Let's hear it for equality

11th August 1995 at 01:00
As a newly-elected Labour councillor, I take some comfort from Sir Robert Balchin's contribution to the debate on the party's document Diversity and Excellence (TES, July 28). For if the chair of a non-elected quango can see it as a threat to privilege, elitism and selfishness in education, and therefore a challenge to his cherished grant-maintained schools, it can't be the betrayal of comprehensive education that the media would have us believe.

And what is it that Sir Robert objects to?

* Removal of the freedom for the grant-maintained sector to perpetuate "apartheid" in education through arbitrary selection procedures. (An apartheid system that became a resigning issue for the Tory MP George Walden only last month.) * Abolition of preferential funding for a privileged minority.

* Accountability through regular inspections.

* Greater involvement of democratically-elected parents and councillors. Those answerable to the people they serve rather than membership of a quango through political patronage and the will to implement unquestioningly the Government's bidding.

One does indeed have to question his grasp of reality; for where does he get the idea that councillors are superannuated? I get no recompense for attendance at school governing bodies and attendance allowances for council meetings amount to Pounds 10, just enough to cover travel expenses. Not for us the big hand-outs to sit on a quango. Similarly, his argument that one justification of GM schools lies in the fact that other schools can use their existence to "blackmail" LEAs does lead one to question whether such people should influence the education of tomorrow's citizens.

My message to David Blunkett is simple. Keep up the good work, for as long as you are upsetting the likes of Sir Robert, you can't be straying too far from the concept of a publicly-provided education system where every child is given an equal opportunity of doing justice to themselves. For although our children may not all be equal, our education system should regard them all of equal worth and make provision accordingly.

MIKE WILLSON Labour councillor on Adur District, and science lecturer at the University of Sussex Mile Oak Crescent Southwick West Sussex

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