Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Welcome to the Premier League of Education

Having heard the latest league table results on schools’ ‘performance’, one leading pundit (known to some as the ‘Schools Minister’ in the game) said the results revealed a “shocking waste of talent”. He was flabbergasted that so many disadvantaged children, in care or on free school meals, were failing to get good passes compared with the better-off kids. He thundered that mediocre schools must not be allowed to “coast”.

But what are the heads of schools at the lower end of the league supposed to do to turn things around? According to one report, ‘How to succeed in the Premier League of Education’, recommended by many seasoned right wingers, there are three options to break clear of the relegation zone and start rising to the top.

First, the most effective way of cutting out failures is, apparently, cut out the failures by not admitting them to your school in the first place. By hook or by crook, get some form of selection in, and keep children mired in debilitating socio-economic conditions out at all costs.

Secondly, in some areas, even a crypto-selection process might not get you very far, because the quality of life is just too depressing all round. It’s a fact that schools which can count on a ready supply of well-off mums and dads win more A* trophies than their competitors. Heads must therefore learn to take all the blame themselves if they don’t move away from areas where the children come from poor families; where many of their parents have lost their jobs as a result of stringent cuts made by the government; and where their home life is further wrecked by rapidly diminishing welfare support.

Thirdly, since ultimately the Premier League is all about the wealthy winning (would City – in Manchester or London – win anything without having managed to grab a larger share of money than anyone else?), for those schools which are stuck in deprived areas, give them a chance of enjoying an injection of concentrated wealth. For the lucky few who are able to attract private money (from a kindly philanthropist, a born again creationist, a Russian oligarch, or an Arab sheik), they can rebrand and rebuild themselves, while others would lose more public funding – thus giving the minority even more of an advantage in beating the rest.

In the unforgiving Premier League of Education, the few who know how to get their hands on other people’s money will flourish, while the rest will struggle to keep afloat, with the constant threat of being relegated to the bottom of the heap and stigmitised as failures. That is no more than a reflection of the plutocratic society promoted by this Government of Millionaires, for Millionaires, by Millionaires (23 out of the 29 Cabinet members are millionaires).

At the end of the day, it’s not even a game of two halves, but a game of a tiny elite kicking the living daylight out of everyone else. Despite the huge disadvantages they are lumbered with, and all the problems exacerbated by government cuts, countless Heads, teachers, pupils and parents give their best in securing real improvements beyond the comprehension of ignorant pundits. Of course they cannot by themselves overturn the social and economic injustice foisted on their communities, but for what they have managed to achieve against all odds, they deserve our praise and admiration.

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