Magazine article The Spectator

Status Anxiety: Toby Young

Magazine article The Spectator

Status Anxiety: Toby Young

Article excerpt

I've been thinking about poor Shami Chakrabarti and the drubbing she's suffered since it was revealed she's sending her son to Dulwich College. She joins a long line of Labour hypocrites who are opposed to grammar schools but choose to send their own children to selective schools. The list includes Harold Wilson, James Callaghan, Tony Crosland, Polly Toynbee, Diane Abbott, Harriet Harman and Seumus Milne.

My issue with these Labour grandees is not so much the double standards, although that does stick in the craw, obviously, but the stupidity. Why risk their political credibility and, for those that go private, beggar themselves, when there's little reason to suppose that their children will do better at selective schools than they will at good comprehensives?

One of the more eye-catching revelations in the research on grammar schools published by the Education Policy Institute last month was that bright children do no better at grammars than they do at good comprehensives. That is, the GCSE results of the most able 25 per cent of children in the top quartile of comprehensives, measured according to the average amount of progress children make between the ages of 11 and 16, are just as good as the GCSE results of children at grammars. By definition, the children of these left-wing panjandrums will be among the brightest 25 per cent, since if they weren't they wouldn't have got into selective schools in the first place. From which it follows that if they'd gone to a good comprehensive instead, they would have done just as well. These supposedly clever, sensible parents -- people who generally pride themselves on basing their decisions on evidence rather than prejudice -- threw away their reputations for nothing.

Now, in Shami's defence, there's no similar body of evidence showing that bright children do no better at selective independent schools, at least not when it comes to their GCSEs. One reason is because the majority of children at these schools, unlike those in the Education Policy Institute's sample, haven't been to state primaries and therefore didn't take KS2 SATs. That's how the institute identifies the brightest 25 per cent of children, by looking at their SATs results. An alternative would be to sort children according to their performance in the standardised tests they take when they arrive at secondary school, such as the Cognitive Ability Tests. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.