Thursday, 10 February 2011
Leave Universities Alone Mr Clegg
When it was reported that Nick Clegg is demanding that England's top universities stop favouring children from private schools and must take more pupils from state schools - admitting them on lower A-level grades - I was exasperated. (Mr Clegg is a product of Westminster school then Cambridge.) He describes the present system as 'social segregation'.
Nick Clegg was the cause of the national student unrest in the past few months with his support of raising university tuition fees and now he's decided to attack the institutions. When he left Westminster school in 1985, if he'd been told that his place at Robinson College, Cambridge, had been given to someone with worse grades than him - whatever their background - he would have been outraged at the unfairness. It shows the character of the man that he is prepared to inflict that unfairness on those who come after him.
We all know private schools produce children with a higher level of education. It's not only the children of the rich who attend fee-paying schools - many parents with average earnings sacrifice a great deal to ensure their children receive a better quality education than is provided in the majority of state schools.
If Mr Clegg wants to involve himself in education, he should be calling for total reform of state education and not asking universities to water down entry requirements. The gap between England's (and Scotland's) best and worst schools is indefensible.
Fortunately in Scotland, 'education snobbery' isn't as prevalent as in England, but we too have the problem of bright children not achieving their potential in some of our schools, yet we spend more per head in education than many other countries. Teachers have a responsibility to instill confidence into their pupils and ensure they understand that hard work does pay. By labelling young people from poorer backgrounds as less intelligent than others is insulting and will damage their confidence. I certainly wouldn't have liked to have gone to university knowing I was there just because of my background and not my abilities. That would have been demoralising.
The LibDems are lurching from one crisis to another. David Cameron appears to be quite happy to let them. Possibly part of his hidden agenda.