News from British and Canadian Conservatives

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Three brains are better than two

Kent Conservative MPs Roger Gale and Ann Widdecombe have joined forces with KCC leader Paul Carter to condemn the new Conservative education policy. Shadow Education Secretary David Willetts, known as "Two Brains", revealed that the next Conservative Government has no plans to introduce further grammar schools, choosing to support Labour's unproved Academy scheme instead. Kent anti-Grammar campaigners Stop the Eleven Plus (STEP) used Mr Willetts' announcement to launch an attack on Kent's best schools. STEP has launched several unsuccessful attempts to force the closure of Kent's grammars, due to lack of public support for their campaign.

I have to say, that I'm a supporter of grammars. I attended Folkestone's Harvey Grammar School between 1991-1998. It provided me with an excellent and well rounded education, which enabled me to study at Cambridge University. I would fight to the death to defend Kent's grammars and I'm pleased to see our MPs and council leaders doing likewise.

In an ideal world, I would like to see grammars throughout the country. However, I also recognise that the last thing that schools, children and teachers need is the massive upheaval involved in transferring schools over. That would inevitably damage education standards for a period of several years. The same would be true of abolishing grammars where they do already exist - please note that STEP. Moreover, no Conservative government has created new grammar schools for decades, so this is anything but a surprise.

I actually think a lot of the detail in the plans is rather good. In particular, I like the freedom being given to academies and the opportunity to develop chains of schools. There are clear opportunities for the best Headteachers to earn further promotion and improve the education of a lot more children. However, why can't these academies be given more freedom to, say, become grammar schools?

For me, the real disappointment here is not the policy itself. I'm a pragmatist at heart, after all. However, the presentation of the findings has been riddled with lazy liberal-left pap. Watching the junior minister interviewed on BBC South East Today this evening was painful. He defended the position in terms of equality and the number of children entitled to free school dinners. It was nothing short of Socialism, and had no place in the mouth of a Tory. He did not seem to be remotely interested in the best way to teach or how to provide quality in our schools. It really is time for the right to take the e back out of equality. It has no place there and until we recognise that our country will continue to decline.

David Willetts' speech in full
Roger Gale's response on the BBC
www.kentonline.co.uk featuring Ann Widdecombe, Paul Carter and Roger Gale
The article on www.conservatives.com

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