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June 25, 2007



Not really convinced I'm afraid. Political objections are put up against promoting equality through the school system, but the only objection to progressive taxation and "flattening organizational hierarchies" is that progressive taxation is more costly. I understand that the sort of hypocracy that leads to the sort of protests you link to is tough to combat but it stil seems like the weak link in the inequality/social immobility cycle to me.

Bob B

But Chris we need to focus on why Britain comes out so badly on comparison with other affluent countries in our peer group. The Third Way really doesn't seem to have achieved much over the last ten years if we look at the record:

"A record number of pupils in England have achieved five good GCSE passes, but more than half are still failing to master basic English and maths, according to official figures published yesterday.

"[Last] summer 58.1 per cent of 15-year-olds achieved five or more A* to C grades, up1.8 percentage points on last year - the second largest rise since 1997.

"But the proportion who scored five good passes including English and maths rose to just 45.1 per cent, up 0.8 percentage points. This means that the gap between the headline results and those including maths and English had widened for the seventh year running to a record 13 percentage points."

"The research says: 'One striking fact is that poor white students are the lowest performing of all groups at age 16, showing a substantial deterioration in their relative scores through secondary school.'"

"White British boys from poor families perform worse at GCSE than almost any other racial group. Official figures show that only 24% of those entitled to free school meals gained five or more good GCSEs last year, compared with 65% of the poorest Chinese boys and 48% of poor Indian and Bangladeshi boys."

The Economist report of 26 October 2006 on: The forgotten underclass:

"Last year white teenagers entitled to free school meals—the poorest tenth—did worse in crucial GCSE examinations than equally poor members of any other ethnic or racial group (see chart). In the borough of Barking and Dagenham, the contrast is sharper still. Just 32% of all white children there got five “good” GCSEs last year, compared with 39% of blacks and 52% of Asians. In Leicester, just 24% of whites got five decent GCSEs"

"Last year [2004], 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."

"Only half of those on apprenticeships in England finish them, the chief inspector of adult education has found.
Although standards of training had improved dramatically overall, David Sherlock said low apprenticeship completion rates were 'unacceptable'."

An accessible piece in The Economist for 26 August 2006 showed that Britain is unusually well-endowed with low-skilled young people compared with other European countries:

"Some 26 million adults lack maths or English skill levels expected of school-leavers. . . An estimated 5.2 million adults have worse literacy than that expected of 11 year olds, while 14.9 million have numeracy skills below this level."

john b

"Last year [2004], 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"

Careful with that stat: low staying-on rates might also represent greater employment opportunities for school-leavers in the UK compared to mainland Europe (because of lower youth unemployment, because of more flexible labour laws and greater economic growth).


"Also, less inequality of income would reduce the problem of social immobility; if the bottom quartile is a tolerable place to be, it's less of a problem that people stay there."

True, but that's a problem too. If income inequality is low then there is less insentive for all (from rich or poor backgrounds) to strive economically. Could turn out very bad for the economy as a whole. A decent bit of inequality is a stimulant for economic growth.


Perhaps we need to stop making morally relativistic excuses for why some people can't be responsible for raising their kids properly? Even if they lack the skills or education of more affluent parents they can still encourage their kids to aspire to be more than they are.

It is simply counterintuitive not to reward good parenting, especially when such a policy is motivated by a negative, culturally Marxist ideology.


"Sir Peter Lampl wants schools to do more to improve social mobility"

I'm sure he does. If you delete the last four words of that sentence, there's a big problem with our education system right there. People want to use it to improve social mobility; to overcome social inclusion; to teach morals to young people; to prepare them for the workplace (by making work 'cool', ffs); to make them model citizens who vote, don't take drugs, have five portions of fruit and veg a day, etc, etc. They're being set goals they are not competent to meet. Maybe if they were allowed to concentrate on being places where you learned stuff, some of the other things people want schools to do would follow naturally - although some of them wouldn't because as you say, people expect rather too much of them.


"Equality" makes no sense as an ambition since it could most easily be achieved simply by handicapping the best and leaving the worst to stew. A more sensible ambition would be to afford a widening of opportunity, combined with an attempt to improve standards of education for the bulk of the population. Many of the changes required would be be cultural and therefore cheap - the positive way of interpreting your "the link between inputs and outputs is weak". The key is probably first to recognise that the greatest philistine act in British history has been wrought by the Progressives' attack on education over the past couple of generations. So we should mark our earnestness to correct all this by hanging a few of the bastards in public, and then start work.

Mark Wadsworth

What Bruce says, what Dearime says (second post), I think it is as simple as that.

Andrew Duffin

How about just letting poor children go to the rich peoples' schools, if they're clever enough to gain advantage from them?

Oh sorry, silly me, that's been tried before.


"increase equality of outcome - not just through more progressive taxation, but by flattening organizational hierarchies."

The largest such hierarchy (by far) is the state. There would probably be a net gain to the economy from reductions in its scale.

Admittedly, I am not going to hold my breath waiting for this, certainly not under New (or Old) Labour.


Last year white teenagers entitled to free school meals—the poorest tenth—did worse in crucial GCSE examinations than equally poor members of any other ethnic or racial group

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