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Monday, January 08, 2007

Bad Egg

Ruth Kelly - any lengths necessary to protect the sang réalThis time I've simply got to put my hands up and admit she's wrong.

Even though I went to public school myself, I'm totally committed to comprehensive state education and genuinely believe that segregating kids into different schools by ability (which 9 times out of 10 actually means segregating them by social class/parental income) is morally indefensible and should be ended.

Separation of children in the education system is not just Victorian but Mediaeval.

When it comes to having a child with learning difficulties it must be difficult on a personal level, but the same principles surely apply.

Segregation is acceptable only in exceptional cases where a child, for one reason or other, is genuinely unable to progress within a mainstream, integrated environment. That such circumstances apply must surely be a joint conclusion between parents and educators and not the sole decision of the parents, and I understand that this has been the case with Ruth Kelly's child. But the alternative, selective education should be within the state system wherever possible and have the objective of restoring the child to mainstream education as soon as practicable. On this point, even my employers can't help her tell a good story.

By any accounts, Ruth Kelly is an interesting character. It's not every Labour Party member who can claim to be Westminster School educated, an Oxford graduate (Politics, Philosophy & Economics) and LSE MSc., a mother of four, Papal Envoy to Britain, Minister For John Prescott's Former Responsibilities and a direct descendent of a man (allegedly) Quartermaster of West Fermanagh IRA Battalion.

Tony was forced to move "supermum" Kelly from her job as Education Secretary after a number of incidents that were not kindly portrayed in the media. These included her appearance as a mad monk in The Da Vinci Code and her pelting with eggs by members of Fathers For Justice. As I reported at the time, the announcement in August by Ruth of her decision to create "The Commission For Making Muslims Just Like Us" was nothing short of a master-stroke.

But her decision to enrol one of her children (sorry, but of course I can name neither the child nor the school for legal reasons but Google will readily provide you with the information should you be interested) at an elite private prep school whose per diem fees are greater than the UK average national wage is one that even the best of us in PR would have difficulty spinning.

Polo (along with golf and skiing) is a recognised treatment for dyslexiaFrom what I can see on reading the prospectus, this particular school appears to specialise not in the general well-being and rounded development of its children but in helping them pass public school entrance exams. It describes itself as the only prep school in the UK whose main aim is help pupils with learning difficulties pass exams for Winchester, Eton and Harrow.

The establishment is able to offer one or two services and facilities one might not expect to see in an average state school but which are presumably essential to the development of children with learning difficulties. These include a heated swimming pool, tennis courts, golf lessons, horse riding and regular overseas holiday trips.

But I don't just want to be cynical about this. It is unarguable that, if provision for special needs can't be made within the state system, parents should have the right to send their children to private schools. The one tiny little problem with this that I'm having difficulty getting my head around is that 117 special needs schools have shut since we came to power in 1997. And Ruth was Education Secretary when quite a few of them were closed... arguing strenuously that children with learning difficulties should be catered for in the mainstream education system.


Elroy Partington-Whistler said...

Don't I recall a certain Member of Parliament more accustomed to the back benches than to Ruth's position at the front of the House making a similar, unavoidable decision, not so long ago? If my memory serves me correctly, she may have appeared in a satirical internet magazine in an obviously faked photograph standing next to yourself.

Luke Akehurst said...

We've found something we agree about.

Anonymous said...

As someone professionally employed in the area of education services and special needs in Tower Hamlets (sorry, but I'd rather not be more specific than that) I'm very upset at this news.

Tower Hamlets offers some of the finest education and support for SEN children - both statemented and non-statemented. This applies equally to the Borough's community schools and to its foundation schools. So children with special needs can receive excellent provision in every environment - from the fully inclusive mixed comprehensive to the single-sex parochial - as a family choice.

There are six special needs schools and an inclusion centre in the Borough - with services to support every special need from dyslexia to autistic spectrum disorders.

I can't comment about any individual case, but it's hard for me to imagine any child who genuinely could not receive the education, attention and support that they need and deserve in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets without recourse to private education.

Anonymous said...

Have a year-6 gap year for you and your family within easy reach of Clissold Park.

Rent a house for a few months in Grazebrook road or Barbauld Road for 10 months while renting your own privately. It's very easy and an increasing number of Stoke Newington houses in the SNS catchment are available on 6 and 10 month lets.

You then get your child into Stoke Newington School. You can then go on to bore your dinner party friends with how you support state education and talk about how hypocritical are our politicians with impunity.

If anyone need the names of the people renting these houses year after year for this express purpose just ask around, we all know where they are. You could of course just contact the Learning Trust or Mr Mark Emerson, head teacher at SNS, who receive applications from these addresses every 12 months without fail. The school also gets a change-of-address form from the child on day 1 of year 7 just to rub the nose of everyone who got turned away.

Wake up Lukehurst your council is presiding over fraud even by your members and activists while you trot out your shite.

Luke Akehurst said...

So how do you explain me moving out of the SNS catchment area? I know it's going to be a few years before I'll need secondary schooling for Augustus, but at least you can't be talking about me. So come on, name names. Put up or shut up. Which Labour Councillors are gaining advantage by fiddling their postcodes?