August 08, 2003
Schwartz versus Clarke - grammar versus comprehensive

Here's news of another punch exchanged in the endless battle about selective versus comprehensive education:

A plan to set up the first state-funded grammar school in England for more than 50 years was announced yesterday by Brunel University.

It is the brainchild of Prof Steven Schwartz, the vice-chancellor, who has been asked by the Government to recommend ways of opening up good universities to bright children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

His solution will acutely embarrass Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary, who is a fierce opponent of selective education.

Exploiting Government legislation that encourages private backers to set up state-funded city academies, Prof Schwartz is proposing to build a school for 300 "gifted and talented" pupils aged 14 to 19 on Brunel's campus at Runnymede, Windsor.

Just down the hill from where I spent the first two decades of my home life, in other words.

I suppose the key to this ruckus it is who exactly you think the "underprivileged" are. Are they the poor? Or are they the poor and stupid? (I don't know how to phrase that politely. I did give it some thought. Maybe not enough) Egalitarians have to have an answer, so that they can then set about helping the losers.

From where Clarke sits, Schwartz is wanting to dish out further help to people who are clever already, and who ought to be able to make it in regular schools. From where Schwartz sits, Clarke is ruthlessly cutting down the ladder for the very children most capable of climbing it and thus most in need of it.

This argument is not going to go away.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 02:00 PM
Category: Selection