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HomeNewsWell done, Prime Minister, for escaping the comprehensive cult of failure

Well done, Prime Minister, for escaping the comprehensive cult of failure


LIZ Truss has caused controversy by claiming she is the first Prime Minister to have been to a comprehensive school. The media, who have already decided Truss is evil because she wants the same top tax rate as New Labour, immediately launched into a spectacular orgy of Fake News.

Sky’s Kay Burley claimed Gordon Brown also went to a comprehensive, when a cursory check confirms that it was selective when he was a pupil, and he was even fast-tracked by two years as some kind of experiment aimed at Scottish geniuses with no visible emotions.

Others claimed Theresa May went to a comp, which has slightly more validity – her school was selective but turned into a comp while she was there. One imagines young Theresa walking in to experience that first day at a comprehensive, opening the classroom door, ducking a flying chair, looking up in fear and confusion until one of the other children shouts ‘Didn’t you hear? We’re a comp now!’ then lighting up a cigarette and stabbing a younger pupil in the neck with a ballpoint pen.

Even if we grant the media half a mark for their Theresa May point, other claims have been little more than crude attempts at sophistry. Twitter perma-dweeb Otto English offered a list of PMs who had been to a ‘state school’, casually neglecting to mention that they all went to grammar schools, with the exception of Lloyd George, who went to a school funded by church groups and had private tutors. The Metro used the same ruse in an article so misleading that I’m starting to think this paper may not be the great bastion of knowledge we once believed.

Whether we say Liz Truss is the first PM to have gone to a comp, or the 1.5th, granting May’s questionable late entry into the contest, it is – pace the media and Twitter blue ticks – a significant achievement.

In case you get your news from Metro, I shall explain.

Pre-1965, Britain had a system whereby a child of humble background could pass the 11-plus exam and gain entry to a far greater school, and a far greater future, than had ever been the case before, or would ever be again. It has even been claimed by Peter Hitchens that a set of British A-levels in the grammar school era were considered equivalent to a college degree in the United States. People such as Melvyn Bragg and Dennis Potter were plucked from working-class backgrounds to become famous artists and even Lords.

My own father escaped a background where factory work was the only goal, doing his homework with a torch under the sheets and gaining entry to a grammar school.

Cut to many years later, and I go to a bog-standard comprehensive, where despite my achieving excellent marks, including the third-highest grade in the country on my History A-level syllabus, no teacher ever suggested going to Oxbridge, or even offered a word of guidance.

The school culture, if we can call it that, was a pervasive and perverse celebration of failure. Doing well, or even trying at all, were offences that could easily get you ‘battered’, or at very least dealt a severe dead arm. Class sizes were large, opportunities were small, and Ofsted described the first-year pupils’ behaviour as ‘bizarre’.

All pretty normal for a comp. But it didn’t have to be like this.

The grammar schools were destroyed by a mixture of guilty lefties who had been to grammars themselves, and out and out communists such as Brian Simon.

This was a revolution aiming for equality at the expense of excellence. And, like all utopian leftie schemes, it achieved neither. Instead of selection by ability, we have ended up with selection by wealth. This is because grammar schools, already massively compromised in standards following this socialist revolution, were reduced to a tiny number, forcing parents to move to richer areas and smuggle their children in via the so-called ‘postcode lottery’ (although it’s not much of a ‘lottery’ when you can rig it using your wealth).

The unique flourishing of working-class and lower-middle-class talent that the grammar schools represented was snatched away, our social mobility suffering an incalculable setback.

The media and blue ticks don’t want you to think about this. Perhaps they have benefited from grammar schools themselves, or perhaps their comprehensive school educations were so poor they actually believe their own rubbish.

The fact remains that it is an extraordinary achievement for Liz Truss to have made it to the nation’s top job from a comprehensive school.

That we are on our third female Prime Minister, and only our first comprehensive school PM (second if you really stretch the point with the May exception), suggests that gender, despite what the wokes would have us believe, is far down the list of inequalities compared with wealth and class.

Without grammar schools, the Old Etonians have risen to dominate once again, and Truss has had to navigate their arcane mores to reach her position. An impressive feat given that comprehensive schools not only give us an inferior education, they also offer no social networks and no understanding of how the world beyond education really works.

Someone from Eton told me that at school they learnt the name of every single cabinet minister. At my northern village comprehensive we wouldn’t have known what the cabinet was, unless we were smashing somebody’s head on it.

I am now tempted to back Liz Truss purely due to this one issue, with the kind of blind loyalty usually reserved for blood ties.

But I know I could never really be in the Truss family. I am a child of comprehensive school, and she is sending her kids to a grammar. 

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Nick Dixon
Nick Dixon
Nick Dixon is a GB News presenter, and host of The Weekly Sceptic podcast with Toby Young.

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