Principles are key in improving education

Labour MP Diane Abbott has rejected state schools in her Hackney
constituency, and sent her son James, aged 12, to City of London
School at a cost of £10,000 a year. James told an LBC radio
phone in: “She’s not a hypocrite. She just put what I wanted first
instead of what people thought.”

If, among MPs, it becomes the vogue to rate parental indulgence
more highly than principles, the House of Commons will appear even
more of a moral wasteland than it is already. Why principles matter
is underscored by a statistic that has just emerged from Oxford
University. Official data from the university has revealed that in
the 2002-3 academic year, only about one in five of the 120 black
African or black Caribbean students that applied were accepted out
of total admissions of 3,393. This is compared with a ratio of one
in three for white student applicants.1

The problems are poor schooling, the lack of black tutors and
peers, a conscious and unconscious racist bias in the interviewing
and selection process and money. Top-up fees will add a further

The new baby bonds, which promise cassh at birth and at seven, are
welcome but will not make enough of a difference. We have a
three-tier education system – rotten, average-to-good, and the best
that money can buy. For the socially disadvantaged who are
sidelined into the rotten stream the situation is likely to
deteriorate further.

Sunny Varkey, an Indian businessman who has made a fortune
providing private healthcare and schools in the United Arab
Emirates, plans to open 100 “budget” schools in the UK with fees as
low as £5,000 a year – that is, low compared with Westminster
at £15,516. If he can do it, others will follow.

The strong mix of abilities and backgrounds that plays a vital part
in any school’s progress will become more and more diluted. That,
in turn, will provide the justification for ever increasing numbers
of parents to fork out fees, rather than stay and fight.

Government, at the very least, needs to release the tight
centralised hold it has on the curriculum and allow more
imaginative solutions to the disaffection of a large swathe of
pupils; invest significantly; and raise a levy on private
education. When Labour MPs undermine universal (good) education,
this accelerates the process by which learning becomes yet another
privilege available only to those with cash.

1 University of Oxford,
Admissions Statistics 2002, from

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.