One of the few traditional Conservatives to have served on the Tory front bench under Cameron, Paterson was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland before being promoted to the more high profile role of Secretary of State for Defra.

Candidate of the day

Owen Paterson

One day to go and Sir John Major has weighed in. “Labour divides to rule. To win votes they will turn rich against poor; north against south; worker against boss." We hope we don't wake up with them on Friday.

Hero of the day

Sir John Major

Another awful Labour woman. The fact Ed Miliband’s carved his pledges in stone doesn't mean he might not break them, campaign chief Lucy Powell has said.

Villain of the day

Lucy Powell

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THE REAL CONSERVATIVE MANIFESTO

Back marriage. Restore grammar schools. Leave the EU.

Reader’s Comment: Schools are setting kids up for a fall

In response to, Laura Perrins: This girl can wield a knife but does that make her a heart surgeon?, Busy Mum wrote:

They choose themselves - I want to be a doctor, it is important for my self-esteem that I become a doctor, the patients don't come into it. It's all about my self-fulfilment.

They are chosen by secondary schools - heads of sixth form and careers advisers - you are amazing, you must aspire, there is no reason at all why you shouldn't reach the top. Or else, you are at a disadvantage because you are a woman/LGBTXYZ/non-white/poor and therefore you have a right to become a doctor to show that these characteristics are no hindrance to becoming a doctor.

One of my daughters related to me how a head of year asked the class (Year 10/15-year-olds) what they wanted to do when they finished school. One girl said she would like to be a veterinary nurse. The teacher said no, no, no, you must aspire higher - no reason why you can't become a vet. The girl responded that she wasn't academic enough to get on a vet course (she is correct). Don't let that keep your aspirations low, said the teacher. Do you know how much a vet nurse earns? Yes, said the girl. And do you know how much a vet earns? Yes, said the girl. Well then, go for it, said the teacher.

  • This despite the fact that the previous year, the most academic sixth-former - all A*s - who had spent every school holiday volunteering at stables, farms, vet practices etc failed - to get a place.

  • So, another 15-year-old who feels as though she is not good enough and another teacher who will be telling the parents that it's dreadful for young people nowadays being under so much 'pressure'. Motes and beams. Scrap the whole concept of compulsory aspiration.


  • Politically__Incorrect

    I wonder if the teacher would have spoken the same way to a boy with modest aspirations. The truth is that not all high-achievers started out as academics. So the girl wanted a career but not one that would consume all her time and energy. Maybe she wanted to have a bit of a life too? Maybe, Heaven forbid, [hushed voice] she wanted to raise a family.

    • Under-the-weather

      Becoming a vet doesn’t stop anyone from having a family, but your comment about high achievers and when they become high achievers is true though, some do mature late, and low aspirations are going to dictate possible lifetime ‘ceilings’. However one other point above I think, is failure of teacher to take into account availability of places etc, and encouraging something which could be destined for failure. The teacher could have made the aspiration point in a far more realistic way.

      • RobertRetyred

        There is a difference between having a family and raising a family.
        I assume these 15 year olds were in the process of choosing Sixth Form courses, so it could be framed as choosing which courses to take to do veterinary work. Discussing that would help in the decision.
        For example, wanting to be an Engineer, but not wanting to do Maths A’level would indicate that more discussion should take place.

        • Under-the-weather

          One can still ‘raise’ a family and have a profession. There’s no evidence whatsoever that anything detrimental happens to children raised by a fully committed husband and wife, with either one partner working ‘part-time’, and when sufficient time and interest is given to children. The idea that the 1950’s myth has to apply with a woman at home ‘all the time’ is just that, a myth.
          The issue over day care is the Blair govt bill which has effectively replaced care in the extended family by professional day care, but even that is really young children playing with other young children, it isn’t and shouldn’t be schooling of ‘four’s and under’.

          • RobertRetyred

            What you say true, but there is a difference between having and raising, and it isn’t up to anyone to push an agenda on someone. There are many who lead the life that their parents or teachers wanted or peer group unknowingly helped them into. Not all are happy.
            At fifteen, they haven’t even taken their GCSEs so, offer alternatives but not an agenda, especially when it is a long running, national pastime.

          • Under-the-weather

            We all started off living the life our parents helped us into, but it is ‘just the start’ and shouldn’t be an excuse for whatever happens afterwards, and is entirely within our own control.

  • Phil R

    Do these things really matter thar much?

    A few weeks ago, I was standing in a cemetery with very old gravestones. I suddenly realised that I stood among the memories of the real lives of real men and women. It occurred to me that these men all lived lives of sorrow and joy and suffering and triumph, and all of it was buried and forgotten. What had happen to them? They once stood where I stood and freted over the problems of life, and now they are dead. The whole of a life had been reduced to a stone with a name and two dates. How much do the problems of 200 years past matter to them now? This life is but grass. The grass that covers the ground above the coffin. Eternity by contrast is a long time.

    Some graves had a a brief statement like “Beloved husband and father/ wife and mother.”

    None said beloved vet.

    • c50

      Are you deranged?

  • chrisH

    “Scrap the whole concept of compulsory EDUCATION, more like”.
    I do wonder about our paucity of vision-schools have had nearly 150 years now to “educate” our children. Yet look at what Generation Snowflake have become.
    Look too at the rancid anti-Semitism, the mental health parallels with psychiatric holding pens and prisons-the Godforsaken hollowed out and vacuous curriculum that basically is now a place to practice recycling your old batteries in doled-out condoms-and you have the next Big Cause.
    Schools are finished-and we as conservatives need to muck out the public sector barns of the likes of Woodhead, Balls and Morgan etc-and create some REAL Faith schools to terrorise the Left…easy to do it, just a shot of courage required…free your minds Tories!

  • jb

    The reason that schools put pressure on the pupils is because parents put pressure on the schools. The league table system presents schools as academic factories that are there to produce “high flyers” and parents particularly in the private sector are influenced by these tables. They choose their childrens’ school on this basis. So its a vicious circle. Parents want good academic results, politicians respond by creating the league table system, schools respond to the league table by concentrating on getting good exam results and to do this they pressurise the pupils. If a school does not produce good academic results it tends to lose pupils and this (particularly for private schools) is a disaster,it may even close . So the students who are not particularly academic are pawns in a game played by parents and politicians. I know of one case where a teacher was asked not to encourage one of his students to do the A level of his first choice because the student was unlikely to get an A star and this would affect the schools performance rating.This is the opposite of the case described above but in both cases the schools image was more important than what was best for the individual pupil.