I was educated at each stage in the state education system. It is my belief that the Tory inclination to seek diversity in schools is prompted always by, to my way of thinking, unworthy motives. They wish the state system to mirror their own fee-paying private schooling: to reproduce throughout the land a series of little Etons, Winchesters and Westminsters – they are all different you know! These fine schools, it is felt, shoud be replicated throughout the land: independance of governance, the very best teachers (no third class graduates acceptable here) , supportive parents (no one from sink council estates need apply), selective entry systems to weed out the tidy and dutiful from the insubordinate (no dirty nails in this school) – you know the sort of thing. It is easy to make fun of it. I shall resist the temptation.
There is no good reason that I can think of for discouraging private education BUT every reason to discourage its growth by penalising state schools. The Advanced Level examination results underline the success of the last administration in improving education standards throughout the country and signal an end to disparagement of its achievements. We on the left should be proud of these dramatic improvements in our schools. Over the coming weeks the extent of the cutbacks in school budgets will become clearer. Forget the Coalition’s fine words and announcements of good intentions. Our schools are facing hard times. Their future development will be frozen and money will be ciphoned off to finance the so-called Free Schools: capital funds which would have continued the modernisation of our state schools and revenues that would otherwise be available to them are to be diverted to an expansion of school places in areas that do not need them. These rightwing, and doctrinaire attacks on state education, are periodic and underhand; they occur whenever an opportunity presents itself. The Coalition knows that it dare not tell the whole truth about its intentions for the public does not support them. What the vast mass of the Britsh public want are fine state schools in their neighbourhoods and available free to everyone. This aspiration, which is constant and true, cannot be rejected by any government whatever its hue. But the public can be deceived. We are deceived.
As I write the dispiriting contest for the Labour Party leadership rambles on in a welter of explanations and justifications for the past. Please wake up as soon as you can. The public knows that Labour is their education spokesman and the best guarantee of a high-class education for all. Speak to them, please. Speak to them now in unequivable terms: hands off our state schools.