The Blog of
Nadine Dorries
‘We Don’t Need No Education’ (Pink Floyd).
Posted Wednesday, 23 May 2007 at 12:37

How many kids have sat on the school wall and sang that, as their teachers drove into the car park, without knowing what they were singing?

I have felt both frustrated and upset over the last few days as I heard the words ‘no selection by academic ability’ banded around the House of Commons as a throw away line - as though such a statement had no future consequences.

Just for the record, can I state that I do not want to see a return to grammar schools as we knew them. I, like most people who have thought about education, know that the flip side to the grammar system was the secondary modern school, such as the one I went to. In that year the Labour party closed down grammars and local education authorities ceased to pay travel costs for pupils to attend schools out of the area.

My secondary modern became a comprehensive overnight. I watched the workmen change the board as I daydreamed from the ROSLA block window. Out came the secondary modern sign and in went the shiny large placard pronouncing us as the first comprehensive in Liverpool.

A bright new sign, the same dull future - for most of us.

A secondary modern would always struggle, it was by definition, the school where the non-academics went, they had all gone to the grammar and there was absolutley no provision for those who had skills of any kind and had not made it onto the academic s spring board out of poverty . When the system changed, those who would have gone to the grammar school found themselves drowning in mixed ability un-taught, confused groups. Does it mean, because of past Labour party errors and stigma, we throw the academic baby out with the bathwater?

The future reliance on the untried, untested, highly selective, academies worries me. Academies have no legal obligation to take children with special needs which means such children attend the nearest comprehensive.

In one comprehensive school in London, almost 60% of its children have special needs, whereas the city academy, just a few hundred yards away, has none; a two tier system - sound familiar?

Academies do however select by aptitude. I am waiting for just one person to explain why it’s OK to select a child by skill or aptitude, for e.g. art , but if that aptitude is one for maths, it’s suddenly a dirty word and out of the equation.

What is wrong with saying that if we are going to have specialist academies, we have ones which specialise in academia also? Academic academies, now there’s a thought.

It is wrong to make the statement ‘no selection by academic ability’ just plain damn wrong. We should revere and encourage all qualities in our children, all should have equal status. There should be no snobbery attached to any skill or ability.

The decision not to select by academic ability also re-enforces the difference between independent schools and the state system, and in itself holds a magnifying glass over the chasm of difference between the two systems.

If you are fortunate enough to be able to send your child to an independent school you will have no chance of success if he or she is not able at maths, English, science, Latin, and, the classics.

So where does that leave the future for all? Who will be the bankers, the stockbrokers, the surgeons, scientists, and, the decision makers of tomorrow?

Well, given that the overwhelming number of children who are studying science at university are from the independent sector, regrettably, I think we know the answer.

If we are to continue the process of no academic selection for the brightest kids from the poorest backgrounds, the future remains very firmly in the hands of those who are born to rule, or at least think they are.

No dark sarcasm in the classroom?

No, not in the classroom, you will find that here in Parliament; education policy has just become ‘another brick in the wall.' Click Here For The Lyrics

We dont need no thought control

Anonymous said:
Responded: Wednesday, 23 May 2007
Mrs. Dorries, I don't think that there has yet been a blog from yourself that I've disagreed with. That continues. Can we make you Tory leader instead of "he-who-is-spineless/worthless"
Jane said:
Responded: Wednesday, 23 May 2007
I don't know how you do it. You churn out one brilliant blog afer another. You should write for a national newspaper so that more people get to read what you say.
Matt said:
Responded: Wednesday, 23 May 2007
So much said in so few words. Can this be sent on to Cameron and Willetts?
Carl Cross said:
Responded: Wednesday, 23 May 2007
Spot on Nadine. It really does make me angry to think of how this subject is being handled.
Anonymous said:
Responded: Wednesday, 23 May 2007
You mean you failed the eleven-plus ? Everything about you is becoming so much clearer now..
Anonymous said:
Responded: Wednesday, 23 May 2007
I am from a working class background and got 3 science A-levels because Wales was wonderfully slow in inflicting Comprehensive education on the masses. This would not have been possible if I had to mix with unmotivated thickos who had failed their eleven-plus. Just as the Grammar School rugby team would have failed if they had been forced to include me. There are sheep and goats in education, and selection is a part of life. Idiots like David Blunkett aren't going to change that. Bring back the Grammar Schools.
Mike H said:
Responded: Wednesday, 23 May 2007
I am dismayed at the ongoing destructive effect of the Grammar School row. How hard can it be to put together a list of the fundamental requirements of an education system? Why is this subject being allowed to do so much damage? Not only has the Conservative party managed to shoot itself in the foot when it could so easily have been avoided, but it seems that having done so, it's now reloading the shotgun ready for another go. It seems to me that, as a country, we need a population that's as well-educated as any in the rest of the world. As you said in a previous blog, Nadine, how else are we to compete with the large developing economies of India and China for our share of the world's GDP. Assuming we all recognise that children come into this world with differing abilities, as far as the education system is concerned, that translates into a need to teach different children in different ways at different rates. That means some sort of academic/ability-related selection is inevitable. Not more Grammar Schools, I should add - their selection mechanism is too early and too binary in my view - but setting/streaming in a mixed educational environment where all children are provided with the best possible education to suit their individual needs. That's ALL children, not just those who are bright enough to make it into a Grammar School. I'm not stating a case for gigantic all-encompassing comprehensives, either. We might be much better off with a mixture of smaller schools serving an area, each school meeting the needs of a particular specialist area. I've seen many opinions to the effect that smaller schools, where teachers can get to know each pupil, are more manageable especially in discipline terms. Either way, no system is going to work unless discipline in the classroom is restored. Smaller schools may well provide part of the solution, but in addition teachers need to be given the tools to properly deal with unruly, disruptive pupils. And I don't mean fiddling about with one day's exclusion resulting in the quick return of the errant pupil and an equally rapid return to the status quo. Ultimately the rights of the rest of a class to receive a decent education must override the 'rights' of a small minority to create havoc in the classroom, especially where parental support for the actions of the teacher is absent. Disciplinary measures need to work with no half measures. Now, why can't the leadership turn this debate into one that focusses on the educational needs of the nation rather than getting stuck in this narrow Grammar School debate. David Willetts speech to the CBI may have included a few good ideas, but these have all been lost in the subsequent melee due to his unnecessary raising of the Grammar School issue. I'm completely grammared-out, now. No more on this subject from me...
Alison, Ampthill said:
Responded: Wednesday, 23 May 2007
Wow< That tells us all how wrong Labour got it, and how wrong Mr Cameron is about to get it. Why do you bother Nadine?
Anonymous said:
Responded: Wednesday, 23 May 2007
Grow up Nadine. Youa re like some kind of bleeding heart for poor kids from coucil estates, who cares?
Auntie Flo' said:
Responded: Wednesday, 23 May 2007
Well done on your blogging award, Nadine!
Victor NW Kent said:
Responded: Wednesday, 23 May 2007
Mrs. Dorries That all seems to make sense, even to an ex-Grammar School boy like me. If politicians are capable of commonsense at all, and I suppose some are, can you tell me why over 40 years of educational experiments have been so obviously a failure? At the next General election will I only have the choice between the Liars, the Fops and the Wets?
Margaret said:
Responded: Thursday, 24 May 2007
We had a selection of small schools where I live in Dorset. We fought long and hard to keep the two Grammar Schools, but the Government(Tory)had their way and they both closed and we now have a large Comprehensive. We also have 3 Independent Schools, + a Sixth Form College, in the area, and many people chose to send their children to these. People will always move to where the good schools are, that is why we need a good selection of schools in a given area. David Willetts was wrong to claim that children are chosen by whether they have free school dinners or not, this is nonsense. If children are bright enough they will find a place in a Grammar School. The Labour Party doing away with the free places at Independent Schools was a real blow to the selection of poor but bright children. Congratulations Nadine on winning the best Parliamentary Blog award.
david kendrick said:
Responded: Thursday, 24 May 2007
In the supply of public services, there is a trade-off between fairness and excellence. The more of one you have, the less of the other. These days, this is settled entirely in favour of fairness. Nadine and DC are right in one important respect---promising to re-introduce grammar schools would be a vote loser for the tories. Those in favour vote tory anyway (can you see socialist GB being more likely to provide the system of education you want?). But some floating voters would be put off, and that is the key to the next GE. The most serious accusation you can make about a proposal now is to describe it as 'two-tier'. Maybe unbalanced and not best for the country, but its where we are.
Anonymous for now said:
Responded: Thursday, 24 May 2007
There's a good article in The Times today by Anatole Kaletsky titled 'Lesson one: get the yobs out of the classroom'. Borrowing from Bill Clinton, it could be summed-up as "it's the discipline, stupid". Is this the reason why so many Conservative voters are up in arms about the perceived threat to the few remaining Grammar Schools? You can find the article by Googling for timesonline kaletsky yobs.
Anonymous said:
Responded: Thursday, 24 May 2007
Good blog, bloody good blog.
John said:
Responded: Sunday, 27 May 2007
I hope you don't mind my commenting on this past blog but I have been away and just playing catch up.Referring to Pink Floyd, I watched the BBC's 7 ages of rock last night which featured them.As part of their stage performance they would gradually build up a wall between themselves and the audience (hence the 'another brick in the wall' song).And now you mention them in this blog.It struck me that politicians have done much the same over many years, insulating themselves from the public, never understanding what truly happens in the real world.That was until a certain lady from Liverpool honoured us by being our MP, and brick by brick is taking down that barrier by means such as this blog and simple things as a few kind words and deeds.Thankyou Liverpool Lady.
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