A question of grammar

UKIP want to be a one-issue party, but also to be taken seriously.

A month ago Nigel Farage tore up the whole Kipper “policy” book:

Nigel Farage has disowned his party’s entire 2010 election manifesto after he was asked whether the UK Independence party still wanted to introduce a dress code for taxi drivers, regularly deploy armed forces on the street and repaint trains in traditional colours.

The Ukip leader said all the party’s policies were under review and he would not commit to new ones until after the European elections in May.

One smidgeon of policy remained. The same day as that Guardian piece above, the Kent Mercury was reporting:

UKIP leader Nigel Farage stirred up a storm of controversy at a Thanet school when he cited grammar schools as the only way to succeed for able students…

Year 11 student Natascha Arnold [had] sparked furious debate with her question: “Do you agree that the grammar school system is the best way for every young person to achieve their potential?”

Doncha just lurve that “every young person”? Note Farage’s weaselling response about “able students”. If any can distinguish “ability”, “aptitude” and “achievement” in this context, let them speak out, or forever hold their wheesh.

It must be Kipper policy:

Changes to state school funding demonstrate how the government is failing to support existing grammar schools and that it is also failing to push for excellence in state education according to UKIP Deputy Leader Paul Nuttall.

“We all know that sadly only UKIP wants to bring back grammar schools as a fantastic tool to revive social mobility in his country. It would seem now that it is only UKIP who actually values the ones we have left as well.

That’s still on the “official” party website.

Last September, even The Times had the message:

A revamped campaign to lift the ban on new grammar schools is to be deployed by UKIP to win over Tory voters in next year’s local elections.

Nigel Farage’s team calculate that championing a revival of grammar schools will put “clear purple water” between UKIP and the other parties. They believe that voters are currently unaware that the party is in favour of a major expansion of the number of grammars.

Whatever the merits of #Britexit in the EU elections, education policy is far more relevant to the local elections held that same day. So UKIP needs to come clean on this one.

Hence, a tweet:

@oflynndirector UKIP ♥ grammar schools? So UKIP ♥ 11+? What % age “pass”? Is there postcode lottery? What happens to rest who “fail”?

Or, to spell it out:

If you want grammar schools, you must have some selection criteria.

  • Will that selection be at 11-plus? Or 13-plus?
  • What will be the basis of selection?
  • How will selection not be culturally-based? How will it verifiably be free of class or ethnic or any other determinant  — except Farage’s mystical perception of “ability”?
  • In short, determine what is “ability” and how do we ascertain it?
  • What percentage of the student cohort can show “ability”? In the bad old days it averaged out around 20%. In some (very middle-class) areas it was higher. In less-privileged localities the percentage fell lower. It also was deliberately biased for males, against females — because 11+ girls were deemed “more mature”. Curiously, in these days of gender-equality, 18+ girls are also “more mature”, and take a disproportionate share of places in Higher Education — so, once again, the examination-system has to be ratcheted against them.
  • Would there be, then, some kind of post-code lottery? If “ability” is independent of class or culture, there must be a universally-applied norm. After all, the expressed (and, superficially, commendable) aims are “fairness”, “anti-elitism” and  and  “social mobility“.
  • What happens to the rest of the student cohort, who “fail” this selection? It isn’t good enough to say, “Oh, they can go to the local comprehensive”. That’s simply re-inventing the secondary modern under a changed name.

UKIPpers: time to come clean.

This issue will not go away.

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Filed under education, schools, social class, UKIP

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