What's New
Speeches & Articles
Newsletter - Mar 2012
Contact Information
Photo Album
Parliamentary Highlights
MEPs' Transparency

The Freedom Association
Visit the
Freedom Association

British Education: destroyed by Labour

Tuesday, 3rd March 2009

A recent newspaper headline reads: “Universities are filtering out the middle classes”. Ed Balls is master-minding an unprecedented social engineering campaign, driven by class envy and hatred, which is designed to undermine private education by creating barriers to tertiary education for privately educated students. The government has so intimidated the universities that many have declared they will not take note of the new “A Star” grade at A level, for fear of charges of “élitism”. If universities are not élitist and proud of it, one wonders what they are for at all.

Balls’ plans for school place allocation by lottery had a similar effect, denying places in good schools to the very pupils who would most have benefited from them. It is encouraging that he now seems to be having second thoughts. This may well be cynical recognition that lotteries are profoundly unpopular with parents — who are also voters. One commentator on the radio suggested that the lottery element be maintained to decide between otherwise equally-qualified candidates. But given that a good school’s ethos and character are essential to its quality, I believe that selection by interview would be more appropriate.

Labour’s mania for social engineering is based on the spurious socialist assumption that all children have equal potential, and that differences in achievement reflect disadvantage and lack of opportunity. They seem unable to grasp the point that intelligence varies from one child to another, and that it is in large part heritable, and runs in families. Intelligence tends to correlate with achievement, and therefore to an extent with social class, so we should not be surprised to see middle class children doing well.

Of course it is true that middle-class children generally enjoy advantages in terms of the home environment which make it easier for them to learn, but it is not true that all differences in performance are the result of such advantages.

I spent several decades working in business, and a good general business principle was to put resources behind success, not behind failure. We should equally put educational resources where they will do most good. Of course less able children should enjoy a decent education — it is a scandal that today many leave school functionally illiterate — but more-able children deserve support too, and this is where Labour is failing. Even we Conservatives are not blameless. We were equivocal about the disastrous experiment with comprehensive schools. We have not always supported grammar schools as we should. And we were complicit in the pretence that vocationally-oriented Polytechnics should be re-branded as universities. We have devalued vocational education, and inflicted academic courses on those who were less likely to benefit from them.

Labour’s approach is profoundly unfair to pupils and families. Bright children are denied the opportunities they deserve. But Labour creates a broader threat to our economy. We educate bright children not merely as an act of charity, but because our country and our economy need the best people as tomorrow’s leaders, in business, in academia, and — yes — even in politics. We must embrace achievement. We must welcome élitism. We need the best.

I have high hopes of the next Conservative government, and especially in the area of education. I think we’ve finally “got it”, and have the determination and commitment to drive through change. I believe that given ten years of a Conservative administration, we can re-create world-class education in Britain. We shall not survive as an advanced nation without it.