An Education in Absurdity

social mobility 1

Yet again “Lord” Mandelson has reached the headlines, and once again it is due to another of his worryingly absurd ideas. As part of its plan to increase social mobility, the government is testing the water with a number of policy initiatives, mostly based on changes to the education system; the most absurd of which, were it implemented would grant ‘poorer’ young adults a two grade advantage over those who were better off. This would in theory, allow students from a disadvantaged background to pass more easily into a university education. Once again, the sentiment is correct, but the method is mad.

It is important that universities do not pick pupils due to their background, but it is crazy to suggest that those who fail to attain good grades should be put in front of those who do, just to increase the government’s social mobility stats. Katie Ivens, of the campaign for real education said the plan was positive discrimination, though where the “positive” aspect of discrimination can be found, I will never know. Ivens went on to say that this new initiative “… is not fair on those who study hard [and] it is not fair on the schools that actually produce a good quality education.” Too true! Why can’t the government of “education, education, education” find a better way to educate our children, than by social engineering?

Why can’t this government who have continually spent billions of extra pounds every year on education, achieve their internally set targets (without rewording them first)? Why can’t this Labour government accept that promoting failure and penalising success is not only a flawed plan, but it is also one that sends out the worst of messages in a recession.

Finally why can’t the government recognize that its own record on social mobility is atrocious, and that holding back bright students in order to “level” the playing field is absurd? Our schools should be the best in the world, our pupils the most motivated, and the education provided in Britain should be internationally recognised. This was once the case, and under a Conservative government, hopefully this image will once again be recognised. However, the way that the Labour government is driving it into the ground, in a year’s time, there might not be much left to salvage: except for a failure driven, bureaucracy led mess of failed targets and failed students.

Daniel Cole


8 thoughts on “An Education in Absurdity

  1. Thanks Daniel! A good example of the Labour government taking measures to meet quotas and create desirable outcomes. In this process, the root of the problem is not addressed and therefore long-term solutions are ignored.

  2. The most important thing you mention is actually in the last paragraph. The ‘grade C’ mentality, by which schools are content so long as they get everyone up to a Grade C is a huge problem, because it means that people from disadvantaged backgrounds don’t get the support they desperately need in order to get an A or an A*, and show that they can mix it with the best, so they end up with a B and are told they’ve done brilliantly. Instead the government thinks up and introduces moronic schemes like this which help no-one, and will almost certainly increase divisions by labelling certain students because they needed a bias to get them in to university.

    Education needs a huge overhaul, the 50% target needs to be scrapped, apprenticeships given much more support and the entirety of the school system re-examined and shaken up so it gets the best out of pupils instead of reducing them to the lowest common denominator.

  3. One quite quick solution to this problem- although be it only a partial solution- is to actually encourage those students from state schools who do achieve well to actually apply to the top universities. As many able candidates are put off applying to the top top universities for a host of reasons.

  4. The audacity with which this government (Mandelson in particular) can put forward such ridiculous ideas is truly shocking. University education is there to be worked for, not handed to you on a plate – regardless of your background.

    Also agree with James above on the ‘grade C mentality’ – and its not just about getting the support for an A/A*. As a result of this mentality many students capable of getting an A/A* are happy with the C or B because not enough emphasis is placed on the importance of the higher grades.

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