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Britain’s private schools ‘have lost their moral purpose’

Britain’s private schools ‘have lost their moral purpose’

guardian.co.uk |by Daniel Boffey on June 30, 2012

Anthony Seldon

Anthony Seldon, seen at Wellington College, doesn’t think private schools want to help the state sector. Photograph: Frank Baron for the Guardian

Anthony Seldon, the leading headteacher tasked by the prime minister with encouraging independent schools to sponsor state academies, has expressed his frustration at the lack of enthusiasm among his private sector colleagues, warning that they have “lost their moral purpose”.

Seldon, a biographer of Tony Blair and master of Wellington College, in Berkshire, said persuading public schools to get involved in the academies programme had been “the most frustrating  challenge” of his life.

But in a blow to David Cameron’s plans for public schools to pass on their expertise to state schools, Seldon has concluded after a year working on the project that “the reality is that most governing bodies don’t want to bond with state schools. They put up spurious reasons such as parental objections for masterly inactivity.”

Seldon was invited by Cameron to join forces with Lord Adonis, the former Labour education minister, last autumn to head the drive for collaboration between the independent sector and the state sector. At the time, Cameron said that the sponsorship of academies represented a “great way” for independent schools to fulfil their “charitable purpose”.

Wellington College, whose boarding fees are about £30,000 a year, has already established an academy and plans to unveil three more in the next year. Eton College, the prime minister’s alma mater, is also said to have “plans afoot, as have a small number of other independent schools”, according to Seldon. Two, he said, are on the verge of announcing plans and 30 are examining the feasibility of projects. But today, in an outspoken intervention, Seldon expresses his disappointment at the response of many public schools to the invitation to share ideas with the state sector, which he says would help all involved.

And, despite trumpeting the value of public schools to the UK historically, he complains that the independent sector appears happy to stay in “splendid isolation”. He writes: “The pace of change since has been agonisingly slow. Cameron charged a small group of us, including Andrew Adonis, to encourage independent schools down the academy sponsorship path.”

He adds: “Leadership from the independent sector has been sadly lacking and it has failed to provide an inspiring moral vision for us in the 21st century.”

Seldon said that in many ways, including “teaching, learning and leadership”, the state sector was ahead of the independent sector. Yet many public schools seemed blind to the value and necessity of sharing experiences and bringing pupils of different backgrounds together, he added.

Seldon’s comments will provoke fresh criticism of the Charities Commission, which ruled last week that public schools would no longer be forced to provide free or subsidised places to remain in business and can hang on to millions of pounds worth of tax breaks.

New guidance from the commission says that organisations will be required to provide benefits that are “more than minimal or tokenistic”. But the draft guidelines makes it clear that schools will be given more freedom to decide how to open up to the poor without necessarily providing free places.

Seldon writes that he believes the independent sector should embrace the academies programme in order to offset the critique that “Britain is becoming a less equal society, and independent schools are key in making it so”.

He writes: “Political reality further dictates the need for independent schools to wake up. In case they hadn’t noticed, neither Cameron nor [Michael] Gove, nor the Conservative party, have time for them as they are currently configured, still less do the Liberal Democrats or Labour, who might be in power from 2015. The public climate has moved decisively against their current stance too. Complaining of injustice is missing the point.

“They need to get on the front foot and sponsor academies, or join in federations of state schools. “

Seldon added: “British independent schools in the 21st century have lost their moral purpose. They lead the world in exams, but they are like faith in Matthew Arnold’s poem Dover Beach, with their authority retreating in a ‘melancholy, long withdrawing roar’. “Leadership and courage are needed from public schools – two of their core virtues.”


Nick Clegg launches school careers talk volunteer scheme

Nick Clegg launches school careers talk volunteer scheme

guardian.co.uk |by Andrew Sparrow on July 1, 2012

Nick Clegg

Nick Clegg says the ‘power of making connections that inspire young people is immeasurable’. Photograph: Rex Features

Workers willing to give careers talks to pupils are being encouraged to volunteer via a scheme being launched by Nick Clegg.

The initiative is designed to help state schools match those in the independent sector, where 80% of pupils regularly hear talks about career opportunities from external speakers.

Research for the Education and Employers Taskforce, a charity running the scheme, suggests pupils who have contact with employers at school will go on to earn 16% more on average than pupils who do not have the same opportunities.

Clegg said: “Too many young people get the message that the best jobs are not for them. Inspiring the Future will give state school students the chance to see, hear and make a connection with someone in a career or job they might not have thought about.

“Today we’re calling on doctors, nurses, lawyers, builders, businesspeople, civil servants, farmers, mechanics, engineers and other working people to give up just an hour of their time to talk to students in their local state school about how they got where they are today. The power of making connections that inspire young people is immeasurable and can be life-changing.”

Volunteers and schools can register at inspiringthefuture.org. Organisers aim to recruit 100,000 volunteers.

Sir Roger Carr, president of the CBI, one of the organisations supporting the scheme, said: “There is nothing more compelling for young people thinking about their future careers than meeting and speaking to inspirational people who do the jobs they are considering.”

Clegg is launching the scheme at an event in Tower Hamlets, London, attended by some of initiative’s celebrity backers including the actor Joanna Lumley, the businesswoman and Apprentice star Karren Brady and the head chef at the Ivy, Gary Lee.

Phew! We don’t need to worry about egalitarianism any more, apparently

Phew! We don’t need to worry about egalitarianism any more, apparently


  • Ian Jack
  • guardian.co.uk, Friday 25 May 2012 17.30 EDT
neil from 56 up ages 14 in 1971

Social mobility can be down as well as up, as it was for middle-class Neil, pictured here aged 14, whose ups and downs have been chronicled in ITV’s 56 Up

According to a speech made this week by the deputy prime minister, there are “few more powerful illustrations of just how divided our society can be” than the continuing Up series of television documentaries, which began in 1964 with Seven Up! and has revisited its participants once every seven years since. “What hits you hardest”, Nick Clegg went on, “is that in the half-century since the series began, little has changed. Our society is still too closed, too static. A society that still says where you are born, and who you are born to, matters for the rest of your life.”

Up to a point. What hit me hardest about Monday’s episode of 56 Up, the second of three, was its disappointing compression: too much was squeezed into too little time, with too much left unsaid. Britain may have some of the lowest levels of social mobility in the developed world, as measured by OECD figures that show an individual’s earnings in the UK are more likely to reflect his or her father’s than in than any other country, but on the evidence of the Up series so far, it would be hard to conclude that Britain’s class divisions are set in concrete. That was the point makers of the original programme hoped to make when they dispatched two researchers across England to find seven-year-olds who might vividly represent class difference. But as the series went on, that sociological and political intention got lost in the interestingness of 14 unfolding lives.

“Why do we bring these children together?” says a long-ago voice on the original commentary. “Because we want to get a glimpse of England in the year 2000. The union leader and the business executive of the year 2000 are now seven years old.” But nobody in the series has become an executive or a union leader, and the notion that these two categories represent opposing ends of the social spectrum looks hopelessly antique: Peter Sellers versus Dennis Price in I’m All Right Jack; the overall versus the suit; the canteen versus the staff restaurant. And all this imagery dependent on manufacturing processes that a Granada producer in Manchester could sniff if he opened a window.

The world turned out to have less predictable patterns. Of the three working-class girls from London, Sue is a university administrator and Lynn a librarian, while their friend Jackie, who has rheumatoid arthritis, can find no paid work in her adopted town of Motherwell. Tony, another Londoner, became first a jockey and then a taxi driver and now has homes in Essex and Spain. Paul, one of two boys first seen in a children’s home, helps his wife run an old people’s home in Australia. The other boy, Symon, drives a forklift truck.

As for the middle-class contingent, we find that Nick, the Yorkshire farmer’s son, is a professor of electrical engineering in Wisconsin, while two boys from the Liverpool suburbs, Neil and Peter, are respectively a civil servant and a Lib Dem councillor in Cumbria, living frugally on his councillor’s allowance. That leaves a group of five, whose voices and private schooling marked them out as upper middle class, or perhaps (bring on Henry Higgins) the lower reaches of the upper class. Suzy married a prosperous lawyer, Rupert, and so far as we can tell, lives happily with her family in a house with a tennis court. One boy dropped out of the series after 1977. The remaining three, to be seen in Monday’s third episode, went to Oxbridge. Two became lawyers. The third, Bruce, taught in Bangladesh and east London before he joined the staff of a public school in Hertfordshire.

Perhaps because these films began in a more courteous time and quickly became studies of personal history rather than an inquiry into social class, they contain few statistics. We don’t know what people earn or the worth of their houses, if they own one. It’s reasonable to suppose that all those who got divorced would be richer if they’d stayed married, and that Jackie, anxious about her disability benefit, is the least well off. But what about the social mobility that in Clegg’s words is “the central social preoccupation of the coalition government”? It isn’t entirely absent. From the outside, it looks as if taxi driver Tony and university administrator Sue have climbed furthest, while middle-class Neil, who had a breakdown and spent time on the road, fell lowest. At least in financial terms, the traffic between middle and working class has been reasonably down as well as up.

Those who look most impregnable – most immune to downward movement – come from the highest layer. What puts them there? A certain kind of education – Clegg’s kind – is at least part of the answer. Is there room for more on top? Clegg believes so, and not only more but better and brighter. Through targeted educational spending and monitoring instruments, such as the amazingly named Social Mobility Sector Transparency Board, Clegg hopes to send more children from poor families up the ladder to the top universities (at Oxbridge, only one in 100 students have taken free school meals, compared to the one in five pupils who take them at school). Achieving greater social mobility, we need to understand, has little to do with increasing social equality. A conference held by the Sutton Trust, which Clegg was addressing, unveiled research that showed how poor children in Australia and Canada stand a better chance of moving up than those in the UK and US, though the gaps between rich and poor are broadly similar in all four countries.

Phew! No inconvenient need to worry about egalitarianism! Or, as Clegg put it: “Of course, reducing inequality is a good and laudable aim. But unfortunately, it’s not the straightforward route to social mobility that its proponents suggest. In many ways, I wish it was. Life would be much simpler. Our goal would be clear: redistribution of income would do the job.” (The “I wish it was” is delicious.)

Sir Alec Douglas-Home was prime minister when Seven Up! was first broadcast. An old Etonian, he had disclaimed his earldom the previous year to fight the by-election that got him into the Commons. Harold Wilson mocked him as an “elegant anachronism”.Still, the income ratios between rich and poor were closer then, and if social mobility was what you wanted, grammar schools were there to provide it. You went nervously into a classroom one day– so much depended on the outcome – and sat the 11-plus (in Scotland “the quali” or qualifying exam) and if you had enough right answers, you joined the academic elect. It was divisive and hideously unfair, but almost certainly less so than any future selection for advancement towards the holy grail of the Russell Group aided by the likes of the Social Mobility Sector Transparency Board. Social mobility being in such demand, the puzzle is the coalition’s refusal to reintroduce grammar schools to every corner of the country. Their blazers could have badges with the motto“Liberty, Mobility, No Equality”.

How Can We Increase Social Mobility?

Clegg: Social mobility ‘vital’ for UK economy

It was announced on 22nd May 2012 that the government is to publish an annual “snapshot” of social mobility, by measuring information such as educational achievement, access to professions and birth weights. In making the announcement, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said that being able to advance at work and in learning was a “vital ingredient” of the UK’s economic success. Wasted talent was a “crime” which hurt society, he added.

Labour claim that social mobility is going backwards under the present administration while campaigners claim that social mobility in the UK has reduced since the 1960s. It has reached the stage where the government has commissioned former Labour Health Secretary Alan Milburn to investigate the issue. Mr Clegg said

“I strongly believe that opening up our society is a vital ingredient in our future productivity. Wasted talent is always a moral crime, but it is increasingly an economic crime too. The Sutton Trust’s own work has suggested that boosting poor educational attainment up to the UK average would increase GDP by £140bn by 2050, and increase long-run trend growth by 0.4 percentage points. Social mobility is a long-term growth strategy.”

The government will publish an annual set of 17 indicators which will include the proportion of children under five on free school meals achieving a “good level of development” compared with other children, attainment at age 16 of those eligible for free school meals and higher education enrolment by social background.

Is Social Mobility Declining?

The sad reality is, that for all the government rhetoric about improving social mobility and ensuring that the circumstances of your birth shouldn’t matter, they do. And unless there is a seismic shift in the mindset of those who are in a position to make the necessary changes and that of the general population genuine social mobility will never exist. It is unfair therefore, to lay this problem entirely at the door of the coalition government. This problem has been building for many decades if one takes the parliamentary political arena as an example. The first British Prime Minister to be recognised as such was Sir Robert Walpole who served from 1721 to 1742. In the subsequent centuries we have had 55 Premiers and of these 41 or 75% studied at Oxford or Cambridge. In addition 19 or 34% have been old Etonians including David Cameron our current leader. And if that wasn’t of enough concern the recent steps have been backwards even if it did appear for a while, during the latter half of the 20th Century, that we were making positive strides. From 1964 to 1997 all our elected leaders from Harold Wilson to John Major were educated in state schools. This changed with Tony Blair and we have been served by privately educated men for the past 15 years. In addition, within the current administration:

  • 50% of our cabinet were privately educated
  • 2/3rds of the 119 Ministers in the coalition were privately educated
  • There are currently 20 old Etonians in Parliament of whom 8 are in cabinet

Within wider Parliament 33% of all MPs currently sitting in the House of Commons were educated in public schools compared with just 7% of the general population. Furthermore, if we look at the leaders of the three main parties we see the following:

  • David Cameron: Prime Minister – Privately Educated and Oxbridge
  • Nick Clegg: Deputy Prime Minster – Privately Educated and Oxbridge
  • George Osborne: Chancellor of the Exchequer – Privately Educated and Oxbridge
  • Ed Miliband: Leader of the Opposition – State Educated and Oxbridge
  • Ed Balls: Shadow Chancellor – Privately Educated and Oxbridge

Consequently, social mobility has been in decline for some time and this has been exacerbated by the increase in Conservative MPs at the 2010 election as higher proportions of them will have been privately and Oxbridge educated compared with Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

How Can We Increase Social Mobility?

There is no easy answer to this as there are almost certainly many factors that prevent it. But the first point of reference would appear to be an examination of the changes in the educational system from the decades immediately preceding Harold Wilson’s Premiership through to Tony Blair taking office. In addition it may be worthwhile looking at each of their family backgrounds and educations for common factors.

Secondly, we need to change our own mind-sets. Whilst it is much harder for state educated men and women to achieve high office it is not impossible. If 33% of MPs are privately educated 67% are not and if 75% of Prime Ministers have been privately educated 25% have been educated in state schools. Furthermore, if Oxford and Cambridge are accepting a disproportionately high number of public school students by rejecting large numbers of equally qualified state school students as we know they are then we must examine what suitable discrimination laws can be brought to bear. Recent figures show that between 2007 and 2009 four public schools sent 946 pupils to Oxbridge compared with 927 pupils being sent by 2,000 state schools. Whilst, it is fair to say that public school pupils are in a position to receive a good standard of education is also certain that there are many thousands of equally talented young people who never achieve their potential in society because their parents cannot afford the public school fees. And that does not allow for a true meritocracy.

Finally, we have, as a result of living in a monarchy for the last 1,000 years (with the exception of the interregnum), come to accept without question that those who rule over us are there because they are the best people to do so when the reality is that they rule by birth right regardless of merit. This point is raised not to discuss the controversial topic surrounding the pros and cons of the monarchy but merely to highlight an element of the British and in particular English psyche. That is an inherent unflinching belief, albeit subconscious, that there is a ruling class in this nation who are born to oversee things and the rest of us cannot possibly hope to aspire to political power even if we don’t agree that they always know best. And it does seem that there are two parts to this ruling class, the aristocracy whose power seems to be diminishing and the financial elite who can afford to educate their sons and daughters in the right schools. This results in an elite few who continue to hold the reins of power because they have the money to maintain their authority.

We must therefore, teach our children that all men and women are equal, regardless of financial status and inspire them to reach their goal in life no-matter how impossible it may be. If we don’t it will be bad for the economy but not in the way envisaged by Nick Clegg. It will be because the real talent who can bring our great country out of recession and create a fairer society for all will remain outside Westminster looking in and never have the opportunity to play their part in making things better.

In the meantime we must hope beyond hope that this government really does wish to improve social mobility and await the outcome of the report with interest.

Clegg: Social mobility ‘vital’ for UK economy

Clegg: Social mobility ‘vital’ for UK economy

BBC |May 22, 2012

The government is to publish an annual“snapshot” of social mobility, by measuring information such as educational achievement, access to professions and birth weights.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said being able to advance at work and in learning was a “vital ingredient” of the UK’s economic success.

Wasted talent was a “crime” which hurt society, he added.

But Labour said life chances were going “backwards” under the coalition.

Campaigners claim that social mobility in the UK has reduced since the 1960s. The government has commissioned former Labour Health Secretary Alan Milburn to investigate the issue.

At a conference organised by the Sutton Trust, which promotes educational opportunities for young people from underprivileged backgrounds, Mr Clegg called for “a more dynamic society: one where what matters most is the person you become, not the person you were born”.

‘Speaking up’He dismissed as a “myth” the idea that social mobility can increase only during times of economic prosperity, saying: “I strongly believe that opening up our society is a vital ingredient in our future productivity. Wasted talent is always a moral crime, but it is increasingly an economic crime too.

“The Sutton Trust’s own work has suggested that boosting poor educational attainment up to the UK average would increase GDP by £140bn by 2050, and increase long-run trend growth by 0.4 percentage points. Social mobility is a long-term growth strategy.”

He announced the annual publication of a set of 17 indicators to monitor “how well the government is doing in making society fairer”.

These include the proportion of children under five on free school meals achieving a “good level of development” compared with other children, attainment at age 16 of those eligible for free school meals and higher education enrolment by social background.

Birth weight will also be measured. Babies from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to be underweight and this has been associated with “a wide range of poor educational and health outcomes later in life”, the government says.

It adds that this will be the first time such information has been published by any government in the world.

Mr Clegg argued that life chances could not be evened out simply by reducing inequality, pointing to Australia and Canada as examples of countries with a similar gap between the rich and the poor as the UK but much better levels of social mobility.

He described suggestions that the government was trying to“socially engineer” as “nonsense”.

Mr Clegg, who attended a top public school, added: “I know some people will say I should keep quiet about social mobility, that my birth, my education, and my opportunities mean I have no right to speak up. I couldn’t disagree more.

“If people like me who have benefited from the system don’t speak up, we will never get anywhere.”

Speaking at the same conference on Monday, Labour leader Ed Miliband criticised the government’s record on social mobility.

He said: “Tackling social mobility is a huge mountain to climb and the last Labour government took some important steps.

“But this government seems to think we can let those at the top take whatever rewards they think fit and somehow everyone else can just play catch-up.”

Nick Clegg attacks the rift between state and private schools’ A-level results

Nick Clegg attacks the rift between state and private schools’ A-level results

guardian.co.uk |by Toby Helm

  • Toby Helm
  • The Observer, Saturday 19 May 2012
Multiple-choice exam questions

Private school pupils are three times as likely to get top grades at A level, a new report reveals. Photograph: David Davies/PA

Pupils at private schools are more than three times as likely to get AAB in the key A level subjects that help candidates gain access to top universities as those in state schools, according to the first analysis of its kind released by the government.

The figures have been made public by Nick Clegg as part of a new initiative to promote “social mobility” to be unveiled by the deputy prime minister on Tuesday. The government looked at those attaining AAB at A level in subjects identified by the Russell Group as “facilitating” entry to their universities –including English literature, maths, physics, languages and history.

Under a new social mobility “tracking” system, the relative numbers achieving these grades in private and state schools will be published annually, as will a series of other indicators including access to early years education and entry to the professions.

Clegg said there was a “great rift in our education system between our best schools, most of which are private, and the schools ordinary families rely on. That is corrosive for our society and damaging to our economy.”

He added: “We do need to ensure that our school system as a whole promotes fairness and mobility, that it heals the rift in opportunities. We are committed to narrowing the gap in our school system – state and private – and ensuring that all children are given the chance to rise. The way to do that is to make the state education system better – to level up –and ensure that anyone can get ahead.”

In an article in today’s Observer ahead of an international summit on social mobility being hosted by the Sutton Trust, its chairman Sir Peter Lampl says “education reform still holds the key to breaking the cycle of low mobility”.

Nick Clegg to propose £10,000 prize to boost schools’ performance

Nick Clegg to propose £10,000 prize to boost schools’ performance

guardian.co.uk |by Rajeev Syal

  • Rajeev Syal
  • The Guardian, Sunday 13 May 2012
Nick Clegg

The pupil premium was one of Nick Clegg’s flagship policies during the 2010 election campaign. Photograph: Getty Images

Schools will be asked to compete to find the best way of spending government money –and could win an extra £10,000 for being one of the country’s top performers, Nick Clegg will tell teachers on Monday.

Additional cash awards will be handed out to 50 schools as the government seeks to introduce an added incentive for those receiving the “pupil premium”.

The money is part of the deputy prime minister’s plan to break the grip of private schools on the British establishment as he seeks a boost to social mobility. But the plan is expected to be condemned by teaching unions, who will claim it fails to address inequalities between state and private education.

Clegg will set out his proposals by telling educators he wants to “strike a deal between the coalition government and our schools and teachers”.

Other proposals include funding £500 per pupil for summer schools to bridge the gap between primary and secondary education, and incentives for teachers to work in schools with large numbers of disadvantaged pupils. The School Teachers Review Body will be asked to look at giving maintained schools the same flexibility that academies have to offer extra pay to hold on to the best teachers.

The pupil premium is an additional sum of money– £488 last year– paid to schools for each child on free school meals. But the cash is not ringfenced, so once schools are handed the money by central government, there is no requirement to spend it in a specific way.

This year it is £600 for each child and the total spent by 2015 will be £2.5bn a year, spread across 1.8 million children.

Clegg will set out his plans at a primary school in Islington, north London. He will say, “We’ve made the case for the pupil premium. We’ve won the battle to get it properly funded. Today I want to talk about how we make it a success because we now have a once in a generation chance.

“Get this right and we make good on education’s progressive promise: to give every child the chance to go as far as their abilities and effort can carry them. And we’ll achieve something else of lasting importance: we’ll prove that teachers do best when Whitehall steps out of the way.

“To that end, I want to strike a deal between the coalition government and our schools and teachers. We’ll give you the cash; we’ll give you the freedom; we’ll reward and celebrate your success. But in return, we want you to redouble your efforts to closing the gap between your poorer pupils and everyone else. We won’t be telling you what to do, but we will be watching what you achieve.”

Clegg will say different schools will spend the money in different ways and Whitehall will not micromanage the pupil premium. But the government will research the best uses of the money and “ensure the evidence is spread through the system”, he will add.

Clegg campaigned in the 2010 general election with the pupil premium as one of his flagship policies of his manifesto.

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