söndag 3 februari 2008

The attack on Britain's Middle Classes

There is a huge variation in the quality of education in Britain's state schools. In stable middle class areas, they are quite good. In areas where people are poor and have a variety of problems, for example in inner city areas, the standard of education is not good. In such areas, teachers may have difficulties in maintaining discipline and the children have little support from their parents.

Neighbourhoods within the catchment areas of the better schools are more popular, and this has driven up house prices; if you can afford to live in the catchment area of a good school, your children will get a better education. If you live in the catchment area of a rough school, unless you can afford to go private, your children a likely to have a bad education.

This has been the case in many places. Brighton and Hove Council, amongst others, has introduced a lottery system in place of the previous catchment area scheme for its secondary schools, which ensures that every school, indeed every class, will have its share of bright pupils and its share of disruptive ones. Which, more or less, will ensure that everyone's education is likely to be disrupted, and that those who might have made the best teachers will not even contemplate teaching as a career. Unless their parents can afford to send them to a good private institution, all of England's children will soon be doomed to a poor education. (they may order things differently in Scotland)

The long-term effect of this policy will be to squeeze out the middle classes, leaving a wealthy class and an underclass, with little in-between. Factor-in the forthcoming inflation which will wipe out people's savings, and the picture does not look good, since a sound functioning democracy depends on there being a well-educated and well-informed middle class.

Will a change of government help? Not really, because the Conservatives ultimately represent the wealthy and powerful, who also have no interest in there being an articulate middle class. The outlook for England looks grim.

However, there is one possibility which may confound those who are working to create this disaster. As parents get to realise what is happening in schools, and with the new lottery allocation system which is meant to ensure that every class has its quota of disruptive pupils, we can expect to see a growth in home schooling. Perhaps then people will gradually come to realise that schools are a procrustean bed that gets their children into bad habits and bad company. They may even come to wonder why such a cruel and abusive system was tolerated for so long.

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