Schools to match London’s wealth

I could feel the sweat starting to trickle down the forehead. Oh boy, I thought, this is going to be a tough one. I’d begun my speech with a joke, a trusty, well-oiled joke that had never failed before, and yet this time, as I uncorked the ancient vintage, the response was verging on the muted.

I peered through the glare of the podium lights, and another drop poised for the southward journey. Help, I thought, and as I scanned the audience, I began to guess at the problem. As jokes go, this one is emphatically British. It requires a knowledge of British politics in the 1960s, and perhaps even a British sense of irony. And I later discovered that there were about 40 nationalities in the 450-strong audience, and some of them were listening in more or less complete bafflement.


A Swedish woman came up and told me to abandon my libertarian rants against children’s booster seats, since these were much-loved in her country. A Dutch fellow said crossly that he wanted much more detail about my tax policy, and a woman from Sri Lanka said she couldn’t follow it all, but she could tell that it was intended to be amusing; and as I looked around that audience, I understood for the first time what people mean when they talk about Planet London.

It was the banking universe’s equivalent of the bar scene in Star Wars. It was cosmopolitan to a degree that would have been unimaginable 10 or even five years ago. There were far more women than before; and considering the colossal value of the loans they were arranging, everybody seemed so young.

Half a century after the end of the British Empire, London is once again an imperial city. It is the new Rome, the originator of the international language of business, a magnet for talent from the ends of the earth, a gigantic financial entrepôt; and in the view of some, of course, it is the Whore of Babylon, sucking in so much money as to cause a Dickensian gap between the haves and the have-nots.

And since we are really talking about the growing gulf between the middle classes and the new super-rich, we should really refer to the haves and the have-yachts.

The City of London now produces a staggering 8.8 per cent of the United Kingdom’s GDP, and all the luscious tax revenue that goes with it. Thanks to the efforts of these 335,000 in the financial services sector, London is now a global powerhouse, a city-state, and it is about to knock New York off its perch.

According to my old friend Hugo Dixon, top financial guru and editor of BreakingViews.com, there are some senses in which London is already in the lead. “London has the momentum,” says Hugo, and traces it all back to those historic Thatcherian reforms, the ending of exchange controls and the Big Bang.

Since then, London has consolidated its position as the number one place in Europe to go to raise money – even if you are a French or German company. Other places have hedge funds, but London has Leylandii-sized hedge funds.

London effortlessly dealt with the creation of the eurozone. Do you remember those dunderheads, those idiots, who told us that the City would suffer for us failing to join the euro? I think Chris Huhne of the Liberal Democrats was one of the more egregious examples.

Well, look at London now, trading more euros than the rest of the eurozone put together. America responded to Enron with the Sarbanes-Oxley amendment, a masterpiece of over-regulation, and since the inception of the war on terror it is said that New York has been somehow more xenophobic, a less welcoming venue for international capital, particularly from the Arab world.

And then, of course, London has time on its side. If you are trying to use the phone to set up a big deal in China or Russia or India, you are much better off having your staff in London than slaving away until after midnight in New York.

Those are among the reasons why the money is flooding into the British capital, and that is why the financial centre of the world is attracting thousands of extremely brilliant people – like all those Goldman Sachs staffers who this year received bonuses of more than £1 million.

Think of that incredible tsunami of dosh, and think of the knock-on effects it has. Think how difficult it is for the British middle classes to get their kids into top schools, competing as we now must with the offspring of financially gifted eggheads from around the planet. Think of the effect that £8.8 billion bow-wave of bonuses is having on house prices.

No wonder some in the Labour Party are starting to get ugly, and call for a proportion of the loot to be handed over – or else, says Peter Hain, we shall have to resort to traditional methods: that’s right – taxation. It might be popular, but it would be a huge mistake.

Sir Richard Lambert of the CBI yesterday made an excellent speech in which he pointed out that these financial whizzkids are as mobile as premiership football stars. Tax them too much and they will just evaporate. All it would take, he said, would be a few Jumbo jet loads and much of the talent would be gone.

Of course, it is odd that these metics – resident aliens – are often paying taxes of only 30 per cent or less on their squillions; but then without their efforts, there would be no squillions, and a windfall tax might simply kill the goose.

So I have a better solution. One of the joys of living in London is that rich and poor are crowded together, and wherever the new Masters of the Universe live, there will be a school that could be doing better.

Isn’t it time to change the law, so that they didn’t have to spend their bonuses on Aston Martins or property in Greece? Let us release the pent-up wave of philanthropy. Let us change the 1944 Education Act, so that private money can at last be used to help state schools.

Let’s give these Masters of the Universe the chance to endow new schools, and to earn themselves immortality, and by improving the education of our feral children to reduce the risk of being despoiled of their squillions by a hoodie.

43 thoughts on “Schools to match London’s wealth”

  1. Sounds like a great idea! My only concern is that those philanthropists should have no say on what is taught in the schools, or we may find ourselves in the same situation as the USA, with ID and science locking horns.

  2. Oh, joy of joy, a return to good old fashion tory codswallop from Boris. There was me thinking that he had lost his way. Good on you, Bozza, I reject every sentiment in your article. Yes, you have truly inspired me to vent my disgust at the machinations of these slimy twerps. They are not the saviours of our country, they are those whose contribution is of even less value than the accountants and telephone sanitisers that Golgafrincham knew how to deal with. A few jumbo jets? What about space probes to the next galaxy but one? And the buggers are rich enough to pay for them themselves.
    Keep churning out this stuff, Bozza, old herring. I’ve been telling people that the revolution is coming this year. They tend not to believe me, but you are doing your part, bless you.

  3. Come on Boris, stop these inconsequential frothy articles and lend your not inconsiderable weight to stop Gary Mckinnon being extradited to the US.

  4. Thank you VS, I’d forgotten about the Golgafrinchams. All of a sudden climate change makes perfect sense. I for one won’t shed a tear when we wave goodbye to all the greens and lefties.

  5. These ‘eggheads’ may be permanent or fleeting, depending on whether you fathom they are here because of the potentially lowish taxation they attract or Greenwich Mean Time’s equitable zone. But while they are here Boris is suggesting they should hand over more of their ‘squillions’ for the common man’s benefit. Is this Boris’ careful ambiguity in his mini-essays or the Conservative party’s recognosing the fact that what put the UK back on the map in the 1980s is not necessarily that needed for the 2010s.

    I remember proposing in 1997 that the Tories should hammer home their acquired position of the UK’s natural party of government, and pull the rug from under NLabour’s feet asap by adopting some of Old Labour’s more sensible approaches – had this been done carefully, it would have been to the Tories’ huge benefit, drawing a line under their perceived past behaviour and simultaneously ridiculing the farce of NewLabour.

    It may have hastened the re-drawing of England’s political boundaries, with the eventual creation of the ‘New Party’ and the ‘Freedom Conservative Party’ parties, representing the short term and long term ideologies.

    After all, it was obvious to anyone with a GCSE that they would not be re-elected for an awfully long time if they didn’t spread their focus to include those keen to just get on with day-to-day life – who didn’t expect state handouts and Brown’s ridiculously expensive and bureaucratic tax credits, PFI et al. This country’s populace is famously fair-minded and tolerant, but nearly 30 years of focussing on the individual and his or her financial wealth is beginning to wear heavy on the majority who don’t live to accumulate vast sums of money, but instead to support their families and culture.

    The Unicef report highlights the failure of our ‘rich’ country to see what really matters in the world. Acquisition of wealth is increasingly used by the UK’s population to distance itself from British culture, whereas in many countries money is used to enjoy a nation’s culture.

    Government in a democracy (this word has made me question its validity on several occasions over the last few years!) should protect the rights of those who aren’t sufficient in number or wealth to have their views heard. Otherwise it is doing itself out of existence – mob rule is a lot cheaper and has quicker results. We appear to be living in a strange culture where no-one in power has the balls required for high state office anymore.

    There are several prominent media journalists who would have made a far better go at this country’s governance over the last 15 years or so. But even they would probably have refused an opportunity to run a country, with excuses such as ‘I know what Murdoch’s like as a media boss – I don’t want him affecting my career in politics! Perhaps it is all part of the feminisation of society?

  6. “All of a sudden climate change makes perfect sense. I for one won’t shed a tear when we wave goodbye to all the greens and lefties” – Diogenes

    Isn’t it the Americans (the wealthy and the scientists) who are planning to evacuate to Mars?

  7. …and does long-term planning for global warming make you a Green/Leftie/Zak Goldsmith-type?

    Of course, there may be a Nuclear Winter after the Iranians get a bit upset, and temperatures will plummet. The solar panels may not be so good then, but at least the ostriches will have something to be happy about. So will those not paying £5000 for each gas bill/tank of heating oil, mind you.

  8. Hmmm, I think there are a few flaws Boris.

    1) Most young go-getters in the city don’t have kids and want to spend their bonuses on Aston-Martins etc.
    2) The older hands in the city and the average hedge fund manager send their kids to Eton etc. (you should know this)
    3) They all live either in Chelsea, Notting Hill, or Richmond-Upon-Thames etc. Where they have good schools that don’t need huge handouts of cash.
    4) You say that you ‘later discovered there were about 40 nationalities in the 450-strong audience, and some of them were listening in more or less complete bafflement’. This is an interesting and perhaps ironic parallel to the average London comprehensive school.

    The best way to ensure young Brits get the education they deserve is to bring back the 11+ and grammar schooling if you ask me.

    Why is this perfectly fair way of deciding who goes to the best schools consigned to the dustbin? I just don’t get it.

  9. russellg said

    There are several prominent media journalists who would have made a far better go at this country’s governance over the last 15 years or so. But even they would probably have refused an opportunity to run a country, with excuses such as ‘I know what Murdoch’s like as a media boss – I don’t want him affecting my career in politics! Perhaps it is all part of the feminisation of society?

    huh??

  10. “Why is this perfectly fair way of deciding who goes to the best schools consigned to the dustbin? I just don’t get it.”

    The reason is hidden in how you phrased that. The “best” schools? We’re then encouraging a widening gap between rich and poor, educated and ill educated.

    The point of grammar schools is to let people go at their own speed. Grammar Schools aren’t “better”, full stop, but are better for top-end people.

    I’m strongly pro-grammar schools, that point just need to be bashed out accompanied by much thumping of tubs.

    On Boris’ article – Chris Huhne a “dunderhead” eh? Hahaha.

  11. The reason is hidden in how you phrased that. The “best” schools? We’re then encouraging a widening gap between rich and poor, educated and ill educated.

    IRJM

    What a load of old tosh!! Grammar schools meant that no matter your income, you could have a great, rigorous education, for free. Also, those that fail the 11+ dont get left behind, they receive a thorough education and are stretched as well, with subjects and teaching tailored to them. It sure beats everyone in the same class, some bored and some left behind, no-one receiving a decent education. Your view is typical bitter class warrior.

  12. Tom,

    Next time read posts from start to finish. What you describe is exactly what I go on to describe.

    I shall phrase more clearly.

    You will not sell grammar schools as a concept if you refer to them as “better schools”.

    They are actually “schools which better suit the most able people”

    Thereby removing the implication that everyone else is left behind.

    Clearer?

    I’d be more acerbic to you if it wasn’t that you’re agreeing with me! 😛

    I quote myself:

    “I’m strongly pro-grammar schools, that point just need to be bashed out accompanied by much thumping of tubs.”

    Re-quote:

    “I’m strongly pro-grammar schools”

    To be still clearer – the point that needs to be bashed out, or to rephrase, drummed into the public’s heads, is that giving the most intelligent people the education that suits them does **not** mean that everyone else will be left with sink schools.

    Honestly, was I that unclear? 🙁

  13. I see your point, I’m not a politican, maybe I don’t think enough about how I ‘sell’ my policy proposals.

    I think that grammar schools, concentrating on academic rigour would ensure that academically able people are groomed for academically challenging careers. Whilst people who aren’t academically competent would be better off learning in a different environment.

    Easily the richest member of my close friends is also arguably the least academically able. He sells fitted kitchens, does up property on the side and is making a packet compared to the rest of us.

    I also know a fair few tradesmen who left school at 16 making good livings and a fair few graduates in dismal low paid office, admin and call centre work. I don’t think grammar school will necessarily lead to a large income divide. Academically challenging careers such as teaching don’t neccessarily pay the most.

    It’s true that the city elite Boris talks about in his article will still be picked from the best universities. Your GP or barrister won’t be an 11+ failure either. On the other hand a great many successful businessmen were 11+ failures or left comprehsive education at 16.

    On eof my mothers friends married a self-employed builder and they are absolutely minted.

  14. I like the idea of a compulsory tax on each public school place parents with cash going to hire more teachers at comprehensives.

  15. I like the idea of a compulsory tax on each public school place parents with cash going to hire more teachers at comprehensives.

    English teachers?

  16. bored stiff with qt, so questions to Boris:

    i) Are you arguing in favour of the euro (Do you remember those dunderheads, those idiots, who told us that the City would suffer for us failing to join the euro?)
    ii) Is it really such a good thing that UK plc depends on the City for almost 10% of its income when the business is so flighty?

  17. So “London has consolidated its position as the number one place in Europe to go to raise money” (Boris) and
    “London has consolidated its position as the number fourteen zillionth place in Europe to go to raise children” (UNICEF).
    Come on hoodies, clean up the square mile for us.

  18. “i) Are you arguing in favour of the euro (Do you remember those dunderheads, those idiots, who told us that the City would suffer for us failing to join the euro?)”

    What?

  19. Steven:”I think that grammar schools, concentrating on academic rigour would ensure that academically able people are groomed for academically challenging careers. Whilst people who aren’t academically competent would be better off learning in a different environment.”
    “I also know a fair few tradesmen who left school at 16 making good livings and a fair few graduates in dismal low paid office, admin and call centre work.”
    This is true for tradesmen in traditional fields, where undiscovered opportunities are hard to find due to comparative advantages of developing countries. What appears more lucrative to invest in is for schools to educate innovative oriented students, and creative thinkers in doing businesses. Graduates in lower paid jobs are the result of system failure not to be able to harness benefits of their knowledge or armed them with sufficient entrepreneurial spirit, support, or matching associations as well as risk management capabilities. Perhaps with such availability of capital in London as Boris pointed out, graduates should have facilities, low risk and easier access to funds and back up machineries.

    Russellg:” Of course, there may be a Nuclear Winter after the Iranians get a bit upset, and temperatures will plummet.”

    Don’t worry about Iranians, they are bunch of dunderheads with their minds only preoccupied with locking up their women so not to dream about foreign lands – no capabilities other than bargaining to buy cheap goods. And yes, sorry I forgot they are also capable of controlling cockroaches.

  20. Good idea, Boris, to free up private money to make it able to help state schools. Why it was ever not allowed such a free expression in the first place is indeed a question to ask. What’s the point of people having money if they can’t do what they like with it?

    I think Steven L’s comments regarding the absence of motivation of city people to fund state schools, while no doubt valid in some cases, rest on the assumption that people only spend their money for selfish reasons? I fail to believe that this is always true.

    What intrigues me though about the uber-rich, if they are not charitably inclined, is quite what they do with all that dosh? Of course I can imagine, but what im left wondering is don’t they want to be a little more, how can I put it, spiritually or ethically creative with it than they are if they merely spend it on self, by way of either amassing goodies to play with or aggragating wealth, as an end in-itself.

    I’m not trying to wield a moral baton or flag. I am reflecting on the sense in which we human beings, knowing that we are going to die, might actually want to help each other a little first;..virtue for its own sake, virtue being its own reward. The problem with socialism is that it legislates, coercively, social compassion from the rich to the poor, cutting as it does at the root of the human spirit and the freedom of the individual to do as he/she wishes..for Good, and for Ill.

    So please, yes, revoke that Law when u come into your Kingdom:)

  21. < ‘I think Steven L’s comments regarding the absence of motivation of city people to fund state schools, while no doubt valid in some cases, rest on the assumption that people only spend their money for selfish reasons? I fail to believe that this is always true.’ (Jonathon)<

    It’s not always true. I just don’t think you can rely on city plutocrats to sort out the nations education woes. Many a time when I was in London would I round up a few hot young American girls from the youth hostel on a Friday evening, and take them to the City or Old Street for a night on the tiles.

    Without fail drunk old codgers in pin-stripe suits would start leeching all over them. They never had anything to say other than along the lines of ‘We’re hiring Tom Cruise next week for our new commercial’. They always made a point of flashing huge wads of £50 notes around in the mistaken belief that young middle class American chicks travelling Europe on Daddy’s credit card would be impressed by some bald-headed banker, old enough to be their fathers, flashing his cash around.

    A bloke I played cricket with down there who worked in PR reckoned every Friday night the girls in his office would get tarted up and head from Soho over to the square mile. Every week without fail they’d spend all night drinking pink champagne at the expense of some unfortunate group of bankers that thought they were going to get a bit on the side.

    In my experience they certainly do like to flash their cash around where young women are concerned. Being a mere mortal who has always had to rely on the more traditional methods of making friends and finding drinking buddies I find it all rather sad.

    Whether funding new school libraries, or kitting out inner-city comprehensives with a new ICT suite will become the next ‘in’ thing for investment bankers to do, who knows? Isn’t it equally sad if we have to rely on the generosity of a few thousand traders to secure a decent education for our children though.

    People are more important than money when it comes to happiness. Social skills are more important than money when it comes to making friends. Likewise a good education is more attributable to the people involved involved in it than big handouts of cash.

  22. Oh dear, Boris, you were bound to invoke a bit of lefty envy with this article. You’re absolutely right, of course. The system that enables people to get stinking rich is the same system that promises a better life for all. Unfortunately, some people would rather see the rich punished than everyone prosper.

    Of course, they will tell you that the rich are simply greedy for wanting all that money. But greed never earnt a city high flier a penny. It’s people’s willingness to pay them huge salaries that matters. The simple fact is that their employers think they are worth it. Socialists, seething with resentment at the success of others, want to take away that wealth in the name of the common man; but even a innumerate lefty can see that this would kill the golden goose. Their wealth-creating potential is based on a laissez-faire system. Try to appropriate it for the public good and its effectiveness will evaporate. But since when has commonsense had anything to do with good old fashioned envy?

  23. < ‘Of course, they will tell you that the rich are simply greedy for wanting all that money’ (Tayle)<

    I don’t think anyone has actually said that at all. No-one has said we should tax high earners more than 40%, no-one has suggesting compelling people to hand over their cash to good causes. It doesn’t matter what topic is being discussed on here. All you ever do is allege that everything is the fault of ‘lefties’ before proceeding with your usual diatribe about envy, seething resentment and conformity.

    I don’t know what to make of your statement:

    < ‘Their wealth-creating potential is based on a laissez-faire system. Try to appropriate it for the public good and its effectiveness will evaporate.’<

    Are you suggesting the nation would be better off if high earners paid no tax and we just relied on their generosity to fund schools and hospitals ad hoc? Any large functioning democracy needs income taxation and state spending on essential public services such as health and education.

    The basis of the system should be to provide equality of opportunity for children from all backgrounds and a meritocratic system of self-improvement. This is why I think we should have a system of selective education, paid for by taxation. Ideally the government should make sure that it is properley funded then let the professionals get on with the job of teaching without excessive central interference.

    A system where the quality of education relies on handouts from the wealthy is ridiculous. We’ve gone backwards from a perfectly good meritocratic system (selective education) to a system where the quality of education you can expect for your children is more or less in direct correlation with how much money you have.

    Suggesting introducing a random element to the equation, dependant on people’s charity makes no sense whatsoever. I’m all in favour of the tax break for donations to HE establishments where the student makes a proactive choice where to take their business. The provision of ompulsory education should remain the responsibility of society as a whole, the aim should be to provide an equality of opportunity to the end user.

  24. What Vicus said.

    When I read twaddle like this, I get to thinking about starting the damn revolution myself. However, since that will involve lining people whose writing style I admire up against the wall and shooting them, I generally shelve said plans. It’s much more libertarian to let Boris hasten his own demise with a diet of Bernard Matthews turkey twizzlers.

    By the way, Boris – if you’re still tucking into Norfolk’s finest at every meal, I hope you’re enjoying the weight gain and lack of vitamins.

    I bet not, though. After all, you have sufficient wealth to feed yourself and your children much healthier food. Like so much in our allegedly ‘booming’ economy, good nutrition has yet to trickle down to the poor. They go to Tesco, and eat processed.

    I use the word ‘poor’ deliberately, because they do exist, despite Boris’s fear of using the word. We have plenty of poor people right here in Britain, but the real poor are somewhere else in the world. Out if sight, out of mind, eh, Boris?

  25. I think public schoolboys like Boris who basically get silver spooned through life should certainly be putting more back into the system.

  26. Steven L writes:

    “It’s not always true. I just don’t think you can rely on city plutocrats to sort out the nations education woes.”

    Well, of course no, you can’t. This is why we need the state. To do, on our behalf, the charity and the service to society which we can’t be trusted to do ourselves, because we are too selfish and greedy- in the manner and style, for example, of the gentlemen you depict. But not relying on the voluntary compassion of the rich doesn’t mean we shouldn’t maximise the ease with which rich individuals can give their money to their communites and to society at large. Ideally, the rich should help the poor directly and voluntarily..and not as it so often must be indirectly and involuntarily through taxation, and in an often sclerotic and bureacratic and inefficient way, moreover, that they cannot manage or influence.

    But yes, so long as we remain selfish and indifferent to the communities which comprise us, there will be a need for the state to fill the gap left by the narcissistic spiritual poverty of the individual.

    I like what you say about the secondary importance of money. Yet whilst money features in the world with the significance it has, one can hardly not expect schools to consider the attaining of it vital…? At the end of the day, the important thing is that these schools get this money, not that the source of it should only be the state. That would seem to be a case of prioritising ideology over pragmatism in a pointless and unhelful way.

  27. < ‘At the end of the day, the important thing is that these schools get this money, not that the source of it should only be the state. That would seem to be a case of prioritising ideology over pragmatism in a pointless and unhelful way’ (Jonathon)<

    The world does revolve around money, and yes, schools do need money, I’m not denying that. However if a school is woefully underfunded and can’t afford the necessary resources to provide a good education then there is a problem. This is a problem should never have existed in the first place for there to be a need for donations from wealthy individuals.

    Let’s say you have an underperforming comprehensive school, where only 30% of pupils are getting 5 A-C grades. What is a large injection of cash going to do to to improve matters? Cash can buy more books, hire more teachers and buy more computers. Cash cannot make learning fashionable, make parents take more interest in their childs education or improve people’s academic ability.

    Good parenting and hard work by students and teachers is what makes schools successful. We’ve had years and years of New Labour throwing cash, legislation and trendy initiatives at every problem in the hope that it will miraculously disappear. The main cause of lack of educational achievement is the attitudes of some parents and some pupils. I know first hand, my education suffered post 16 due to my obnoxious teenage attitude to life, so did that of many friends who shared my bad habits and silly outlook. Some hedge fund owner dumping half a million quid in the school coffers would not have made a blindest bit of difference to the way any of us were.

    By all means allow people to donate their cash to state schools. Just don’t expect it to actually change anyones attitude to life.

  28. I’m gald this hasn’t deteriorated into a recital of the ‘cash for peerages’ argument..

    Okay, so the fact that some people are very well paid seems to be unfair. What’s clearly unfair is that some people, by dint of inferior schooling, (perhaps due to their poor parents being losers of the postcode lottery) can’t compete with rich folks born with the same innate potential but more avenues to pursue exploiting that potential.

    We reckon we can fix this by giving them access to better schooling, which we can provide by throwing money at the schools, somehow causing them to be better. In much the same way that giving Pete Doherty money has clearly made him better I guess.

    Clearly the schools need something more than just money to make them better. They need people who can make them better, through a combination of inclination, (wanting to make them better) ability (knowing what to do to make them better) and authority (being allowed to make the necessary changes)

    We hear a lot of complaint from teachers that they are excessively micromanaged, typically being told what to do by someone less qualified than them, who also lacks their immediate presence in the classroom.

    I reckon before we start handing over yet more money to schools, we have a look at allowing teachers & headteachers to run them schools, rather than forcing them to follow call-centre style scripts.

  29. < ‘What’s clearly unfair is that some people, by dint of inferior schooling … can’t compete with rich folks born with the same innate potential’ (Captain Badger)’<

    Then perhaps what is needed is a change to the national curriculum to bring compulsory subjects more into line with what is taught in the best private sector schools. It’s all very well and good Gordon Brown wanting to bring spending per pupil in line with private schools, until they match the lesson content social mobility can only decline.

    Schools in this area have been teaching thirteen year olds how to put condoms on as long as anyone can remember. Whilst the local authority and DWP are still handing sixteen years olds cash incentives to ‘get up the duff’ teenage pregnency is not going to decline.

    The schools I to spent countless hours teaching me the same old stories about Jesus again and again. I’ve been taught how to cook an apple pie, a spaghetti bolognese and how to put together a rice salad. I’ve had hours and hours of the same old ‘citizenship’ lessons (we used to call it personal, social and health education back then) that don’t actually teach you anything.

    Whilst all this gobbledegook is going on in our state schools, pupils in the private sector are learning something worthwhile and becoming ‘cultured’. My uni friends that were privately educated all learned about classics, they all learned latin. Whilst we were singing John Lennon hippy songs they covered the works of Mozart and Beethoven.

    It’s been quoted on here before, but it’s worth quoting the first paragraph of the acknowledgements in Boris’s ‘Dream of Rome’ book again.

    < ‘It may seem eccentric to begin by thanking a Labour cabinet minister, but I owe a debt to Charles Clarke for the candour with which he spoke in 2003 when he was Secretary of State for Education. He was dicussing the study of ancient languages, literature and history, and offered the opinion – quite unprompted – that ‘education for its own sake’ was ‘a bit dodgy.’ He went on to say that he would ‘not be much occupied’ if the study of classics were to die out altogether in Britain. A few weeks later the British state’s chief custodian of scholarship and learning made a speech in which he said that the study of medieval history was merely ‘ornamental’ and did not deserve taxpayers’ money.’<

    Boris, I say if this ‘Old Etonian Putsch’, as Dianne Abbot refers to it, does get into power, how about making sure pupils in state schools are taught the same content as pupils in private schools.

    If there indeed is a ‘pent-up wave of philanthropy’ among your mates down Hedge Fund Alley, if they are so keen to donate their millions to Britains failing education system how about they set up a ‘National Online Library’ for schools. This way all schools can have access to the classical texts you all had access to.

    You don’t even have to wait until the 1944 Education Act is repealed or until you are elected this way. Then if the Cameroons do win the next election you could change the National Curriculum to create an equality of opportunity in all schools and provide a boost to the social mobility you say is declining under New Labour.

    I will even volunteer myself to spend a week of my own paid holidays to help type the stuff onto the new website.

  30. Steven_L – am with you totally, especially “Then if the Cameroons do win the next election you could change the National Curriculum to create an equality of opportunity in all schools and provide a boost to the social mobility you say is declining under New Labour”

  31. I’m not sure I like “online libraries” any more than online exams or lessons – indeed, I like “online libraries” less. The look and feel of a book is important, and besides, you think differently about a book actually in your hand. And it detracts from when you actually get to have books at university and so on.

    But not many people even go to school libraries much. What’s wrong with local libraries anyway? Ah yes, councils keep shutting them/only opening them twice a week/etc. Well, sort that out and there’s the book problem done with.

    Lesson quality can only be matched if the teachers are equally good. And certainly I had some teachers for whom government planning of lessons was an unnecessary hindrance, but a few teachers who would’ve been hopeless without it.

    PSHE – bloody useless waste of an hour a week. I’d abolish it.

  32. < ‘I’m not sure I like “online libraries” any more than online exams or lessons (IRJM)<

    I kind of agree. I use the internet all the time to read stuff, but still like sitting in a library. If I have to read something complex for work I still print it out.

    I would imagine the techno-conversant youth of today would like online libraries though. Enough of them already use the Internet for homework. A good source of national curriculum texts all in one place couldn’t hurt.

  33. I suppose…but I don’t much care to technologise everything, or to hasten the advance of technology too much. Certainly, I felt interactive whiteboards were a waste of money when they were introduced at school. They were useful for some stuff in physics, and didn’t break as much as the slide projector in Classics for all the pictures of pots and statues.

    I’d actually reduce education expenditure. Too much unnecessary new equipment is bought. And when things are bought, they aren’t bought to last – I think I’ve mentioned here before that all the new desks bought 7 years ago for my old school’s science block are broken, and most of the stools are broken, wheras in the old science block the stools and desks had been the same ones for 40 years plus.

  34. the literature on equality of opportunity was highlighted in a study by considering the headmaster of a sought-after boys’ private school who is newly committed to the concept. After a moment’s reflection, however, the headmaster finds himself inexorably sliding down a slippery slope into straightforward equality of outcome. Richards describes the slide in four phases. In the first phase, the headmaster realizes that it is inconsistent with equality of opportunity to prevent girls from attending the school. In the second phase, he notes that he must also ensure that he selects only on academic ability, such that a particular cultural background is not a requirement of entry. In the third phase, he realises that applicants face an inequality of opportunity as a result of the unequal backgrounds they have experienced; so “the headmaster, although now rather puzzled, wonders about offering remedial classes, and starts to wrestle with counterfactuals about what the children would have been like if they had had each other’s backgrounds.”5 Fourth and finally, the hapless head is stymied:
    He will not be left with this particular puzzle for long, however, since the critic will already have moved on to matters still more perplexing. Even equality of background could not give genuine equality of opportunity, since the children’s different genetic endowments would still leave them with unequal chances of success. This seems to imply that genuine equality of opportunity requires the admission of everybody – the equality of outcome to which the headmaster always thought equality of opportunity was opposed – or, since this is impossible, either closing down the school or admitting pupils by lot. Neither of these is anything like what he had in mind when he started off in pursuit of equal opportunities, but he can now see no escape.

    Source:Clare Chambers, Each outcome is another opportunity, Dept of Intl Relation, Social Justice working papers, Oxford Univ Sept 2006

    also in my blog: The moment of equal opportunity, http://www.genuspolitics.blogspot.com

  35. Nasrin:

    Mission creep is a common error most fields of endeavour. In your example, the headmaster exceeds his remit as he steps from phase 2 to phase 3, and tries to resolve problems which are beyond his reach. It’s a sign of deep distrust in humanity that he didn’t believe the people who’s job it is to give children good backgrounds (parents, for example) could actually be trusted to do so, and so he should interfere.
    Typically, when someone trundles along & tries to do my job, I leave ’em to it. I can’t be surprised that other people do the same. I suspect that if we left off with the nannying until people asked for help, we’d be astonished with what our fellow citizens would achieve for themselves.

  36. I’m living in Asia and due to return shortly so my daughter can get a “good education” and have a better life. I’m worried. Am I doing the right thing? Is it going to be possible to get a good education without bankrupting myself. It’s starting to sound like we could better off where we are.
    As regards the London situation, having so few earning so much is understandably disgusting but a return to the bad old days of high taxation is not the way. As long as these high earners are spending their cash in the UK and generating income for the country through their work I guess it’s something we just have to live with. Surely the onus is on the government to simply stop wasting the vast resources it already has and concentrate on investing more effectively in things that matter, like education and health.

  37. Many ‘famous’ English schools have annexes in Asia, and are more affordable. (like, 40% of the price)
    If you’re in Thailand you’re spoilt for choice.

    Most of the income London banks area earning comes from overseas, and so any tax paid is effectively a freebie.

  38. Captain Badger:I suspect that if we left off with the nannying until people asked for help, we’d be astonished with what our fellow citizens would achieve for themselves.

    The point I was making was in fact questioning the philosophy behind equal opportunity as how far back one might look for inequality in ones life. The moment of equal opportunity is defining a ‘point’ from which onwards, shortcomings of childhood background counts no more – a point where individual’s responsibility begins to take advantage of opportunities in an enabling environment. I believe in living with our differences with less greed. However Youngsters do need mentoring and discipline to be able to discover their capacities – out of junk publicities.

    Personally, with my experience living in a peculiar country I am afraid to have to say that I have enough of so called ‘noble poor’ with their wicked policies enforced under degrading coercive controlled system – stripping me of what I have earned.

    Deprivation finds true meaning where you are dispossessed of your belongings. Misery is enormous when barred from your intrinsic shared values remaining to regret the lack of it for the rest of your life.

    “In the past, the poor did not see the lives of those better off. Whenever I talk to some older person who grew up impoverished in rural America before WWII, they always observe that, “of course, we didn’t know we were poor.” Without modern visual media to beam the lives of those better off into their awareness, few poor people in the past had to confront the disparity on a nearly daily basis. Now they can.” Comments in Guardian

  39. “the explosion of oversight has been far from uniform while the responsibilities and resources allocated to overseers has grown. In the case of the UK, for example, formal arms-length overseers doubled in size and real term resources during the 1980s and 1990s, at a time when UK civil service was cut by more than 30 per cent and local government by about 20 per cent (Hood et al. 1999).”

  40. Nasrin, I think what I was trying to say is that we must offer people equal opportunity going forward, and accept that, apart from redefining the past through language, there isn’t anything we can do about it.

    One of the many things we waste our time on in this country is agonizing over our past wrongs. The lesson we must learn from making mistakes is not to make them again, as opposed to learning complete paralysis for fear of making new ones. I think it’s called ‘learned helplessness’ – it’s something that happens to people in abusive and arbitrary relationships, or working for local government.

Comments are closed.