No wonder there was rejoicing on Labour’s front benches when Michael Gove was shuffled off to the Whips’ Office. The socialist firebrands were clearly worried that if Britain’s schools become any more more meritocratic they might not be able to pass on their own inherited privileges to their children.
It is one of the ironies of contemporary politics that the hereditary principle holds more sway in the Labour Party than it does in the Conservative Party. How else to explain the news that Emily Benn, the granddaughter of Tony Benn, has been selected as the Labour candidate in Croydon South? If she wins next year, she will be the fifth generation of her family to serve in the House of Commons. (To read more, click here.)
A headteacher of a primary school in Lancashire has been widely praised on Twitter for a letter she sent home to children, with lots of people suggesting that the letter should be the first thing Nicky Morgan reads in her new capacity as the Secretary of State for Education. I agree with this sentiment. Nicky Morgan should read the letter. It will give her a good idea of just how much more work there is to do when it comes to improving England's state schools. (To read more, click here.)
Back in March, I wrote a blog post entitled "We cannot let Michael Gove be beaten by the Blob", and this morning it looks as though that's what has happened. Last Thursday, thousands of schools were closed as the National Union of Teachers organised a one-day strike in protest against the introduction of performance-related pay and changes to public sector pensions. In among the protesters, members of the Socialist Workers' Party could be seen holding up placards saying "Gove Out". Five days later, he's gone. On the face of it, that makes the NUT's one-day strike the most successful piece of industrial action in this Parliament.
Michael Gove was, without question, the most radical education secretary of the past 50 years. The problem he's always faced, from a political point of view, is that it will take decades before any of his reforms begin to bear fruit. As he said in a speech at last week's education reform summit: "In ten years’ time, children who started school back in September 2010 will be finishing compulsory education at the age of 18 – the first cohort since our reforms began." That means he hasn't been able to respond to his critics by pointing to the positive impact his policies have had, unlike George Osborne. That's a particular problem in education because there are so many groups with a vested interest in preserving the status quo. In effect, Gove has gone into battle with the most powerful forces in the educational establishment with nothing to defend himself with apart from his ready wit and his skills as a debater. (To read more, click here.)
Unlike 99 per cent of my colleagues, I was quite touched by John Bercow’s comment about how fed up he is with jokes about his height. “Whereas nobody these days would regard it as acceptable to criticise someone on grounds of race or creed or disability or sexual orientation, somehow it seems to be acceptable to comment on someone’s height, or lack of it,” he said.
Okay, maybe taking the mickey out of someone for being short isn’t quite on the same level as, say, murdering them for being black or homosexual, but I think he has a point. I say this for two reasons. The first, obviously, is because I hope to become an MP one day and have a vested interest in sucking up to the Speaker. The second, though, is because I’m a bit of a short arse myself. (To read more, click here.)
Tristram Hunt, Labour's shadow education secretary, refused to condemn next week's teachers' strikes on the Andrew Marr Show earlier today. Instead, he said that trades unions were an important part of "civil society" and, as such, their decisions should be respected. "I want all teachers in the schools, teaching their, teaching the young people, but, you know, we have independent trades unions in this country and that is an important part of civil society," he said.
I don't suppose that argument will cut much ice with parents next Thursday when tens of thousands of schools are forced to close as a result of the National Union of Teachers' day of action. Christine Blower, the NUT's General Secretary, claims the union's decision to strike is a "last resort", but that's hard to believe given the union's reputation as a hotbed of Left-wing activists. "Nowadays, references to strike action are spread through the NUT conference agenda like confetti, often on issues unconnected with pay and conditions," says Fred Jarvis, the NUT's ex-general secretary who has drawn attention to the Trotskyist infiltration of his old union. In a book published last week, he condemned the influence of the "ultra Left" on the NUT's executive, pointing out that Blower stood as a candidate for the London Socialist Alliance in 2000, a hard-Left sect controlled by the Socialist Workers' Party. (To read more, click here.)
A new study by the Social Market Foundation shows that children educated privately earn more than those educated at state schools – an average of £193,700 more between the ages of 26 and 42, to be precise. This has been reported almost everywhere as yet more evidence of the advantage conferred on children who attend private schools (see this article on BBC News, for instance.)
But buried within the detail of the study – as the Telegraph has noticed – is the fact that this premium falls to just £57,653 once family background and cognitive ability are taken into account. That is to say, if you take two children from identical backgrounds and with exactly the same level of intelligence and send one to a private school and the other to a state school, the one educated privately will earn £57,653 more between the ages of 26 and 42 than the one who went to a state school. That's an average pay difference of £3,600 a year, which is considerably less than the average private school fees – £12,153 for a day school and £27,600 for a boarding school. Even if you send your child to a day school for seven years, the cumulative cost will be £85,071.
So it's official. Educating your child at a private school is a waste of money – a colossal waste of money if you send them to a boarding school. Your child would be better off if you sent them to the local state school, invested the money you would have spent on school fees in low-risk bonds and handed them a lump sum at the age of 18. If you were thinking of sending them to Eton, they might even be able to afford the deposit on a flat in Shepherd's Bush. (To read more, click here.)
The Times headline on Tuesday was rather cruel: “Stars turn down No 10 invitation.” This was a reference to the party the press dubbed “Cool Britannia II”, David Cameron’s attempt to recreate the glamour of Tony Blair’s star-studded Downing Street reception in 1997. “They wanted Daniel Craig and Benedict Cumberbatch,” said the Times. “They got Ronnie Corbett and Bruce Forsyth.”
To be fair, the guests also included Helena Bonham-Carter, Claudia Winkleman, Harvey Weinstein, Richard Curtis, Roger Daltrey, Eliza Doolittle and Kirstie Allsopp. But according to Fleet Street’s finest, who were milling about outside with their noses pressed up against the windows, it still compared unfavourably with Blair’s bash. “Seen bigger stars on ITV2 at 1.30am,” tweeted one embittered journalist.
There are several things to be said about this. (To read more, click here.)
Michael Gove won't have welcomed the news this morning that a parent is mounting a legal challenge to new rules about taking children out of school during term time, but he couldn't have asked for a better opponent. The parent in question is an American investment banker whose children missed the first six days of spring term at their primary school because he took them to America. This was after the headteacher had explicitly told him not to do it. Admittedly, he wanted to take the children to America to attend their great-grandfather's memorial service, but is that a good excuse? If he felt it was essential to fly his children to America to attend the memorial service of such a distant relative, couldn't he have taken them out of school for a couple of days rather than six? (To read more, click here.)
This isn’t a headline I was expecting to read: “Free schools could be a bigger negative for the Tories than EdM is for Labour.” Given that Miliband’s net satisfaction ratings are -39, that was quite a shock. Do the people who disapprove of free schools really outweigh the people who approve of them by a bigger margin than that?
Well, no, they don’t, obviously. The headline, which appeared on the blog of Mike Smithson, a Left-wing gadfly, was a reference to a YouGov poll on June 20. Respondents were asked whether they supported or opposed the creation of free schools and 23% were in favour, 53% opposed and 24% undecided. So that’s an approving rating of -30, not quite in Miliband territory. But not good, definitely not good. (To read more, click here.)
I'm sorry, but the notion that David Cameron has been "humiliated" by the judge in the hacking trial, following the dismissal of the jury before it had rendered its verdicts on all three counts against Andy Coulson, is just plain wrong.
First of all, Mr Justice Saunders, the judge in the trial, decided not to grant the defence's application to discharge the jury this morning in light of the comments that the Prime Minister, Ed Miliband and George Osborne made yesterday about Coulson. True, he did decide to discharge them early this afternoon, but that was because they'd failed to reach a verdict and, in his view, had no realistic chance of doing so. It wasn't because he felt the jury been tainted by those comments. (To read more, click here.)