EDUCATION SECRETARY Estelle Morris declared a frontal assault on comprehensive education this week. Morris said that there were some comprehensives she 'wouldn't touch with a bargepole', and slammed 'off the shelf comprehensives'.
This is a deliberate echo of the 'bog standard' insult about comprehensive schools used by Tony Blair's key spokesman Alistair Campbell last year. Morris pretends to be concerned at the way the education system lets down working class children. Her real aim is to push through a system with an elite of well funded schools increasingly linked to private business.
These 'specialist' or 'beacon' schools will get extra money and can select students, and many will be run in 'partnership' with private businesses. They will choose children who they think will do well in exams. Everyone else will be dumped into under-funded, overcrowded schools. Morris's comments mean that some schools will be labelled as those 'you wouldn't touch with a bargepole'.
The result will be falling pupil numbers. That means funding will be cut, and it will be harder and harder for those schools to survive. Morris argues exactly like a Tory. She said that 'we may have emphasised the equality too much' in education, and that 'equality of opportunity will never be achieved by giving all children the same education'.
Her government wants to go back to a version of the old divide into grammar and secondary modern schools which ruined education for generations of children. The only difference is that New Labour wants a more finely graded hierarchy in which schools 'know their place'.
And it wants to hand control over chunks of the education system to big business too, with a drive to allow commercial sponsorship and business links with more and more schools.