Book of the week: How not to be a hypocrite: school choice for the morally perplexed parent

21st March 2003 at 00:00
How not to be a Hypocrite: school choice for the morally perplexed parent
By Adam Swift
RoutledgeFalmer pound;9.99

I finally realised that new Labour was - well, nothing like old Labour - when it emerged in 1995 that Tony Blair would send his son to the London Oratory, the poshest of London's grant-maintained schools.

Labour's policy at the time was that such schools should be put back firmly under local authority control and all special favours abolished. "Now they'll have to change their policy," said a colleague. No, I explained, they would not. Blair would say the Tories had made local authority schools inadequate and inferior and Labour would restore them to their proper glory. In the meantime, parents who deplored the present system were justified in protecting their children from its worst effects. No hypocrisy was involved.

But within a few days, David Blunkett, the shadow education secretary, had started to fudge Labour's policy. Later, the policy on grammar schools was fudged as well. Hopes that life would become more difficult for fee-charging schools - by, for example, abolishing their charitable status - receded, although Labour ditched the assisted places scheme.

Mr Blair has no difficulty with middle-class parents manipulating the system to get the best for their children. On the contrary, in his view, the system should be designed so they could manipulate away; the state should encourage the aspirational classes.

Adam Swift, a political philosopher, takes the old-fashioned view that the state should act for the community as a whole. On that criterion, private and grammar schools should be abolished. What we call "good" schools - schools that get the best exam results - are in reality the schools that have "good" pupils. Schools and their teachers do make a difference, but nothing like as big a difference as the intake.nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;

Read this review in full in this week's TES Friday Magazine

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