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.


Anonymous said...

It strikes me as odd that poverty as such enters into the argument. Or, indeed, background. And yet it is too simplistic to say that A level grades alone should be the criterium, for the simple reason that a uni, Oxford for example, may be swamped with applicants who all have similar grades.

For the life of me, I do not understand why a simple common sense solution should be agreed - no complicated cogitations in Parliament required and no political interference. And what is that simple common sense approach? Draw by lots! Although public schools do have the edge, I think that it is a mistake to believe that all public school uni applicants are 'better than' state schools. In fact, if state schools shaped themselves, there is no reason that public schools should not swamped by state schools.

And therein perhaps lies the problem - state schools are not good enough.

Having said that, I think that there is much more to this problem than merely the schools themselves. I speak of generations of lack of educational aspiration. However, there is no one to blame specifically.

I can only speak from my personal experience. I was born into a poor family. By the merest good fortune, I happened to be addicted to reading, and quite clever. I owed my addiction to my father who took me to the library with him every week. But not only that, and here is an interesting point, it was my habit to sit on his chair arm and read along with him the book which he was reading. Of course, he read much faster than I did and would be turning the second leaf before I had finished the first, but I simply enjoyed reading along with him. The good thing about that was that I learnt to read more and more quickly. And, there was discipline, but not irksome - just evening time which was quiet and conducive.

But that is all ancient history. The point that I am making is that I think that maybe 30 years of opportunity has been lost to political dogma. Even now, political dogma is endemic, what with 'lifestyle classes and H & S dogma.

Will anything change? Not if it has anything to do with the Cleggs of this world.

subrosa said...

What a super comment junican. As you say not every private school is better or even as good as the best state run one, but on average they are. The difference is confidence. The knowledge for youngsters in private schools that they'll do well. They're told that by their parents, many who sacrifice a great deal to send them.

Teachers aren't necessarily better in private schools either, but if they don't shape up they're shipped out quickly. Not in the state sector.

But private schools offer confidence building and discipline - two things which are missing from most state schools.

I feel it's insulting to those youngsters from a not so comfortable background to underestimate what little confidence they may have by giving them a place because of their home situation. Not good.

Wrinkled Weasel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
subrosa said...

WW that's called spamming you know. I'll let it go this time...

Wrinkled Weasel said...

It has nothing to do with spamming - it is a Scottish interest story about, among other things, how kids in Motherwell are getting educational opportunities on the site of the Ravenscraig steelworks, but since you object, I have removed it.

Anonymous said...

Gosh! what was that about?

On second thoughts, don't tell me!

Anonymous said...

Indeed, Subrosa. Confidence is a key attribute. But from where does such confidence come? In the Public Schools (capitals), it comes from the ethos of the school. WE ARE THE BEST! In the state schools (small case), there is no such ethos. I spoke of my era (primary school in the forties), but my mother told me that she left school at fourteen (1922) and started work at that age part time in a cotton mill. What 'aspirations' were possible in those circumstances? After WW2, the situation was not that much better, really, although improving - school years were up to the age of 15, 16. It was in the 1960s that the economy suddenly took off, and it was at that time that the biggest opportunity for really good standards of education to be put in place was lost, and continued to be lost through the seventies and eighties. What, in God's name, were politicians thinking of at that time? Could it have been the equivalent of smoking bans? Oh, was that not when they were introducing laws about the wearing of helmets for motor-cyclist and seat belts in cars? And what is the big thing of today? Prisoners getting the vote!!!!!

Jesus wept.

subrosa said...

WW, in that case you would have been better stating that prior to putting the link.

Then it would have seemed relevant to the post subject. I hope you understand what I mean.

subrosa said...

I have to admit my main school in Dundee did provide us all with a sense of pride and confidence in our abilities junican, but when I moved to a much smaller one in a small town the ethos was entirely different. 'We're too small to offer much' was the attitude.

The complete breakdown of the system was the introduction of comprehensives and the insistence that children should not be 'streamed'. That's nonsense of course because they are streamed in comprehensives.

I'm sure your mother could read, write and calculate though junican.

Anonymous said...

Among Oxbridge grads, I wonder whether there is a correlation between being private-school educated and supporting proposals of this Cleggy type.

subrosa said...

I don't think private school students would be particularly bothered by this berenike. It would affect the state educated more because they are less confident and may feel inferior all through university. Not a good start is it?

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