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Is Melissa Benn and idiot or just stupid?

A government insider says: “The department knows it’s not watertight legally. They know it’s going to be subject to judicial review. My soundings suggest that they think they have, say, a 60% chance of winning. Essentially the decision is political.”

If who can open a school of what kind and where is something decided by politicians then of course any such decision is political:

Establishing a new selective school is prohibited under an act passed by Labour in 1998.

See, politics!

If you don’t want politics in this then just stick a voucher on the back of every child and let the non-political process sort it out.

18 thoughts on “Is Melissa Benn and idiot or just stupid?”

  1. Establishing a new selective school is prohibited under an act passed by Labour in 1998.

    “If you set up a school and it becomes a good school, the great danger is that’s the place they want to go to.” Explained John Prescott.

  2. There may be a clue in the name “Benn”. Maybe evolutionary biology has something to say about this. Hang on, I’ll go and get Keith Hudson . . .

  3. So Much For Subtlety

    Andrew M – “So why doesn’t the present Tory-majority parliament overturn Labour’s 1998 rule?”

    What Tory majority? A lot of Lib-Dems have chosen to call themselves Conservatives. Don’t make them so.

  4. Pendantry on minor points. I thought it was a well written and reasonably well balanced article. There are minor bash-the-tories lines, but on the whole it was quite readable.

    And rashly led me to start reading one or two pieces by other writers.

  5. So Much For Subtlety

    Justin – “Pendantry on minor points. I thought it was a well written and reasonably well balanced article. There are minor bash-the-tories lines, but on the whole it was quite readable.”

    That is not pendantry. That is, at best, trolling. Either that or you did not read it.

    But this is not a fair picture of the aims, achievements or ambitions of Sevenoaks’ two non-selective schools: … Boyle says: “We have striven to become an all-ability school and have established a grammar-school stream.

    Notice she does not point out competitive pressure is forcing the existing Comprehensives to improve.

    In year 7, 8 and 9 we are truly all-ability. And we are co-ed. If the annexe goes ahead, we would lose all the more able girls.”

    Notice she does not say it is not a choice between streaming and not streaming, but allowing the bright to be beaten up within the same Comp as the oafs or not.

    Boyle believes a new grammar school would also “lead to overcapacity in the area and falling rolls could affect whichever is the least popular school.”

    Notice she thinks this is a bad thing. How this hurts anyone but the Union escapes me. Bad schools should close.

    Amanda Manuel is a founder member of Sevenoaks ACE, a group formed to develop a local educational plan that meets the needs of all parents in the area.

    That is, a single issue activist who may not even be local.

    “While there was support for grammars, 57% of those polled would support a new non-selective school providing it taught in ability groupings,” says Manuel.

    In other words the vast majority of locals rejected Comps. If allowed the options of streaming within a Comp, many supported that. But clearly Grammars were preferred.

    Manuel speaks highly of Knole academy, which she says “has won a lot of support locally and has gone from strength to strength.”

    It is a failing sh!thole and they both know it.

    Rebecca Allen, of Education Datalab, an independent research team, says all the evidence indicates that “while grammar education clearly serves high-attaining children, it also raises very difficult questions”.

    For teacher tenure for instance. Notice that she tacitly admits it has no down side for students.

    She sees no point in comparing neighbouring authorities, comprehensive or selective, because, with so much cross-county traffic, the systems are porous.

    In other words the data does not support her conclusions.

    “Latest figures show that fewer than 80% of children in selective schools are in a Kent state primary; 7% came from another county, and that means probably 13% were in the independent sector,” she says.

    So the Grammars over whelmingly benefit locals but she needs to spin that otherwise.

    The tuition industry is another distorting element in the picture.

    No sh!t. It means that Comps are not really Comps.

    According to Nick Kennard, of the Comprehensive Future campaign group, who lives in Sevenoaks: “People are not being alerted to the serious and negative consequences of a system that rejects the majority of children and segregates them into different schools.

    Because there are no such negative consequences.

    There is just so little information, a real lack of debate locally about the benefits of phasing out selection.

    The parents do not support him so he needs to browbeat them some more.

    Plenty in Kent speak in private of their dislike of the social segregation, snobbery and depression of standards that such a divisive system engenders.

    No evidence it depresses standards and notice they do not say so in public. In other words she is making it up or trying to give a false impression.

    But in practice, selection implicates just about everybody in the county: primary and secondary heads, children and parents. According to one mother: “It utterly dominates everything. From about year 3 or 4, the reality hits home. It permeates all conversations and the children’s relationships with each other. By the time you understand the system, it may be too late for your child.”

    Parents care about their children’s education. Ms Benn does not. Nor do the teachers. The Union is especially indifferent. Who do you trust to make the right decisions?

  6. The Other Bloke in Italy

    SFMS, an excellent fisk. I notice how taken individually, the paragraphs you quote are mostly Blah.

    My lady and I help youngsters prepare for their English exams, school and university both, with some technical college. We class them broadly as the Slow, the Clever and the Brilliant. One of the Slow is feeling very pleased with himself just now, after getting a very good mark in his technical college exams.

    Two of the Brilliant came joint top in their University course.

    My point is that the three classes of ability need very different approaches, impossible in a comprehensive system.

  7. @”The Other Bloke in Italy”
    Why can’t comprehensives have streams? Also aren’t some slow in subject x and brilliant in y?

  8. @anonymous

    My (shit awful) comp did have streams. This was 20 years ago, but I hear from young people that many still do.

  9. @ Anonymous
    We don’t want streams – we want setting, where you are placed in the right ability group for each subject, not having your grouping for French or Geography dictated by your ability in Maths.

  10. My comp had what you would call setting or basically streams per subject. You could be in the top stream for English and lower in maths for example.
    What we did have was movement between streams as different children develop at different rates, I was in a second stream for maths and suddenly it clicked, I was moved up and ended up in the top 10 of the class.
    This is the issue that concerns me with some selective systems, if it limits changes in the future. just because an 11 yr old doesn’t make the cut, doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be capable at 14 and vice versa

  11. @ Bloke not in Cymru
    But in the good old days of the tri-partite system some kids did move schools if they were seen to have previously unrecognised abilities. There was even a system for kids to move to grammar schools after ‘O’ levels in order to take ‘A’ levels since Secondary Moderns didn’t have sixth forms.

  12. At the state Grammar School that I attended from 1965-1972, there were pupils transferring into the school at each key stage, and that was considered quite normal at the time. (Some were just late developers, others had been held back by poor primary schools, and their transition to secondary school allowed them to blossom academically.) So the old system did have a number of self-correcting mechanisms.
    It’s rather dishonest to claim that pupils were given only one chance, at the tender age of eleven.

  13. “Why can’t comprehensives have streams? Also aren’t some slow in subject x and brilliant in y?”

    Having been in a private school that wasn’t reknowned for being brainiac (hence its intake was of all levels) that streamed pretty well, there were no kids who were slow in x and brilliant in y. Some may have been better in some subjects than in others, but to be set 1 in English and set 8 in Maths, for instance, was unheard of. One or at most 2 sets either way, yes, but generally set 1 were set 1 across the board, and likewise set 8.

    It was interesting sharing a study room with someone the other end of the spectrum – in GCSE year we were doing A-level maths to keep us from going out of our heads, and my roommate was doing the sort of basic arithmetic and basic geometry I’d been doing 5 years earlier…. And struggling.

  14. Bloke in Costa Rica

    We had five streams, split into two superstreams (for some reason they were designated P, L, A, T and O and then for some equally unfathomable reason S, C, I, O and N). You could generally be in PLA or TO, but across subjects (almost) never the twain should meet. You could have some Fotherington-Thomas who was ace at Eng. Lit. but a total biscuit at maths hence P for English and T for maths but that was the exception. The fine granularity this enabled meant that kids who in the State system would have left with a CSE in woodworking got a clutch of fairly decent O-levels, usually stayed on for As and then almost without exception went on to university (even if Aberystwyth or Keele and not Cambridge or Durham). The comprehensive system seemed so pig-headedly doctrinaire by comparison as to instil in my young head an early appreciation of producer capture and the principal-agent problem, even if I didn’t know they were called that.

  15. BiCR

    One of the reasons for the introduction of the comps was that they did actually get better results than the selective system, though most people seem unaware of this. The good results from the grammars were more than offset by the poor results from the SMs.

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