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Class war – Labour opens fire on Ofsted as well as independent schools

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THE rescue and restoration of schools in our country could be based on intelligent and reasoned discussion. The Labour Party Conference has, instead, chosen the pathway of class warfare. Its assault on the ‘excellence’ provided by our private school system is, self-evidently, being driven by raw and revolutionary emotion rather than by good sense. Labour is masquerading behind a skewed notion of how to improve social justice.

It also plans to close down Ofsted. This has more to do with schools avoiding independent scrutiny, with covering up failure, than with acting in the best interests of children and parents. It is self-seeking and protectionist.

Ofsted was set up in 1992 to put right the abject failure of politicised local authority inspections and declining standards in schools. It has many deficiencies but it is all parents have in terms of a non-insider’s assessment of a school.

Labour’s call to arms over education reflects a spirit that permeates many staffrooms up and down the country. ‘Conservatives’ from across the party political spectrum lost the battle with the Blob over schooling some years ago, even if they remain blind to this reality.

The architect of what we see around us in our schools today was as much the Tories’ Ken Baker in the 1980s as any Labour education secretary or hard-Left agitator. It was Ken who brought in the all-ability and discredited GCSE exam to replace the O-Level (an exam, by the way, that we continue to export to Singapore, the world’s educational top dog). It was Ken who deposited a compulsory, dumbed-down and flawed National Curriculum on our schools.

The damage he caused to schooling is still with us. The genius of Conservative governments has been to cover up his role and the connivance of subsequent Tory education secretaries. We do, at least, know where we stand with the current shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner. She is honest and open about her personal achievements at school – nothing higher than grade D at GCSE.

I find this honesty refreshing. Her enthusiasm for destruction and desecration has a touch of Boudicca about it. She does not appear to have much understanding of what she is about or what education is about. But, hey, in this mad, mad world of educational debate who cares if we can discover an honest voice, however deluded that voice may be? I once had a few words with her, in the green room before a breakfast TV studio discussion. She was friendly and pleasant, down-to-earth and engaging . . . but ignorant, I suspect, of who I am.

Is the so-called conservative educationalist Chris McGovern losing his marbles? He seems to be placing Angela Rayner, the scourge of private schools and good sense, ahead of the intelligensia on the other side of the debate. So let’s hear from that intelligentsia in the form of the Times ‘newspaper’.

In a leading article yesterday, it rightly laid into the madcap educational policies of Angela Rayner and the Labour Party:

It [the Labour Party Conference] also pledged to abolish Ofsted, the independent standards regulator that has done so much since the 1990s to lift the standards of state schools.

Contrast the underlined statement above with these statistics, the most up-to-date, published by the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). They cover the academic performance of 15-year-olds around the world. The next batch of results is due in December. The tests started with literacy in the year 2000, included maths from 2003 and science from 2006.

This is the UK performance in terms of its position internationally (bearing in mind some increase in the number of participating countries):

So, we have fallen from 8th to 22nd in literacy, from 17th to 27th in maths and from 13th to 15th in science. This what the Times considers to be ‘lifting standards’!

Highbrow or lowbrow, under-educated or over-educated, Angela Rayner or the Times – take your pick for unintelligent and unreasoned discussion about our schools.

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Chris McGovern
Chris McGovernhttp://www.cre.org.uk
Chris McGovern is the Chairman of the Campaign for Real Education. A retired head teacher with 35 years’ teaching experience, Chris is a former advisor to the Policy Unit at 10 Downing Street under two Prime Ministers.

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