly competitive school year is the one that precedes secondary schooling.

Chuck Unsworth said...

I'm sorry, I just couldn't resist putting this reference up:

http://www.newstatesman.com/200511280002

It somehow gives me a very clear picture of Miss Millar and her world...

Hayek's Grandad said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hayek's Grandad said...

no longer anonymous -

Many of the Grammar Schools in Kent don't have a catchment area. Certainly of the three boys Grammar Schools in my area two have no catchment area, they take the children who perform best in the 11+ regardless of all other matters including where they live.

I know of many children who have gone to these and other Grammar Schools with no private education and no private tutoring. What they all have in common is a good ability to reason and parents who care.

If it's a bad thing to allow such children to fulfil their academic potential I can't see how.

Thatcher-right said...

I was appalled to discover that our (state) primary school makes no preparation whatsoever for the kids taking the eleven plus. As a result the only two kids who passed had received some out-of-school coaching. Of course the local private primary schools prepare the kids for the exam.

If you were wanting to design a scheme for selecting the kids of middle class parents you'd be hard pressed to do better!

And yes, my daughter was one of the two who passed so I can view the scheme slightly dispassionately!

ezra said...

The thing is, at the moment grammar schools take few poorer pupils because so they're aren't many grammar schools. Rich parents buy up homes around grammar schools (and good comps come to that).

If there were far more grammar schools, so many that every home was in a catchment area, the number of poorer pupils attending them would increase.

Trumpeter Lanfried said...

chuck ainsworth 9.16 am. Thanks for this reference. I urge everyone to read it. It's beyond parody. These people are living in a world of their own.

Trumpeter Lanfried said...

croydonian 11.50 pm. You say: "If truth be told, just about all CiF items get flamed in the contributions."

Yes, I've noticed that. Before blogging, you could only get a letter published in the Guardian if it sat comfortably with the views expressed at Islington dinner parties. Now, people like Fiona Miller and Polly Toynbee get a well-deserved hammering.

ezra said...

"Bloody hell, Fiona, you're like a broken record. Can't you find another dead horse to flog?", whatreallyhappened, Comment No. 473850

I think this comment is worth recording.

Dr.Doom said...

I was born with the highest IQ in this Country.

I am poor.

I am poor because my mum and dad were poor.

They couldn't pay for private education. In fact, poor people never think of such practices.

The Conservative Party dominated the last Century.

The Conservative Party preserved selection for the rich and the poor paid for it.

Fiona is right.
Alastair is right to be proud of her.

I am proud of her.

All of my children are in University because of Labour, neither because they are rich or poor.

Because of Tony and Labour.

If Rupert Murdoch or some other crazed right wing meglomaniac entrepreneur would like me to write this stuff in a National newspaper and pay me a fortune for it and break my cycle of poorness, contact me below.

I won't hold my breath, I'll just vote Labour.
Doom.

Voyager said...

Grammar Schools were what helped The North since most public schools are in The South.

Homes with books tend to produce children more attuned to education than homes without books irrespective of class, it is just money can even out the advantage when State roadblocks stop the journey of the child with books and no money

Praguetory said...

Need some help fisking Fiona.

Newmania said...

I`ve got a lot of time for this .What a Grammar school once was ,in the 1940s, is not what it is now ,when people select the area for its services .It amounts to selection for wealth rather than ability.Grammar schools preadted the explosion of private housing and the ferocious market that creates its new niche.
Selection for wealth is the problem with Comprehensive education ,in that the best post codes are self reinforcing educational white spots.

Thus ,the likes of that fat cow Emily Thornberry can "support the state system ", by buying a flat in a good catchments area . In fact in her case it was a Grammar school.Hypocritical sow that she is !
The best idea I have heard in a long time is banded equal academic entry decided by Lottery as in Brighton ,. With the homogenous intake the role of the teacher could become accountable for the first time ,and failing schools identified.
There would be no reason for the desperation to escape the people dumps of the Inner cities and parental input would transform these pre prisons.There is nothing wrong with their teachers or facilities

Schools are less complex than sometimes appears in the book Freakonomics stats from the States showed that there was a poor correlation between the school at the attainment of the child if you factored in class in almost any way . There was a much better correlation between the attainment of the child and the school the parents “TRIED” to get the child into.
People use Private Schooling to fix the meritocratic game ,without which ,preaching self reliance , low tax and low benefits is a fraud . Its like a Monopoly.By access to funds early they monopolise opportunity and power. This has been highly damaging to social cohesion which is going in precisely the wrong direction.

By removing the post code trick and the Grammars you would of course encourage greater use of Private schools . This should be combated , and should be anyway , by the removal of their charitable status. They are not charities they exist to remove opportunity form the remainder who are then doubly disadvantaged

1 No Grammars
2 No Public Schools
3 Homogenous Intake ( internal setting)
4 A few commanding heights elite schools

That would solve a lot of problems and we cannot allow things to go on as they are. Conservatism is nothing more than the defence iof privilege unless serious thought is given to spreading opportunity wider

tory boys never grow up said...

Hayek's Grandad is not entirely right about most Kent Grammar School's not having catchment areas. The top tier of Grammar Schools to which he is referring usually do not have catchment areas and even if they did it would probably not matter since most are fully allocated on the basis of exam scores well before any of the other criteria bite. There is however a real problem with the lower tier of grammar schools which do have catchment areas - and there a significant number of kids who have passed the exams but cannot go to a grammar school since they live too far away - and there are large areas of Kent where there are no grammar achools (e.g the whole of the Sevenoaks constituency)

Where he is wrong (and possibly a little out of date) and Fiona Miller has a point is that a whole industry has developed in private tutoring for the exams and certain primary schools in effect become exam crammers for the 4 months prior to the exams (and in effect give up any normal education much to the barely concealed annoyance of some of the teachers concerned). The result of this is that middle class kids who parents know how to play the system and can afford to do so - have a much better chance of getting their kids to the top grammar schools. That is not to say that bright kids from a poorer background cannot get to

Even if you believe in selection - what is happening is definitely not selection on the basis of ability and is not fair. The Kent Tories (and this includes you Mr DALE) who believe in a selective system have a duty to come up with a selective system which is much better than the current fiasco. The current farce will actually undermine your views in the end - at times I get the feeling that the political dogma is taking precedence over educating children.

I before anyone asks - I am not speaking on the basis of sour grapes - fortunately I have been blessed with very bright children who would achieve whatever the system. I am not necessarily against some degree of selection either providing it is fair and doesn't act as a barrier to social mobility - it can help all kids develop to their full potential.

Newmania said...

Fortunately I have been blessed with very bright children who would achieve whatever the system. I.

Some genetic freak surely ?

Just kidding, actually if you look, it appears we agree here. In fact you are keener on maintaining an element of privilege than I am. I see a relatively equal access to opportunity as essential in the moral case for reducing the states role later.
Why would you want to have an opportunity though? You believe everyone should be reduced to state beetroot soup and dungarees anyway. Wouldn’t we all be better off not understanding the alternative in this Brave New World.
I exaggerate of course ... To make the point that the corollary of early social engineering has to be greater freedom from that point to win or lose. Lower taxes and a radically reformed benefits and housing system.

Sorry to be a stalker you happened along directly after my effort.

My son is genius btw ( IMHO) but he will not be attending one of the crime schools in Islington where we are blessed with the worst school in London, courtesy of successive Labour and Liberal misrule. So I wouldn’t be so sure that your lot will be alright whatever

towcestarian said...

Tony flaig bignews said...
"The simplest way to get the best out of children is to keep them in a competitive environment throughout their school years by scrapping grammar schools you achieve this."

Uh?

How do you see bog-standard comps providing any sort of "competitive" environment for the intellectual elite element of the bratshpere? I assume you are only interested in schools producing uniform, grey mediocrity rather than producing the highest quality intake for our (non-meeja studiez) universities. How very socialist of you.

Roger Thornhill said...

Ladderkickers!

It should not be a concern that rich kids get into Grammar schools, but to ensure that poor kids can, if capable. Sociofascists must hate selection by ability because they cannot meddle, just as racists must hate sport and the arts, where ability mostly overrides background and other prejudices.

Inverse snobbery in some underclass households is quintessentially charver and I suspect the Sociofascists love this, as it breeds a new, larger ever-dependent lumpen mass who will vote for them.

Back to the poor kid passing the 11+. Jump forward one generation and their kids now have "rich" parents. Surely something to be pleased about...unless you are a mediocre, self-loather.

tory boys never grow up said...

Newmania

You shouldn't play political football with schools - they are too important. There are good schools in Islington whatever you might say - and in general Central Government (of both colours) has actively been trying to get control from some of the idiots in local authorities. Most of the drive re the national curriculum/requirements on schools has been driven towards stopping local authorities and some teachers implementing their mad cap ideas.

The big difference between Labour and Tories on state education has been in the amount of resources they are prepared to allocate. It is one of Blair's crowning achievements that the Tory leadership now appear to accept the argument for greater funding - I suspect the argument is more likely to revlove about whether the Tories can be trusted to stick to such a commitment given their natural inclination

The Brigton allocation mechanism has a lot in its favour - but some care is needed schools should have a community role (if you believe in such things) and bussing everyone else from miles away might destroy this.

tory boys never grow up said...

Newmania

BTW - you appear to have made a very good argument for a 100% inheritance tax!

no longer anonymous said...

"What is it with Tory’s and grammar schools, I though you lot (Tory’s), believed in competition. Is an education system that decides the winners & losers five or six years ahead of the race, the best system?"

Admittedly a fully privatised system with complete independence for schools would be best. but as long as we have this ghastly state system we might as well use methods that provide the best results.

Newmania said...

It should not be a concern that rich kids get into Grammar schools, but to ensure that poor kids can, if capable

Roger you are not listening at the back of the class. The foolish idea that Comprehensive education would be Graammars for all is admitted across the political spectrum to have been monumentally cockeyed mistake.
Grammar schools themselves are selecting on class and wealth not academic ability and this will never change.There cannot be prizes for all but there can be good level standard for all.
That is why we need a homogenous intake system .

The socio fascists like it the way it is for excatly the reasons you mention.


Most people are mediocre but usually self delighted to the point of the autoerotic

no longer anonymous said...

"Many of the Grammar Schools in Kent don't have a catchment area. Certainly of the three boys Grammar Schools in my area two have no catchment area, they take the children who perform best in the 11+ regardless of all other matters including where they live."

I suppose catchment area was the wrong term. I was actually referring to a point Peter Hitchens made when some leftie pointed out that the remaining grammars take disproportionately more middle class pupils:

"The point is that, in England, the surviving grammar schools are concentrated mainly in the London commuter belt counties of Kent and Buckinghamshire. This allows clued-up and affluent parents, with London jobs, to move into their expensive catchment areas, and to spend heavily on preparatory school fees to get their children into them. This obviously leads to such schools being dominated by the children of the well-off commuting classes. It's really very little different to all the other fiddles which allow the already-privileged to maintain their position in the state sector. It's a distortion which proves little about the ability of selection on merit to promote social mobility. Hence my point about Northern Ireland, where the whole province has a selective system - though this is distorted in its own way by the religious divide. And of course it's not perfect. Who said it was? Just preferable."

no longer anonymous said...

"This should be combated , and should be anyway , by the removal of their charitable status. They are not charities they exist to remove opportunity form the remainder who are then doubly disadvantaged"

British public schools are amongst the world's best and have the added benefit of taking pressure off the state system. Imagine how much taxes would have to go up if all the children in private schools flooded into the state system.

Even if they're not charitable they should be tax exempt because I don't see what's so conservative about destroying excellent institutions that over 50% of parents would send their children to if they could afford to. If parents choose to pay for their childrens' education, good for them. I never went to private school but I don't feel as if I have suffered an injustice just because other children did.

Chris Paul said...

Fiona Millar is a STAR. You Tories are in effect in favour of sink schools and secondary moderns. Boo hiss. Every School A Good School is a better way to go that social divisiveness and cash-for-lifechances. Scandanavian model better than Blair's comedy version of US of A model.

Most writers get flamed on CIF. They don't like it up 'em however and can be chased off with some robust dismantling of their puny arguments. But why bother? We're better off having all the green ink Tory nutters clustering round Campbell's honey than having them actually doing stuff to win elections!

Newmania said...

There are good schools in Islington whatever you might say -

They are the worst in London - FACT. The one or two half decent ones are due to wealth and class selection. The performance has been abysmal and inexcusable.

Funds are not an issue why do people pretend that they are? .I know many teachers well , and they have more money than they know what to do with . Teaching requires only reasonable intake a room , some books and discipline . Labs, gyms and the rest of the inessential paraphernalia are lavished on the worst sinks there are and yet still the left pretend they have achieved some thing by this misguided hosing. Do you think people pay Eton fees for the” facilities” ..grow up.

New Labour have achieved nothing but to leave us in the wake of our competitors at massive pointless expense with system that dumps the majority on the tip . 45000 per year emerge functionally illiterate into the benefit wastelands on my door step in which 70 % are reliant on handouts and crime ( two shootings per week now ) is the only way to define yourself apart form the rubbish on the street.

Not every problem is amenable to throwing cash in its genera; direction and education is an obvious example. Te tax payer should not be conned and the new achieving metitocrats will want to keep their hard earned money . Don `t we all.


Inheritance tax is a taxation I deplore least , but until we have along way back towards 30% of state managed expenditure ( from 45%), to discuss this in a sane environment . Money as I have mentioned has only a tangential relation to education when you are not in fact buying class advantage. I do not expect the world to become utopian the limited ambition that it is slightly less repulsive than it is now seem snot unreasonable to me

AND education is the most political subject there is .

Hayek's Grandad said...

tory boys never grow up:

I said 'many' not 'most' have no catchment area.

The children I refer to have all gone to Grammar School this year or the year before, so I don't think I'd call that out of date information.

I'm not denying that there is a whole private tuition industry surrounding the 11+ but I will refute that you HAVE to take part in it in order to get into a top Grammar School in Kent.

It is possible for children from very poor backgrounds with good reasoning skills and good parental involvement to go to a top Kent Grammar School, and I have seen it happen regularly over the last few years.

Hayek's Grandad said...

no longer anonymous

I agree entirely that if the system was practised throughout England it would work more efficiently.

I also agree that the clued-up and interested parents play the system in Kent. However I still see those that can't afford to play the system getting through and benefiting greatly from a Grammar School Education which proves it can work and that, as you rightly say, it would if the system were used nationally.

Roger Thornhill said...

NewMania: Roger you are not listening at the back of the class. The foolish idea that Comprehensive education would be Graammars for all is admitted across the political spectrum to have been monumentally cockeyed mistake.
Grammar schools themselves are selecting on class and wealth not academic ability and this will never change.There cannot be prizes for all but there can be good level standard for all.
That is why we need a homogenous intake system .


If I am not listening at the back, you are certainly not reading at the front.

At no stage do I endorse Compo-for-all.

I am proposing that Grammars DO select on ability via 11+ or similar mechanism (and certainly not "coursework"). Rich parents will get Johnny in either via passing on genes, nurturing his environment or paying to cram. I say this should not be of concern (first part you quoted) as to prevent it without shutting the whole thing down is almost impossible. Besides, if the kids ARE able then they are able! The poor kids get in by a good pass at 11+ (second part).

Right now, Grammars are so sparse as to make it geographically and thus income sensitive. With enough Grammars having overlapping catchments parental wealth can be far less of a factor.

With enough Grammars, the Sociofascists, ladderkickers, Toynbees et al will lose their leverage. I therefore utterly disagree with your statement that Grammars have and will always select on wealth and class.

Personally I suspect all those Grammar School types who want to tear down Grammars are the mediocre ones who got in due to environmental advantage alone and damm well know it.

Pogo said...

Newmania said...

Grammar schools themselves are selecting on class and wealth not academic ability and this will never change.


Oh... Never knew that... I can't have gone to a grammar school then, though I was sure that's what it was...

I'm from a working-class background and so were many of my classmates. The school I attended took kids from a very wide spread of homes, money didn't come into it, just whether you'd passed your 11+. One of the kids in my class had a father in gaol (and not for "white collar crime" either!), didn't stop him from becoming a Professor eventually!

Grammar schools were a "way out" for poor, intelligent kids. An escape route denied them today, thanks to public-school and Oxbridge educated Anthony Crossland (Lab.).

Ron Knee's Rants and Raves said...

"In my day we were glad to have the price of a cup of tea... a cup of cold tea... without milk or sugar..... OR tea!

Grammar scools? Is that where they send all those wrinkly old ladies to learn etiquette?

Sir Francis Walsingham said...

And now they want to "class norm" university entrance.....

Another legal disaster on the way. Did they read the Human Rights Act before they voted it through?

Futher comments on my blog...

verity said...

Fiona Millar is aggressively ugly, which tells me she is a hostile person. In yer face.

No one today has to look that bad. She could get a hair style that flattered her large, potatoesque face, for example. Would it kill her to put on some blusher?