Hard as I have tried over the past few weeks, I have completely failed to grasp the intricacies of the proposed education bill. Despite reading last week's New Statesman education special cover to cover, I cannot grasp what the hell difference the bill will make to the average 10 year old entering secondary school next year.
This bill which should be the principle driver for any government in power IMO appears to me to have simply become a point of macho party politics.
Instead of the future care of our children what we have is:
- Tony Blair wildly pursuing his legacy
- 70 odd labour MPs dogmatically pinning their colours to the comprehensive mast (plus Prescott being a flibbertygibbit)
- David Cameron fighting against the right wing of his party (would he really be agreeing with Blair if he hadn't gone to Eton?)
- And Ruth Kelly, doing a very good, bunny on the M1 impression
Actually on the last point, I actually feel quite sorry for Ruth Kelly. She is massively inexperienced and has been handed the true poisoned chalice of the front bench. Each of the ministers who have come and gone have been powerless against Tony Blair's dictatorial approach to the office and those that have stood up to it have simply been sacked. The Tomlinson Report came a mere 2 months after Kelly took the post, frankly she was powerless to implement anything, because Tony had already made up his mind what was going to happen in the run p to the election, so despite it being widely reported that she agreed with most of the findings, she simply went with the flow. Then there was the paedophiles scandal, frankly a more experienced minister would have stamped on the story in a couple of hours, but inertia and vague speeches meant the thing was blown completely out of proportion. And then the education bill - this is so linked to Tony's legacy that she has absolutely no control over it's direction. Frankly in the long term this state of affairs may serve her well, as I don't believe that if the government are defeated she will carry the can for it.
It appears to me that if Labour lose office in 2009 - which I increasingly think will be the case - we will finish with possibly the most pernicious selective system that has ever existed.
'Choice' in education benefits no one but the middle class, who know how to play the system. We will end up with covert selection procedures that polarise the education of our children directly on class lines. At least with an 11 plus system the less well off children had a chance. This way it looks like they'll miss out all together.