Monday, January 08, 2007

Ruth Kelly - Right and Wrong

Huge excitement today about Ruth Kelly's decision to send her child to a fee paying school. I absolutely support her decision to do what is right for her own family. And I would have supported her even if there were no special personal circumstances relating to the child. And I supported the Blair's decision to opt out - and Dianne Abbott's decision to go private as well. Where I disagree with Ruth Kelly is in her inference that such a decision wouldn't have been right if her child did not have a learning difficulty. She is claiming that her local council agree thet it cannot supply the special teaching - but Tower Hamlets Council's statements haven't exactly been helpful to her cause.

But I utterly detest the hypocracy. Labour is the enemy of private education and never misses the chance to undermine public schools. Yet, so often in their personal lives, leading Labour figures seek advantage for their own. And why not. Anyway what's the difference between buying advantage in a public school and buying advantage through paying for additional private tuition, (which is now commonplace) or buying advantage through moving house into the catchment area of a better school, which two Assembly Members were recently accused of.

I faced this dilemma myself over 20 yrs ago. I was Vice Chairman of Welshpool High School Governors, when our eldest moved there from the excellent primary school at Berriew, in Montgomeryshire where we live. The first two terms at the High School were a total disaster. It was only a major committment by his mother that pulled the situation around. We agonised about what to do - but once we accepted that Welshpool High School wasn't right for us, we decided to send the other three to the nearby public schools at Shrewsbury and Moreton Hall. At the time, we did not know whether we would be able to afford it for more than a year or two. We hoped it would work out. I felt that I had no choice but to immediately resign from the High School's Governing body. I don't know whether Ruth Kelly was Education Secretary when she made the decision about her child.


Anonymous said...

As a parent I have no problem with parents choosing to send their children to private schools, two of my children were lucky enough to be on the assisted place scheme. My problem with the Ruth Kelly situation is that she visited six schools and found none capable of educating her mildly dyslexic child. Does this mean that the former Education Secretary feels that the children at these schools receiving help for dyslexia are not receiving adequate help? Will the schools receive extra funding?
I had to beg and grovel at a Special Needs Tribunal to get money for my daughter's educational needs.I would like to know if Ruth Kelly had to experience that.
One education officer told me that there is only a limited pot of money and if they give it to my child then some other child will not get it.
Will Ruth Kelly's experience show the government that funding for Special Needs Education is not adequate?
I don't think so

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Blewyn said...

Until ALL children are state-educated and the job market/higher education market is a level playing field for all school leavers the UK cannot claim to be a proper and just country. Rather than focus on distractions such as the question whether a politician who sends their child to a private school is a hypocrite (no), we need to ask why private schools are regarded as a preferred option. Is it just the consumer's compulsion - ie the feeling that buying something is somehow placing the purchaser in a greater position of control than would otherwise be the case, is it pure snobbery, the conviction that a private school education will confer advantages in later life regardless of its quality, or are private schools genuinely doing something different and if so can we do the same in state schools ?

Let's make the BEST system we can for EVERYBODY, and impose it. Let's make the UK a REAL meritocracy, not a country where your Dad's wallet dictates the standard of education you get.

Glyn Davies AM said...

Blewyn, I just do not agree with your solution. We paid for private education for 3 of our four because we believed we were buying a better education. We had to put so much personal effort into saving the educational propects of the first, that we knew we could not do it for the others. As a family we hated 'sending our children to board'. And Yes, I know everyone can't do it.
It is not possible to enforce equality. In the school system today, we have teachers of varying competence, we have schools with varying managements, and then people buy the properties in the catchment areas where the education is better. And there will always be some incompetent education authorities. The sort of meritocracy you seek in worthy but idealistic. Without the best schools, we would lose our aspirations along with our standards.