November 29, 2006
UKIP and Councillors
As Iain Dale has pointed out (and been snarled at by the DK for his troubles...Fight, Fight, Fight!) UKIP has been emailing councillors across the land to see who would like to join them, rather than whichever of the Statist mongers they currently belong to.
Antonia Bance received one, for example. I think we could have predicted that that one would be a waste of electrons however:
The UK Independence Party favours the introduction of a “voucher”
scheme, whereby educational funds equivalent to the average cost of
state schooling follow the child to the school of the family’s choice -
including private schools, where if necessary the fees would be topped
up by the parents (p.13)
We believe that grammar schools have a vital role to play in the education of academically more able children, and not only are we committed to the survival of existing grammar schools, but we will encourage the creation of new grammar and other specialist schools, aiming to restore a network of publicly-funded grammar schools across the country. (p13)
That sounds like a good policy, doesn't it?
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Those two policies are contradictory. If they are having a voucher scheme worth the average cost of the education budget, what are publicly funded grammar schools doing in the mix?
Posted by: Matthew | Nov 29, 2006 12:20:23 PM
That's easy enough: the grammar schools are publically funded in precisely the same way that the comprehensives are, i.e. by vouchers.
As I have long argued, it is not class sizes per se that make a dfference to education, but the range of ability. Which is why Eton is able to sustain class sizes of over 20 whilst producing neither the boredom nor the confusion that I found, for instance, in my state primary classes of the same size.
Grammar schools are, in fact, valuable for streaming; they are the first stage -- what I call the "coarse streaming" -- before you start "fine streaming" within schools. We are really debating a system of nomenclature here.
The important point is that all of the schools are themselves private entities and people are able to send their children to whatever school they wish.
Grammar schools would differ in that entrance would be set by an entrance exam, in a similar way to which the 11+ operated. Think of it as a simple aptitude test to decide what "streams" the child should be in. However, under UKIP's system, you would be allowed to take the relevent exam after the age of 11 in order to allow for late-developers.
You can find the full policy and my dissection of it here at The Kitchen.
Posted by: Devil's Kitchen | Nov 29, 2006 12:31:55 PM
Re: DK's late developers
My dad was one such late developer and went to grammar school via the "13+" exam.
Posted by: Kit | Nov 29, 2006 12:41:56 PM
Just as forcing comprehensive schools on people who may want selective education is wrong, so forcing selective education (i.e. Grammar /Secondary Modern schools) on people that want non-selective schools is also wrong. Why should the state or local authorities decide?
If UKIP is in favour of parental choice, how can it also be committed to creating more grammar schools? If freedom of choice is paramount, then the government should have no view on the type of schools parents might choose - the schools themselves should be free to decide on their 'product' offering and the customers they choose to attract. If insufficient customers choose grammar schools would UKIP still be committed to keep them open whilst other types of school are left to the market?
The UKIP position is self-inconsistent.
Posted by: HJHJ | Nov 29, 2006 12:52:13 PM
No, it's not. Look, all schools are funded by vouchers, OK?
Now, what is a grammar school at present? Fundamentally, it is a state-funded school that is allowed to be academically selective about its intake.
In the same way, some schools will be allowed to be academically selective in their intake; they are, if you like, licensed to do so. These will be called "grammar schools". The main bulk will not, but will accept voucher-bearers until at capacity (which they can extend if they like). As I said, we are simply arguing over semantics here.
"If insufficient customers choose grammar schools would UKIP still be committed to keep them open whilst other types of school are left to the market?"
And, meanwhile, back in the real world...
The answer is "yes", I would imagine (I am not a UKIP spokesman, nor am I the architect of the Education Policy, although I can probably ask the main author); however, I think that this is unlikely, don't you?
The users of grammars tend to be fans of them; I must have missed the massive marches insisting on the closure of grammars...
Posted by: Devil's Kitchen | Nov 29, 2006 1:35:30 PM
I prefer the idea of tax credits rather than vouchers. Having people hand over cash to a school would concentrate their minds in getting value for money.
Posted by: Kit | Nov 29, 2006 2:04:58 PM
The real problem with the old grammar schools in not that they were bad, nor that selection was bad, but that secondary moderns were treated as scrapheaps. The education authorities spent far more, per pupil, on grammar school education than on secondary moderns, because they viewed academic study as superior to more practical education. This persists to this day in the desire of the prime minister to put 50% of pupils through university (so we can have graduates staffing call centres, presumably).
I went to a comprehensive (a good one), but a lot of lads in my year were completely bored with the academic teaching. Yet they excelled at metalwork and other practical subjects.
Teaching should be focussed on what is best for the child, and vouchers give you a lot more chance of creating more different approaches.
Posted by: Tim Almond | Nov 29, 2006 2:21:23 PM
But what then does 'encourage' mean?
Tim Almond's right about the secondary moderns, which of course represented around 75% of more of where children ended up. Furthermore research today shows that children in secondary moderns do worse than children of equivalent ability in comprehensives.
Mainly though its a class thing, I think. Grammar schools are very good for the children of the 'middle class', by which I'm using the press definition, ie 'upper middle class', who can't quite afford private schools. They're not so good for the middle 1/2, and pretty bad for the poorest 1/4. Vouchers are obviously very good for those with chidren at private schools.
The UKIP want to take Conservative votes, and so they think it's a good electoral strategy, and they're probably right.
I think there's also an element of class distinctions in this 'lots of kids want to be plumbers' view. I've never seen any member of the commentariat who has said he wants his children not to go to university and instead become a plumber, and I wonder what proportion of the children of, say, Tory MPs take up vocational manual labour these days?
Finally, DK, in your piece you say that LEA administration takes 33% of schools budgets. Can you provide a link for this (which isn't this site)?
Posted by: Matthew | Nov 29, 2006 2:57:37 PM
If some schools are 'allowed' to be selective, then this means that others, presumably, are not. So who chooses - ah yes, some will be licensed by the state. You are arguing in favour of a system where the state decides - not in favour of user choice.
This is no different to what we have now - i.e. the state (or LEA) enforces its preferred model on everybody, except that you favour selective education, whereas others favour non-selection. So we have two camps, each of whom want to force their preference on others.
I'd like to ask your credentials for deciding that you should make this choice for me my and the schools because the schools that should compete for business, and I, are not qualified to decide for ourselves.
Incidentally, you are wrong about Eton. It has been described as the first comprehensive school, albeit fee-paying.
Posted by: HJHJ | Nov 29, 2006 3:08:33 PM
"that secondary moderns were treated as scrapheaps": not for one of my cousins - excellent job done.
Posted by: dearieme | Nov 29, 2006 3:37:31 PM
HJHJ - no, you're wrong about Eton; it has rigorous academic standards for entry (not up there with the top day schools like Habadashers or City of London, but strict nonetheless). You're thinking perhaps of Harrow.
Posted by: john b | Nov 29, 2006 3:38:28 PM
Even ignoring Prince Harry, who I guess is a special case, it can't apply those standards universally, as I know a few Etonians who I don't think would have passed an 11+.
Posted by: Matthew | Nov 29, 2006 3:43:55 PM
"I've never seen any member of the commentariat who has said he wants his children not to go to university and instead become a plumber"
I wouldn't agree with that entirely, but if one of your children had their heart set on plumbing, why stop them? Better they go and work for a plumbing company, learn a trade than get a degree in philosophy, a ton of debt and a McJob.
Posted by: Tim Almond | Nov 29, 2006 3:53:40 PM
Rigorous academic standards for entry of Eton? - I think not.
They are a bit more selective than they used to be, but two boys from my daughter's previous school went there and they were definitely not in the top half of the ability range. But that's not the point - Eton gained its reputation back in the days when the only entry criterion was the ability to pay the fees (the Duke of Wellington was regarded as a bit of a dunce at school).
In any case, I notice you didn't respond to the substantive point I was making about some higher authority deciding what type of schools will be made available.
Posted by: HJHJ | Nov 29, 2006 4:12:46 PM
So I assume HJHJ that you'd be in favour of schools being completely free to set up selective admission if they choose to do so? The market would determine whether that was a good thing or a bad thing for that particular school. The places could be in high demand or they might attract too few students to be viable, it would all depend on many circumstances.
I can imagine ways under the UKIP policy outline where a government could encourage "Grammar schools" (where we might mean selective admission or we might mean ethos) without specifically legislating on them, but then I, like you I believe, would say the market should be the judge.
Posted by: Andrew Paterson | Nov 29, 2006 5:40:01 PM
Yes, absolutely. Let the schools decide and if they fail to satisfy their customers, or attract insufficient, then it's their problem (and they'll probably re-think or go out of business).
In the independent sector all sorts of schools co-exist successfully. It is just that people have so much money taken away from them in taxes that most parents can't afford to exercise the choice of an independent school. Making all schools independent would also bring price competition, which would be a very good thing. In such a scenario, the role of the government would just be limited to helping parents fund their choice (I don't entirely favour vouchers, but they are one option).
Posted by: HJHJ | Nov 29, 2006 6:26:06 PM
Yes, the UKIP has a LOT of good policies. So has the BNP. And they both have some raging loonie policies too, but watch those vanish as the next election nears.
Posted by: Beachhutman | Nov 29, 2006 9:42:30 PM
"Tim Almond's right about the secondary moderns, which of course represented around 75% of more of where children ended up."
C'mon. In 1970, Caroline Benn and Professor Brian Simon produced a celebrated book about progress towards universal comprehensive schooling in Britain: Halfway There.
In the late 1950s, Leicestershire County Council, then a high-Tory council, made a policy decision in 1957 for county secondary schools to go progressively comprehensive for which there was an entirely sensible pragmatic rationale at the time.
Leicestershire's population was growing rapidly in the 1950s and expected to continue on that demographic trajectory through the 1960s. Whatever else, maintaining selection as newly built schools were required to accommodate population growth would have proved challenging and predictably troublesome among Conservative constituents with children of school age. The decision was made to create a schooling structure of 5-10/11 primary schools feeding middle schools (either new builds or transformed "secondary moderns") to cater for 11 to 14 year-olds while either new builds or established grammar schools catered for 14 through 18 years as senior high-schools or community colleges integrating provision for adult education outside the urban population centres.
In the course of a normal school career, all pupils would go to what was or would have been a "secondary modern" school and from there on to what was or would have been a selective grammar school but teaching an extended range of subjects from academic to technical and vocational. An important feature of this structure was there there was no break at 16. From the perception of the pupils, the expectation was a natural continuity of schooling through to 18 and from there to employment or to higher education. It therefore addressed a recurring problem of schooling in Britain even now - the continuing comparatively high drop-out rate from education and training at the minimum school leaving age.
"Last year, a report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) revealed that Britain came seventh from bottom in a league table of staying-on rates for 19 countries. Only Mexico and Turkey had significantly lower rates of participation for this age group. Italy, New Zealand, Portugal and Slovakia have marginally lower rates."
According to this bar chart in The Economist, Britain is especially well-endowed with low-skilled young people compared with most other major European economies:
Sadly, in many part of the country, it became politically fashionable to create neighbourhood comprehensives for 11 through to 16 year-olds feeding sixth-form colleges. Therein lay one of the main problems - in neighbourhoods where early school leaving was the established tradition, the majority of the most senior pupils in such schools were committed to dropping out from education at 16 and that established the school ethos with predictable consequences. The great feature of selective grammar schools, all-through 11-18 comprehensives and the Leicestershire senior high schools and community colleges is that there is no natural break in schooling at 16: the most senior years in those schools are pupils with academic commitment. That makes a big difference.
Posted by: Bob B | Nov 29, 2006 10:05:04 PM
Are you using "C'mon" in its little known sense of "I agree entirely" or some other? I can't work it out.
Posted by: Matthew | Nov 30, 2006 8:42:28 AM
Matt - Confusion arises, I suggest, because of a habitual tendency to think in terms of (evil) conservatives intent perpetuating selection and (enlightened and/or misguided) Labour (hell-bent) on imposing comprehensive schooling.
The reality of transitions to comprehensive schooling was far more complex. Besides, the arguably important issue may be less that of selective versus comprehensive schooling than school structures which:
(a) avoid the syndrome created by neighbourhood 11-16 comprehensives that foster and embed anti-education values in neighbourhoods where such values are inherent in the traditional culture [*];
(b) encourage continuity of education beyond the minimum school-leaving age of 16 - as in the remaining grammar schools, all-through 11-18 comprehensives, Leicestershire Plan senior high schools and in the now fashionable City Technology Colleges/Academies.
In 1970, Mrs T became education secretary in Ted Heath's Conservative government (June 1970-February 1974). She inherited a situation in which about half of secondary schooling had already gone comprehensive - according to the Benn/Simon study: Halfway There (1970). Famously, she then proceeded to approve the abolition or conversion (however the observer prefers to look at it) of more grammar schools than any other education minister before or since.
Historically, in 1957 the then high-Tory Leicestershire County Council established a pioneering role in making a policy decision to go for comprehensive secondary education and that when Labour controlled city councils - as in Birmingham and Leicester - went out of their way for subsequent decades to preserve local selective grammar schools.
Today, 164 maintained grammar schools remain. I happen to live in a London borough where, by accidents of history, a cluster of outstanding, maintained (meaning state funded) selective schools have survived and rank in the top few hundred secondary schools in the country. By last year's A-Levels, three local schools achieved better results than Eton. Arguably more significant is that the borough has continued to be ranked among the top few in the local education authority league tables based on average candidate attainment in GCSE and A-Level exams. On the evidence of attainment, retaining selective schools has certainly improved average candidate attainment in school leaving exams.
Debates on schooling structures might become more illuminating were they to have closer regard to historic facts.
[*] NB my often quoted passage from George Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier (1937):
"The time was when I used to lament over quite imaginary pictures of lads of fourteen dragged protesting from their lessons and set to work at dismal jobs. It seemed to me dreadful that the doom of a 'job' should descend upon anyone at fourteen. Of course I know now that there is not one working-class boy in a thousand who does not pine for the day when he will leave school. He wants to be doing real work, not wasting his time on ridiculous rubbish like history and geography. To the working class, the notion of staying at school till you are nearly grown-up seems merely contemptible and unmanly."
Posted by: Bob B | Nov 30, 2006 10:58:56 AM
You say: "Debates on schooling structures might become more illuminating were they to have closer regard to historic facts."
Whether state-run selective or comprehensive schools were/are a better 'structure' is not the point. You are getting lost in what Brian Micklethwaite called "The Tyranny of The Facts". I favour markets because they have been demonstrated to be superior in so many diverse fields and I see no reason why education should be any different. I claim no expertise about whether selective or comprehensive schools or any other type of school are better and even if I had special expertise (indeed, even if I were the world's greatest expert), I would still have more confidence that the decisions of individual providers and parents would be more likely to give a more satisfactory outcome overall.
Posted by: HJHJ | Nov 30, 2006 11:33:55 AM
"I favour markets because they have been demonstrated to be superior in so many diverse fields and I see no reason why education should be any different."
At least since (Tory) David Hume in the 18th century, we have recognised that argument by brute extrapolation is apt to lead to unreliable conclusions. There's a huge economics literature, going back at least to Adam Smith, on whether market allocation of resources will necessarily be (Paretian) efficient. To quote Smith:
"The third and last duty of the sovereign or commonwealth is that of erecting and maintaining those public institutions and those public works, which, though they may be in the highest degree advantageous to a great society, are, however, of such a nature that the profit could never repay the expense to any individual or small number of individuals, and which it therefore cannot be expected that any individual or small number of individuals should erect or maintain."
Wealth of Nations (1776), Bk 5, Chp 1, Pt 3.
Why did Smith write that? Why all the downstream literature on "market failure"? [*] Why the Tennessee Valley Authority in the US?
Why do governments in virtually all affluent market economies nowadays massively subsidise and regulate schooling and higher education? Why does the literature estimating rates of return to spending on schooling distinguish between separate social and private rates of return? Why all the research and concern about persistent low stay-on rates in schooling in Britain after the minimum school-leaving age and the relatively low skill attainment in Britain?
[*] Market Failure: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Market_failure
Externalities to higher education - a review of the new growth literature
A seminal paper: F Bator: The Anatomy of Market Failure (QJE 1958)
large PDF file: http://instruct1.cit.cornell.edu/courses/econ335/out/bator_qje.pdf
Posted by: Bob B | Nov 30, 2006 4:29:52 PM
Why indeed? You no more have the answer than I do. That's why I don't want you, or anyone else, 'designing' a system which is then forced on everyone else.
You attempt to demonstrate that an area in which there are grammar schools gets better results. By an equally selective use of the 'facts' I could demonstrate the opposite. Or vice versa.
What have we proved? I'm not seeking to impose my view of schools on you, yet you advocate imposing your view on me (and everyone else).
P.S. There are economists that hold different views to yours.
Posted by: HJHJ | Nov 30, 2006 6:22:01 PM
HJHJ - "What have we proved? I'm not seeking to impose my view of schools on you, yet you advocate imposing your view on me (and everyone else)."
Just what view of schools am I trying to impose on everyone else?
The documented fact is that the London borough where I live does have a cluster of outstanding selective maintained secondary schools and for the last ten years the borough has consistently rated among the top few in the league table of local education authorities based on the average candidate attainment at GCSE and A-Levels. But it's not an affluent borough. An exercise by Barclays Capital a few years back estimated average incomes after adjusting for housing costs as about the same as in Milton Keynes. Last year, the school down the road which my son attended achieved better A-Level results than Eton - and that school isn't even the best in the borough. Are we supposed to overlook all that?
The issue is what policies should we apply nationally to meet the main concerns about raising schooling standards generally and also about the relatively high drop out rate from education and training in Britain compared with other affluent market economies - see above citations with links. I thought a recent observation by George Osborne, the Shadow Chancellor, absolutely on the mark:
"Mr Osborne also warned against misunderstanding globalisation, saying:
"'I think there are quite a lot of lazy assumptions out there that we need to confront.'
"'There's the assumption that we'll do the clever stuff, we'll move up the value chain, and leave the Chinese and Indians to do cheap things.'
"'Let me tell you - no one has told them that.'"
On the BBC Today programme this morning, it was reported that China and India are now producing 5 million technology and science graduates a year. As for Britain, we also had this recently:
"The computer industry faces a skills crisis, the president of the British Computer Society has told BBC News.
"Unless steps are taken now, there will not be enough qualified graduates to meet the demands of UK industry, warned Professor Nigel Shadbolt.
"Prof Shadbolt said there was increasing demand but decreasing supply of graduates in computer science.
"'If we're not careful, the UK is going to lose its pre-eminent position as a knowledge-based economy,' he said."
Reading University has recently announced that it will be closing its physics department.
Posted by: Bob B | Nov 30, 2006 9:22:13 PM
You are advocating 'applying policies nationally' - i.e. imposing a system (your preferred one) on everyone.
I can also easily challenge your claim on grammar schools. Overall, there is little or no evidence that areas with grammar schools get better results. Some studies show exactly the opposite. I live near Reading. It has grammar schools - and, overall, is one of the worst areas in the south for exam results.
The difference between us is that I don't advocate a system - I say leave it to the customers and the schools.
You then go on waffling about globalisation the number of science and engineering graduates, etc., etc. I don't need a lecture on this having worked in the electronics industry for many years and seen all the redundancies and unemployed highly educated graduates in recent years. Why do this for a low salary (even if you can get a job) and poor job security? Why not go into an area which pays better and is protected from international competition, like law or medicine? Students don't want to do these subjects because there aren't the opportunities - not because of the education system. They do want to do law and medicine because they pay well and there are jobs. Apart from civil engineering (which is less subject to overseas competition), graduate unemployment in engineering disciplines is far higher than in most subjects. And you want to design a system to make more people to go into this area, thus reducing salaries further?
In any case, how is this an argument in favour of imposing grammar schools? It's the independent sector that performs best in this respect.
Nigel Shadbolt is an academic, by the way, and is wrong. If there is such a shortage, why aren't salaries rocketing?
Incidentally, I have a degree in applied physics and electronics. I went to a comprehensive school. I would never encourage any student in this country to choose the same subject. I no longer use my degree - because there's no opportunity.
Posted by: HJHJ | Dec 1, 2006 8:51:57 AM