Wednesday, October 05, 2005

On the iniquity of private schools

bookdrunk has a word or two to say to Mr. Vanstone, of the Independent Schools Association. Mr Vanstone has got a little wound up over the idea that some students should wait until they have their results before applying to University.
David Vanstone, chairman of the Independent Schools Association, questioned whether a proposal for a quota of places to be held back until results were issued was driven more by "social engineering than academic excellence".

The proposal was made by Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell (who looks very bullish in his little piccy).
But Mr Rammell defended calls to change the admissions process - and said it was not about telling universities whom they should select.

"I think we are absolutely right to want to deal with what is an inherent unfairness in the current system," he said.

Right, there are a couple of points to deal with here. These points relate quite substantially to a couple of posts that I have made before.

The first pointed out that the value of private school is not necessarily in the teaching.
[The reason that private school was valuable] was because whilst there I could do almost anything that I wanted in terms of... well... hobbies. I took part in theatre, both acting and producing; I am sitting in my flat, in Edinburgh, right now, surrounded by my metal sculptures (my primary passion at school); others played sport, or did fencing, or swam, or built working aeroplanes, or... Well, you get the idea.

The point is that schooling should not simply be about exam qualifications. It should be about finding out what you are good at, it should involve having the opportunity to try many different things.

Thus, I am afraid that I must disagree with bookdrunk when he implies that the private schools would find themselves struggling.
A major reason for private schooling would disappear because you wouldn't need 'A' grades anymore. In fact, you'd actually have to do well, as opposed to going to a school which traditionally posts high predicted grades (I'm looking at some of your schools, Mr Vanstone).

The other advantage, of course, is that one finds oneself in an academic environment far less disruptive than those traditionally found in comprehensives, and even grammar schools. Furthermore, one tends to be on, roughly speaking, an intellectual par with your fellows, which means that one has to push oneself more to compete. The only place that this is represented in the state sector is in the grammar school system: I'll let bookdrunk elaborate.
What private schools are not, necessarily, full of is good teachers. Anyone who has been to University, especially studying sciences (and I speak from experience), knows that the finest brains in their fields are not necessarily any good at teaching. Thus, quality is, even in expensive private schools, patchy.

Furthermore, considering that I, an Eton boy, was in classes of about 25 until my first A Level year, would suggest that, actually, class size is rather less important than Education Ministers might think. It is ability range, not class size, that is important; and primarily responsible for the destruction of education in that area is, I'm afraid, the socialist, one-size-fits-all, every-child-has-the-same-potential dogma bollocks.

The second problem is that the whole education system is so debased as to be, essentially, worthless: the very existence of A* grades proves that. It doesn't really matter what A Levels students actually get, since many of these grades are, in any case, an absolute fiddle. And, as far as University standards go, who wants to bet that those with the literacy problems are, in the main, not from private schools?

The problem here is not that private schools exist: it is that the second-, even the third-, rate ones are so much better than comprehensives. When will politicians put their hand up and say, "We apologise for failing generations of your children because of our own selfish ideals?" The answer, of course, is that they never will; however, this omission of admission does not change the fact that, for instance, 20% of children are leaving primary school being unable to read or write.

And, on a more general rant, let's not forget the teachers: teachers, and parents, should be mortally ashamed that their children are leaving primary school being unable to read and write their own language. Snafu pointed out that...
... education ministers are ultimately responsible for the system in which teachers operate.

If there are failings, and I think there are many, the managers should take the blame, not the staff. The managers choose the staff and systems afterall!

This is true, but as I replied, the trouble is that many teachers, under the aegis of the teaching unions, have contributed significantly to the way in which the system is run.

Was it a minister who came up with the idea of "deferred success"? Was it a minister who decided—on my last sports day in a state school, aged 8—that there were to be no prizes for any of the races because that would imply that some people were better than others?

Not that I am letting any governments off the hook; I am just pointing out that they have been aided and abetted by those who have the closest contact with the ignorant little gits that we churn out of our "educational" establishments these days.

Now, don't get me wrong; many of my best friends are teachers (well, five of them) and I am sure that they are very good. However, it always seems to be the ones who say what the government wants to hear that make the policy.

Time to get the reformation stick out, I think; or maybe I just can't be bothered.

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