This Malign and Brazenattemptto Reshape Society; as Evidence Grows of Social Engineering in Schools and Universities

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Byline: MELANIE PHILLIPS

YOU REALLY don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Tristram Jones-Parry is headmaster of Westminster, one of this country's most formidable independent schools and where Euan and Nicky Blair received private coaching.

As Mr Jones-Parry is retiring next year, he decided to offer his unrivalled expertise to the state sector as a maths teacher. To his astonishment, he was told that he was not suitably qualified because he hadn't completed a one-year postgraduate certificate in education.

This small but startling vignette sums up the terrible malaise that grips our education system. Britain is so desperately short of maths teachers that maths graduates are being offered [pounds sterling]5,000 'golden hellos' to induce them into teaching.

Yet we've turned away a man who, before he became headmaster, taught maths at Westminster for 21 years. For the boxticking bureaucrats who control the system, the proven excellence of Mr Jones-Parry counts for nothing next to a paper qualification designed for graduates who are wet behind the ears.

Incoherence

And yet at the very same time, the Government is not only asking the independent sector to provide failing state schools with teaching and management assistance as well as with money, but is also threatening to take away its tax breaks unless it demonstrates greater 'public benefit'.

But when the head of Westminster wanted - in his words - to 'give a bit back' to the system that produced him, he had this offer of public benefit thrown back in his face. Such incoherence, smallmindedness and incompetence - along with a heavy dose of ideological malice - are unfortunately the hallmarks of Government education policy.

The Education Secretary, Charles Clarke - educated at Highgate public school and Cambridge - has indicated that he might stop specialist schools from selecting pupils on the basis of their aptitude for such schools' designated specialisms.

Clearly, it makes sense to encourage pupils with a particular bent to apply to schools which serve their interests - although only a mere 10 per cent are selected in this way. Yet so great is the animosity against distinguishing between pupils at all that even this modest experiment now appears to be at an end.

This is because there is no actual concern to achieve excellence in education. On the contrary, what drives all before it is the desire to attack excellence on the basis that it discriminates against those who cannot attain it.

This ruthless drive to level downwards in order to maintain the fiction that everyone's achievement is the same as everyone else's has taken an axe to the concepts of merit achievement and fairness and is well on the way to destroying the education system altogether.

This destructive agenda was recently laid bare when universities were named and shamed, not for low academic standards, but for having too few students from state schools.

But selecting according to background rather than achievement is fundamentally unjust. The Government claims that because a disproportionate number of students are drawn from independent schools, this proves discrimination.

But it does nothing of the sort. The discrepancy occurs either because state school students are dissuaded from applying, or because their academic standards - as opposed to their inflated exam grades - aren't high enough.

Levering in more students who are not able to stand the pace at university means more and more will fall by the wayside.

Already drop- out rates have soared, evidence that far too many unsuitable candidates are being shoehorned into university by the Government's destructive obsession with degree qualifications for all.

As if the bullying of the universities isn't bad enough, the Government has now rigged the admission criteria. Instead of relying on A-level grades, admissions tutors must now include a range of different qualifications. …