Nick Clegg’s son’s schooling is none of your business

Appearing on the Andrew Marr Show this morning, Nick Clegg was asked once again which secondary school he would send his eldest child too. He quite rightly dismissed the question as a personal one – he and Miriam have strived to keep their children out of the public eye, so why should they change that now?

As I tweeted at the time:

Some disagreed with that statement. The summary of the argument was that a politician’s choice of school for their children can inform our view of them; that inferences can be drawn. Ultimately, the argument is that politicians are not just public figures but public figures with power, and the choices they make – even if they relate to the intimacies of their family life – are relevant to the ways in which they exercise that power.

Not only do I think this is wrong, I think it is one of the things which corrodes the integrity and our politics.

Nick Clegg on the BBC

Consider the following hypothetical. A senior politician and her non-politician husband are trying to decide which school to send their 11-year-old child to. The politician likes the local state school. Her husband is convinced that their child will get a better education at the local private school. They discuss it for months. They weigh up the pros and cons. The politician still thinks the state school is fine, but her husband’s conviction that private will be better convinces her to agree. Their child goes to the private school, and the fact of this is reported across the media.

What can anybody learn from this situation? Without the full details of the family discussion, surely the answer is nothing? In which case, the logical conclusion of the argument from those who think politicians’ choices of schools is their business is that they therefore have a right to know how that decision was reached. If an inference is going to be drawn, it has to be an informed one.

But would anyone argue that said senior politician has an obligation to sit down in a news studio and explain exactly how her and her husband reached their decision?

Surely not. We’d say it was a private family discussion and is none of our business.

But if we say that, we have to say that the choice of school is also none of our business.

The more we blur the distinction between the private, personal lives of our politicians and their public roles, the more we expect them to live on a higher moral plane to the rest of us, and the more inevitable we make our disappointment. And the more likely we make it that well-qualified individuals will think politics is an occupation for other people. For people whose family don’t mind their child’s choice of school being discussed in the national media.

* Nick Thornsby is Thursday Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs here.

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138 Comments

  • Jesse Boucher 27th Jan '13 - 12:11pm

    It also occurs to me that much of th apoplectic ranting from some on the left misse two important facts. 1. You don’t as parents just rock up to a privste school write a check and your child can now attend. They have entrance exams. 2. Many of those screaming blue murder have either been privately educated or would happily send their own children to an independent school.

  • True none of our Biss BUT only this is true if real progress is being made to offer to all parents in there local school the same standards as the private school he and other rich folk can afford.

  • Andrew Martin 27th Jan '13 - 12:32pm

    You should never sacrifice your child’s education to your political views.

  • Well said, Nick.

    Another hypothetical also revolves around the type of schooling you want your child to have – if there are no local faith schools, should a politician parent be forced to just ‘settle’ for a local school, or would it then be OK to spend money on making sure they had the schooling you wished for them?

    If state schools aren’t good enough, politicians work at them so they are – and that change won’t happen in the short-term. There isn’t any discrepancy in sending your child to the best school & lamenting the lack of choice you had, insisting you work to level up the playing field,

  • Surely you have missed the whole point of the question asked of Clegg, which is ~ Why is the state education system ok for OUR children, but it is not good enough for YOUR children ?
    And if his retort were to be, that he is not happy with the funding cuts to education, then the follow up question is “What is he, as a member of the government, going to do about it, so that the state education system IS fit for HIS children?”

  • As a matter of fact, Clegg didn’t “dismiss” the question; he answered it at some length. You don’t actually do him any favours by giving the impression that he refused to reply.

    Obviously it’s a matter of public interest when a politician “goes private”, or considers doing so, particularly if that politician has been criticised for supporting cuts to expenditure on public services. Of course, there may be perfectly understandable reasons for the decision, and it’s open to the politician to explain those to the public. But to say that the issue is none of the public’s business is unbelievably arrogant.

  • Richard Dean 27th Jan '13 - 12:55pm

    Normally no, it’s not our business, but it would be if his choice was not one that was available in the choices that his policy proposals would provide to the general population. Rule of Law and all that.

  • Andrew Martin 27th Jan '13 - 1:09pm

    Richard, I’m sure there is a point to be made but I don’t see the relevance of the Rule of Law. If you’re referring to the RL principle that those who make the laws should also be bound by them, then there is abslutely nothing to see here.
    If you’re referring to the equality before the law principle, again there is nothing to see here.
    Please forgive me if I’m being excessively pedantic…

  • Fine, but you’re crazy if you think this choice doesn’t bring the man and our party into disrepute with a huge swathe of the electorate. It also gives an easy answer to opponents if any Lib Dems try to claim that we or the coalition have improved the school system.

    Personally, I’d judge that a politician wouldn’t be as invested in improving a public service if they can afford and are willing to buy themselves out of the system that they provide for the rest of us. I’ve called Labour politicians hypocrites for doing the same.

  • Some may suggest it would be more moral to send his children private. He and his wife have paid for through taxes but if we are suggesting people should look to take the burden off the state if they can perhaps they should by picking a private school.

    I think rich pensioners shouldn’t recieve free bus passes or winter fule allowance. So why not have rich people remove the cost of educating thier children from the rest of the population.

  • “You should never sacrifice your child’s education to your political views.”

    Politicians should only sacrifice the education of other people’s children to their political views, presumably?

  • Antony Hook 27th Jan '13 - 1:42pm

    It was relevant in the case of Diane Abbot who spent years actively campaigning to the effect that no-one should use private schools then sent her own child to one. She accepted herself that was grossly hypocritical.

    Also if a politician has tried to create an image for themself along the lines of “I’m a normal person, just like you, experiencing many of the same things that you do” then people may be interested in instances when it is not the case. The overwhelming majority of people in the UK do not have the option of paying for an alternative source of schooling. Most people don’t even contemplate sending their children to a private school and don’t know anyone who does. People who do are, by definition, a bit of an oddity in the experinece of most people.

    If there is interest in which schools top politicians use for their children it may come not from interest in the politicians but interest in whether their local schools are any good. People try to judge that from certain evidence – the league tables, what other parents tell them, the prospectus, local newspaper reports, etc. If leading politicians don’t use them, I imagine some people are then more likely to decide “local schools must be a bit rubbish then.” Some politicians are after all “opinion formers”.

    There are also some people who decide on principle “I could use my money to buy advantage for my children over other children but I think it would be wrong to do so and I won’t do so.”

  • @ Fran

    Well lets apply that logic a bit further. So the schools ministers should all have children of school age or below? As they may not be “invested in improving” them?

    So Only the disabled can run the disability part of the welfar budget?

    The effectiveness of the education system contributes to the welfore of the whole country a greater skills is more human capital which leads to longer term growth.

    The odd situation is that media types want to suggest we should give our politicians the minimum possible in pay but insist they extract as much as possible in services.

  • I think the same about Nick as I did about Diane Abbott when she was criticised for the same thing. Nick is right to say that private education has a corrosive effect on society but his son only has one chance at getting a decent education so if there are no outstanding state schools in his area, then he and Miriam have no choice but to go private. If he is doing it to ensure hat his son makes the ‘right’ contacts and is plugged into ‘the old boys network’ from which most people seem to ‘hail’ then that’s a different matter.

    Is it our business? Well not if he hadn’t made any pronouncement s on it. But he did. And this is a man who aspires to rule our country. Therefore I think it is our business if there s the possibility of hypocrisy ( same charge was levelled at Dane Abbott even though she did not aspire to lead our country at the time).

  • Oops meant to say ‘most people in The Establishment’ – clearly not ‘most people’!!

  • SAD that people have to go private to get decent education they system has failed that’s what its a sign of and why either by design of those at top to stay at top or by political incompetence take your pick lol

  • Fran – yes you make a god point there. Many of us have always felt that the Tories didn’t care about the NHS and public services in general because they are rich enough not to have to use them. They send their children to private schools and have private health care. They generally don’t use public transport etc. and they don’t need benefits. They have accountants to keep their affairs n order. All this leads to a disconnect between politicians and ‘real people’.

  • Nick Thornsby 27th Jan '13 - 2:01pm

    All those who disagree with the thrust of my post – what is your response to the hypothetical situation I set out?

  • Hypocrisy is the issue here. Nick Clegg said inequality between private education and the state sector is “corrosive for our society and damaging to our economy” (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/clegg-condemns-divide-in-schools-as-corrosive-7768829.html).

    The clear implication of this for many who are or might be his political supporters is that he is against the privilege bestowed by private education. Of course, he didn’t precisely say that, but that is how it will have been heard and read. It now appears he is not against private education if it happens to be the best on offer for any particular child.

    As with tuition fees, when it suited him to say something that didn’t appear to require him to make a personal stand, he said it. When he actually had to make his actions match his words, he found that there were other considerations that invalidated his earlier statement.

  • I do think it’s corrosive to have rulers that are insulated by wealth from the decisions they make for the rest of us.

    It IS bad to have welfare ministers who have never been on welfare and so rich they know they’ll never need to, health and education ministers who can just afford to go private, housing ministers who’ve never struggled to pay the rent, transport ministers who go first class or by chauffeured limousine.

    And I’m not, as some have suggested above, prepared to accept patrician benevolence as a substitute for actually living by their own decrees.

    If Clegg wanted to retain the ability to make ‘purely private decisions’, maybe he shouldn’t have become Deputy Prime Minister.

  • Martin Lowe 27th Jan '13 - 2:05pm

    @Nick

    “Anybody who thinks it’s any of their business which school Clegg’s children go to is one of the problems with our political culture.”

    True, but at the same time anyone who thinks it’s okay for politicians to insulate their own children from the education they expect everyone else to have is a far greater problem with our political culture.

  • Simon Shaw 27th Jan ’13 – 2:07pm
    @Phyllis
    “Nick is right to say that private education has a corrosive effect on society”
    I think you will find that he didn’t actually say that.

    @Phyllis
    “Is it our business? Well not if he hadn’t made any pronouncement s on it. But he did.”
    But not in the way that you alleged.

    What he did say actually proves my point,

  • “All those who disagree with the thrust of my post – what is your response to the hypothetical situation I set out?”

    Simply that the fact that the politician is sending her child to a private school is a matter of public interest, for the reasons already explained. The circumstances in which the decision was made don’t change that. It’s up to her and her husband what public explanations they want to give for the decision, if any.

    I’m not sure why you think that just because someone doesn’t want to explain the reason for a decision, that means the decision is none of anyone else’s business. Why should that follow, logically?

  • Is it really anyone’s business, no. Could it appear to be hypocritical, yes because that is the system that exists, Blair and others have had similar problems. But should’t we move beyond appearances dictating our actions. As parents they have to do what they feel is right for there children and no one outside of the family will know what that is. I’ve always felt that for security reasons senior politicians children are better kept entirely out of the media – I understand the freedom of speech angle but want kids (all kids) to have a childhood free from such intrusion.

    Personally I don’t believe it is newsworthy but fully expect it to be blown completely out of proportion…

  • Richard Dean 27th Jan '13 - 2:22pm

    Language is flexible. One person’s Rule of Law is another person’s hypocrisy. In the hypothetical situation, I see no reason why the husband should not be required to explain. What harm would such a requirement do?

  • Richard Dean 27th Jan '13 - 2:24pm

    The politician should explain, rather.

  • Fran and Phyllis both make excellent and very telling points.
    Clegg has said that the decision would be his wife’s, which is a really slippery get out, and Lord Adonis has commented here :-

    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/09/07/lord-adonis-private-school-_n_1864138.html
    The Huffington Post UK | By Ned Simons Posted: 07/09/2012 14:38 Updated: 07/09/2012 16:18

    Lord Adonis: MPs Who Send Their Kids To Private School Are ‘Politically Bankrupt’
    Politicians who send their children to private schools should not be allowed to have any say over Britain’s education system, says a senior adviser to Ed Miliband.
    “Lord Adonis, who was Tony Blair’s education guru before becoming transport secretary under Gordon Brown said that ministers need to “live and breathe” the public services that they expect the public to use.
    In an interview with parliament’s The House magazine, the state-educated Lord Adonis who spent much of his youth in a children’s home, said it was “politically bankrupt” for ministers to tinker with the school system if they were not personally invested.
    “I think it is just outrageous. They don’t have to go into politics, they can go into other careers,” he said.
    “It’s not a left or right thing. It really matters because too much of failed education policy since the war has been the result of ideological ministers who don’t use the institutions that they expect the general public to use and that has been true of the Labour side as well as well as the Tories.”
    Adonis also praised Blair for being the first prime minister to send his children to state secondary schools.
    He added: “You cannot do these jobs well, indeed I don’t think you can do them at all in any self-respecting way, unless you live and breathe the public services that you expect the public to use.”
    Several high profile Labour figures, including Ruth Kelly and Diane Abbott, have been eviscerated by the press in the past for sending their children to private schools while advocating comprehensive education.
    Deputy leader Harriet Harman was also criticised for sending her son to a selective grammar school.
    While no doubt aware that his Old Etonian background does not play well with the public, David Cameron has said his children will attend state secondary school.
    Although the prime minister did admit to being “terrified” of being able to find a good state school near his central London Downing Street home.
    George Osborne has been criticised for sending his children to a private school. While Nick Clegg, who has young sons, has previously said he would not let his children be “hostage to a game of political football” when it came to where they went to school.
    Ed Miliband has two sons who are currently too young to be at school.”

  • Abbot campaigned against private schools, Clegg campaigned against the inequality between public and private schools.

    Different categories. Abbot is a hypocrite, Clegg isn’t. And it is our business to understand the difference.

  • “Different categories. Abbot is a hypocrite, Clegg isn’t.”

    I agree – unless Clegg has said people shouldn’t send their children to private schools (which would be surprising, given his circumstances), he isn’t a hypocrite.

    But I take it you wouldn’t say that it’s none of the public’s business that Diane Abbott had her son privately educated. Clearly, based on your assertion that she is a hypocritical politician, you think it is the public’s business to know that.

    And you can’t very well say that it’s the public’s business to know about the education of some politicians’ children, and none of their business to know about others, based on your own judgment of which politicians are hypocrites.

    Obviously the public has a right to be in the possession of the facts, hear whatever explanations are offered, and make up its own mind about people standing for public office.

  • Stuart Mitchell 27th Jan '13 - 3:11pm

    “Clegg campaigned against the inequality between public and private schools.”

    The surest way of reducing such inequality would be for more well-educated and affluent parents like the Cleggs to put their children into state schools. Clegg is therefore a hypocrite as charged.

    Regarding the original article, as a voter with children I certainly regard it as entirely my business whether the politicians I choose to ultimately run my children’s schools (among other things) feel that the state education system is good enough for their own children; and if they don’t believe that it is, then I want to know why and what they intend to do about it.

  • @toni
    “Clegg has said that the decision would be his wife’s, which is a really slippery get out, ”

    The other day Clegg said that the capital spending plans the coalition implemented, but now thinks were wrong, were Labour’s plans anyway. There’s a pattern here…

    Getting back to the discussion. If you don’t want to be put under the spotlight about your personal chauffeur driving you to work at public expense when there’s a cheaper, faster train service, or if you want to drive two Jags, want to profit from selling a second home, want to pay for private healthcare and education then either (a) get a job as a politician in a totalitarian state where you can suppress any criticism or (b) don’t become a politician involved in the process of determining policy on green issues, setting tax rates and get-outs on capital gains tax and determining the level of state funding and taxation required for a particular health care system or education system. Of course Clegg’s personal decisions should be put under proper scrutiny by the public. To suggest otherwise is an assault on democracy and liberalism.

  • Andrew Martin 27th Jan '13 - 3:25pm

    “Politicians should only sacrifice the education of other people’s children to their political views, presumably?”

    Politicians can depoliticise his family’s decision-making when it comes to his children’s education. Politicians cannot entirely depoliticise their views and actions with regard to others’ children, however much they say their views are based on empirical evidence.

  • Andrew Martin wrote: “You should never sacrifice your child’s education to your political views.”

    Which leads me to ask: “Why should I sacrifice my child’s education to someone else’s political views?”

  • And having thought about this I think the Nick Thornsby is perfectly wrong. The voter is entitled to use any and all information about their politicians to decide if they have the experience, knowledge and, yes, integrity for the job. If Nick Clegg had done a Dianne Abbott and spent his whole life raging against private schools, only to then turn around and send his child to private school, the voter is entitled to make a judgment about Clegg on that basis. So I conclude that not only is Mr Thornsby’s view naive, the opposite is true.

  • alan Marshall 27th Jan '13 - 3:30pm

    while I hate to see politicians hounded about their their personal life and especially harassing their kids, I dont buy the idea that its irrelevant.

    The choices someone makes in life say a great deal about their values and morals. I use this information when making my own judgements and decisions about them.

    Many people feel uncomfortable with private education. It’s like Starbuck’s tax dealings. its legal and understandable, but still feels unfair and entrenches wealth and privilege. But it shouldnt be taken out on the children just like we wouldnt with Starbuck’s staff.

    But also like dodgy tax dealings we probably all know someone who’s done it who is generally a nice person…

  • What a lot of fuss about nothing – there is no way that they would choose a private school. Just like Cherie Blair, I’m sure that Miriam has enough clout in Roman Catholic circles to secure a place just over the river at the London Oratory school. A school with is often seen as preferable to a lot of fee paying establishments.

  • Why don’t they live in Clegg’s constituency? I thought Lib Dems believed in localism. State schools are presumably perfectly fine for Nick’s constituents, therefore they should be fine for Nick and Miriam’s kids. But then Nick himself did not go to State School. I wonder how on earth he is supposed to know how the vast majority of his constituents live if he is so far removed from them.

  • Martin Pierce 27th Jan '13 - 4:10pm

    As Nick Clegg seems perfectly happy to foist Academies and Free Schools on us and remove the last vestiges of local accountability through local Councils, one might at least imagine he would be happy with his children going through the system he and his government have created. And he can’t claim ‘it’s all that Michael Gove’ – the LD MPs have not rebelled against any of that stuff and David Laws, whom Nick has expressly put into the Education Dept, is in favour. As I say, if they think it’s all so brilliant, then why aren’t their children going through it? And THAT is why the issue is relevant.

  • “Politicians can depoliticise his family’s decision-making when it comes to his children’s education. Politicians cannot entirely depoliticise their views and actions with regard to others’ children, however much they say their views are based on empirical evidence.”

    Politicians attempting to depoliticise their views is a nice concept.

  • Arguably he would be more hypocritical if he said there was a gap between one school and another, but then turned around and sent his child to what he had previously said was worse.

    I can’t help feeling that the reason private schools are seen as being bad for society, is that so much of what goes on in the education system generally is about an arms race between different students, building up the best-looking CV possible as a passport into something else, but without actually learning new skills that are genuinely useful to future employers or themselves, just getting a better branding on the skills they have anyway.

    If it is really a zero-sum game, then perhaps they are bad for society. If the top students from private and state schools were coming into the adult world with industry-saving technical and business skills then private schools would be doing us all a favour by producing more of them – but its not like that, is it?

    By the way, I am from a place where there was a wildly successful Lib Dem campaign in the last election, and the leaflets (among many, many other things) did mention that the candidates children had gone to the local comprehensive state school. Surprised that this is considered unacceptable.

  • Mark Valladares 27th Jan ’13 – 4:20pm
    Phyllis,

    Miriam’s job is in London – would you want her to give that up? I’d be astonished if Sheffield offered any opportunities in her very rarified field of work – she is a partner at Decherts, one of the top international law firms..

    I did not know that, thanks. But why is Nick an MP in Sheffield then? I thought MPs had to live in their Constituency??? Otherwise how can they represent the people??

  • Mark V

    No I certainly would not want Miriam to give up her job.

  • The education question is always tricky one; personally I have a massive issue with the British education system, not because of its mix of private, public and state funding being naturally unequal, but because they create a self-fulfilling prophecy of inequality. Those funded by the private sector claim to be better, those using the private sector are the ones with the power, (as employers, politicians, media elites…etc) and so as they come to believe it is better, it means they see those coming from the private system as better and thus ensure that those from the private system become the next generations elite. Thus everyone mistakenly believes it to be better. In fact there are many very average private schools and the supposed best private and public schools normally only have this tag because they only admit those whom are deemed to be the best.

    Thus, on my principles I am against having both private and public funded education while it is run in this manner. Now, as not everyone can afford to pay for their own education, it is clear that a fully state-funded system is what I am prime-facie in support of. So if I was to send any of my future children to private school in the UK’s system I would be wrong to do so.

    However, Nick has never criticised this system in this way and though he has stated that he wishes to improve state-education, he has also claimed he has nothing against people choosing private sector education; so he has the right to choose. He also has the right to keep that choice private because this is his family; these are people who have not chosen to have their lives turned into a circus and if were to say politicians have to their lives turned into a circus, then we only further drive underrepresented groups like Mothers …etc away from politics.

    So, yes, in my opinion, his family should not be used by cynical politicians and media types as a way to attack him because that does more damage to our political equality (or lack of) than the school Nick’s kids go to.

  • “By the way, I am from a place where there was a wildly successful Lib Dem campaign in the last election, and the leaflets (among many, many other things) did mention that the candidates children had gone to the local comprehensive state school.”

    And even Nick Clegg has talked to the press about how his children “go to a nice normal school just down the end of the road”. The problem with saying it’s a private matter is that it has to be a private matter all the time, not just when it suits you.

  • Lee_Thacker 27th Jan '13 - 5:04pm

    Not really too bothered about where the Cleggs send their children to school. It is is not though he would be the first Liberal Democrat MP to educate his children outside the state system. I recall hearing Paddy Ashdown and David Steel saying their children had attended local comprehensive schools.

    What I find rather baffling is that a large section of the middle-class chooses to use their wealth to opt of state education. You don’t find that to the same extent in other western European countries. Why this I don’t know, but it has to have something to do with our class system.

  • Nick Thornsby 27th Jan '13 - 5:19pm

    @ Chris

    Is that a direct quote? In any event, have you got a source?

  • @Phyllis: MPs are our representatives in the House of Commons so that is where they work; they not councillors and we should not view as them as such. Many, for reasons of good faith, do try to spend as much time in their constituencies as they can, but the truth is, much of their work is done in London.

  • Liberal Neil 27th Jan '13 - 5:36pm

    Nick “All those who disagree with the thrust of my post – what is your response to the hypothetical situation I set out?”

    My answer to that is that it is up to the politician to decide how much of an explanation she gives. The fact that the politician may have decided to give way to the views of their partner is perfectly reasonable, and, if they want to, they can say so.

  • Nick Thornsby 27th Jan '13 - 5:39pm

    @ Liberal Neil

    Yes – but the point is that those who say that an inference can be drawn from the “choice” of the politician are doing so on bad information if they don’t know the whole story, so isn’t the logical conclusion is that they think there is an *obligation* on the politician to explain these things? That, I think, is wrong.

  • Liberal Neil 27th Jan '13 - 5:45pm

    I think it is reasonable for the public to know whether politicians send their children to public or state schools for a number of reasons.

    Firstly it allows them to make a judgement about the individual politician. Do they think the politician’s actions do not match their rhetoric? Is the choice of schooling an important issue to that member of the public on which they may wish to make a judgment about said politician.

    For me personally it does raise a question mark. If a politician claims to believe in greater social mobility, and that every child should have an equal chance to get on in life, it would make me wonder on what grounds they would think it right to buy their child a head start.

    Secondly, and, for me more importantly, it allows us to make a judgement about whether we think politicians overall, or those currently pulling the strings, have a balance of experience of the education system between them.

    I think there is a problem if the group of people making important decisions about the school system that 93% of use themselves have little or no experience of it.

    For me it’s exactly the same problem as the lack of gender balance, ethnic minority representation and general class bias in the political system, which, if anything, seems to be getting worse.

  • Liberal Neil 27th Jan '13 - 5:48pm

    @Andrew Martin “You should never sacrifice your child’s education to your political views.”

    Absolutely. Luckily, in this case, no-one is suggesting that anyone should ‘sacrifice’ their child’s education.

  • Nick

    The statement about a “nice normal school just down the end of the road” was printed as a direct quotation from Nick Clegg:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/may/01/nick-clegg-andrew-rawnsley-interview

    It’s not that surprising, is it? We’ve been given rather a lot of information about Nick Clegg and his children over the years. Rather more than I wanted in some cases (e.g. the hand-drawn Christmas cards showing the family group).

  • Liberal Neil 27th Jan '13 - 6:11pm

    @Nick Thornsby – I don’t think there’s any obligation on the politician to explain their decision, but I don’t think they have very strong grounds to complain that some people will then come their own conclusions if they choose not to. There was, after all, no obligation on them to become politicians or to make pronouncements about the education system, social mobility etc.

  • Andrew Martin 27th Jan '13 - 6:49pm

    mpg – all public services are in hoc to others’ political views. That’s the nature of democracy.

    Liberal Neil – I’m glad to hear that you are fully aware of the situation and obviously better informed than Clegg himself. If Nick and Miriam make a decision that a certain school, out of the options available to them, is better than the others, then making any other decision for political reasons is sacrificing, to whatever degree, their child’s education to their political views.
    Clegg is a parent first and a politician second, and quite rightly so.

  • Just goes to show nick learnt nothing from Tony Blair …. He’s a public figure responsible for policy it is a matter of public interest to know the principles behind his decision as to why he is doing sifferent to what he says (just like most politicians), or will he like Blair and hid being his wife’s apron strings saying it was her decision….

    Personally, a much overdue reform is to ensure MP’s interests are wholly aligned with those of the British public. Hence they should have no option but use state schools (in their constituency) and the NHS. I bet it would take less than a decade for our education system and health service to become world class once again…

  • Well, of course we know that Simon sees absolutely everything as a confirmation of his own beliefs, regardless of what it actually says. And he has no compunction about accusing people of concealing things, even when they’ve just told him something he didn’t know about himself.

    But as I said, the problem is that Clegg’s family life either has to be private all the time, or not private at all. Going on at length about how you want to protect your children from media attention, while at precisely the same time painting a picture of yourself as the regular, ordinary family guy, and throwing in heartwarming little vignettes about walking the kids to school is not keeping your family life private. And as politicians go, I don’t think even Simon would deny that Nick Clegg talks about his children more than most.

    And of course, it would be a mistake to take anything Nick Clegg says entirely at face value. Faced with the statement “I don’t think you’d ever find a photograph of my children in public” I couldn’t resist a visit to Google Image Search. So as a special present to Simon, I’ll give him the opportunity of viewing a BBC video entitled “Liberal democrat leader Nick Clegg shows off his new son”:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7905197.stm

  • @ Stuart Mitchell

    “The surest way of reducing such inequality would be for more well-educated and affluent parents like the Cleggs to put their children into state schools. Clegg is therefore a hypocrite as charged.”

    So the solution is to increase the cost of education by 7% with no increase in funds. Fantastic idea! We can really level down then.

    Poor schools are not caused by the absence of millionaires children there are many different causes. It can be local social situations, poor leadership, inappropriate imposition of national ideas.

  • Tony Dawson 27th Jan '13 - 7:38pm

    According to the Telegraph, the quote is:

    “the gap in educational standards between private and state schools is “corrosive for our society and damaging to our economy”.” So the crucial difference is that Nick Clegg does not think that private education per se is corrosive. He would like to see State education standards come up to a point where anyone who knows anything about economics would mean that private education would largely wither and die. Of course, this would never happen if the principal purpose of the separate provision is largely social segregation.

    I disagree with Nick’s article, however. Representational politics is about three things: trust, identification and competence . Anyone who thinks that it is largely about policies, manifestos etc is living in a parallel universe, trying to warp reality towards what they would wish it to be. Every individual voter has the right to make their determination about their own representative according to whatever criteria they wish. The wearing of odd socks , a penchant for bubble cars, holidaying in Central Leeds. Pro or Anti. The idea that the personal is not political is beyond naive. When it is on a matter which relates directly to the schism in our society, any protests that this is ‘none of anyone’s business’ invite the view from each person who is so-concerned that opinions that this is irrelevant are equally irrelevant. And, of course, draws more attention to the original subject matter of contention, which may not be exactly in the Party’s best interest.

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th Jan '13 - 8:46pm

    There is a simple solution to this. Nick Clegg should say “I recognise there is a conflict here – between my own ability to pay for extra privileges to ensure my children have a social advantage denied to most children in this country, and my political belief in equal opportunity and role as a politician in running the state education system which I believe is not for the likes of my children. Therefore, as I will not sacrifice my children’s future privilege for my career’s sake, I will sacrifice my career instead- I resign”.

  • @ Matthew Huntbach

    “my own ability to pay for extra privileges to ensure my children have a social advantage denied to most children in this country”

    I think you really over estimate the value of a private education.

  • Sue Doughty 27th Jan '13 - 9:12pm

    Every parent will do the best for their children, this is a fact. What Nick has done week after week since before he became party leader is to complain that those from the poorest background will have the worst experiences. Not only that but he had delivered on pupil premium which puts more money into the education of the worst off.

    Wherever his son goes to school (and it is none of my business) I would prefer that he remains ambitious for his kids. I remember Tony Benn who in his employment minister days would greet the trade unions and drink tea from a chipped enamel mug. Were they grateful for this lovely act of solidarity? No because they wanted him to have ambition for them to have china like richer people did, not be condemned to tin mugs forever.

    I’d be most interested if anyone contributing to this debate would actually send their kid to a poor school next door when they could get them into a better school next door but one.

    Nick has done more than his predecessors to demand that all local schools should be good schools. Unlike Tony Benn with his race to the bottom, Nick is working towards better education for all. This is the important point above all.

  • “What Nick has done week after week since before he became party leader is to complain that those from the poorest background will have the worst experiences.

    Nick has done more than his predecessors to demand that all local schools should be good schools.”

    I think that’s an interesting characterisation of what Nick Clegg has done to improve state education.

  • The thing that bothers me about this – quite apart from the trying to interfere in a politician’s private life in a way we would object to where it the other way round – is that it’s simply not fair, in the real sense of the word.

    We want equality for all, right?

    So why does that mean expecting people to come down to a level, rather than trying to get everyone else up? Nobody aspires downwards.

    We shouldn’t take good things off people, we should be trying to give more people good things.

  • Liberal Neil 27th Jan '13 - 9:26pm

    @Andrew Martin – the point I was making (clearly not very effectively) is that sending your child to a local state school is not the same thing as ‘sacrificing’ their education.

    Unless you are suggesting that one or more of the state schools in Nick Cleggs local community is so dire that the children attending it are all sacrificing their education, in which case I would hope and expect he’d be doing more about it than just not sending his children to it.

    The problem with your second point is, that while many people will be sympathetic to that line, it isn’t that simple to detach ones views on the importance of better social mobility and fairness and the decisions one takes about ones own circumstances. If someone genuinely believes that the perpetuation of privilege due to the inequality in resources between private and state schools is wrong, they don’t then choose to send their child to private school. Nick is going to find it significantly harder to be taken seriously next time he makes a speech on that issue.

    Secondly it suggests that he has little faith in the various statements he has made about the Government’s determination to level up state schools.

  • Liberal Neil 27th Jan '13 - 9:28pm

    @Stace “So why does that mean expecting people to come down to a level, rather than trying to get everyone else up? Nobody aspires downwards.”

    Because Nick has said that the Government is going to level up state schools so that every child has an equal chance in life. If he (and you) believe that, then there is no question of him ‘coming down a level’.

  • Nock Thornsby’s argument is clearly wrong from a liberal, democratic perspective, but the delicious irony is that it has produced a lengthy debate about Clegg’s actions rather than the subject of whether or not his actions should be discussed.

  • All this makes a mockery of us being “All in it together”. Mr Clegg is different from ‘the rest’ in that he is wealthy. Full stop. State schools, as far as he is concerned are indeed for others’ families, but not for his family. It is nonsense to suggest that policicians are immune from criticism on such a matter. Politicians above all other citizens should have the highest moral and ethical principles; I will never, ever forget Dianne Abbott (“left-wing” MP and vociferous critic of private education) and her decision in 2003 to send her son to the private City of London School, which she herself described as “indefensible” and “intellectually incoherent”, Is it any mystery that there is huge public cynicism for politicians, who’s mantra seems to be “Don’t do as I do, do as I say”? ……….. And yes I voted LibDem in 2010.

  • I just wonder if the school in question receives public money, cuz I think all state funding for private schools should stop.
    Adopting coalition austerity speak, politicians are public sector workers and we are paying for them to live extravagant lifestyles well beyond the reach of most private sector workers plus funding the old boy net-work. So yeah it is our business. If they can afford huge tuition fees they can afford a very big pay cut.

  • @Mark Valladares. You seem to be saying that because “Miriam is a partner at Decherts, one of the top international law firms”, Mr Clegg’s family are therefore understandably, in fact justifiably (status and all that) entitled to “go private”. But what about the children of parents who are not partners of ‘one of the top international law firms’? And those who voted LibDem? Are they stuck with the local comp? There are clear signs here of age-old Tory class thing. What happened to modern LibDem thinking?

  • Stuart Mitchell 27th Jan '13 - 10:46pm

    @ Psi

    Any school will find it easier to raise standards if the ratio of able & willing pupils to time-wasters is increased. The same goes for the ratio of interested parents to those who don’t give a monkey’s. If parents like the Cleggs showed practised what they preach and showed commitment to the public education system by actually sending their kids there, the overall improvement in standards would far outweigh the supposed 7% increase in costs (the avoidance of which you have deluded yourself into believing represents some sort of act of public philanthropy on the part of those who use private schools).

  • Keith Browning 27th Jan '13 - 10:48pm

    Its not the education itself that is the real benefit of private schooling, because the knowledge and skills can be acquired in a 100 different ways. No, its the people you meet and the parents of the people you meet, that make the difference. Not many good career contacts to be made at Bash Street Comprehensive – its all about networking and if Nick doesn’t send his children to a ‘Private’ school, then many of those opportunities will be lost forever.

    It would appear to be a no-brainer.

  • Andrew Martin 27th Jan '13 - 10:52pm

    Liberal Neil – ultimately (it seems we are down to word play here), the word ‘sacrifice’ might reasonably be seen as an exaggeration, which I used to convey the point that he should send his son to the school where the family think he would best prosper (which is not just a matter of academic success), and that his politics should not prevent him from doing this.
    On “[my] second point”, I think it is legitimate to treat general concerns about the effects of private education on society as one consideration alongside many others when choosing a school, but provided he avoids hypocrisy (which I think he has), ultimately Clegg should prioritise his duty as a parent. I’m aware that this risks being seen as an oversimplification of the situation.
    As for the last point, I think that actually, private schools can only still attract such numbers because they are viewed as superior by a large section of the population. People know this and can see this, and so rather than taking the view that Clegg has “no faith”, they might just take the view that he is going for what many of them assume to be an objectively better option.

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th Jan '13 - 11:21pm

    Psi

    @ Matthew Huntbach

    “my own ability to pay for extra privileges to ensure my children have a social advantage denied to most children in this country”

    I think you really over estimate the value of a private education

    No, can’t you see the quote marks? I am assuming that if Mr Clegg and his wife are willing to pay the costs of it, it is THEY who over-estimate its value in this way.

  • Instinctively, I agree with Nick (Thornsby). Clegg hasn’t tried to make political capital out of his children, and as far as I’m aware he hasn’t criticised private schools and indeed is on record as saying that parents have every right to educate their children as they see fit. In this respect it is different from the Diane Abbott example.

    However, the basis on which he is open to the charge of hypocrisy is that – like most leading frontbench politicians of all 3 main parties – he has criticised all forms of selection in state education, on the grounds that it is socially divisive to allow schools to cherry-pick the most able children.

    The consequences of ending selection in state schools (and rejecting its reintroduction) are highly arguable. Personally I am not convinced it is the key factor in improving educational standards.

    However, many people, especially those who went to grammar schools in the postwar period (including otherwise left-leaning political commentators such as Tony Howard), have argued that the effect of ending selection in the state sector while leaving private schools untouched has been to entrench inequality of opportunity and put social mobility into reverse (since it has replaced selection by an admittedly crude measure of ability with selection by income or house price).

    Without getting into that argument here, there are many parents who would love to send their children to a top school (and clearly a disproportionate number of them are selective) but can’t afford private school fees. They probably find it a bit rich to hear politicians constantly inveighing against selection in the state sector while evidently having no problem with it when educating their own children privately. In this as in so many other things, Yes Minister exposed the gap between the public and private positions of the Establishment with brutal accuracy…

    Having said all that, I still balk at the idea that any whiff of hypocrisy means it is open season on politicians’ private and family lives. Perhaps we have to stomach a measure of hypocrisy as the price of a decent political culture, just as the fact that celebrities generally enjoy and profit from the spotlight shouldn’t deprive them of all right to privacy.

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th Jan '13 - 11:31pm

    Joe Otten

    I know nobody ever invents new polemic in this debate, but can I just point out that it is very silly to say “State schools, as far as he is concerned are indeed for others’ families, but not for his family” of a man who so far has sent his children to state schools

    No, it is not silly. It is pointing out that if Mr Clegg does send his children to private schools, this is how it would be interpreted. It is doing so in a debate sparked by his comment that he may do so. If someone says “I may do X”, I don’t think it’s unfair to consider the consequences of him doing X even if he has not done X yet.

    The issue in London is that primary schools are smaller, have intake from a smaller area, and so a primary school in an area inhabited solely by social elite types will have pupils mainly from that sort of background. However, secondary schools are larger, have intake from a larger area, and so tend to be more socially mixed. So it is the transition from primary to secondary where parents who do not want their children to be mixing with “rough” types might consider switching to private education for them.

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th Jan '13 - 11:38pm

    Sue Doughty

    I’d be most interested if anyone contributing to this debate would actually send their kid to a poor school next door when they could get them into a better school next door but one.

    Right., so condemning someone else’s kid to go to that poor school?

    The point is that if you have responsibility for there being “good” and “poor” schools, as someone who is Deputy leader of the country does, then this becomes a more serious issues – it does look like forcing other people into something you would not accept yourself.

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th Jan '13 - 11:45pm

    Sue Doughty

    Wherever his son goes to school (and it is none of my business) I would prefer that he remains ambitious for his kids. I remember Tony Benn who in his employment minister days would greet the trade unions and drink tea from a chipped enamel mug. Were they grateful for this lovely act of solidarity? No because they wanted him to have ambition for them to have china like richer people did, not be condemned to tin mugs forever

    No, it’s because they themselves would have china, and would show respect to visitors by bringing out the best china for them. So it would appear as disrespect for him not to use china when they were his visitors. China is hardly something only the super-wealthy can afford. Had Tony Benn drunk his tea from some special diamond encrusted mug, they might have thought it vain showing off. Had he made a point of drinking his tea from a mug made by a company that had sacked its workers and sent production overseas , and said “This is a better mug, because it is made by cheap foreign labour”, I doubt they’d have been happy.

  • Matthew Huntbach 28th Jan '13 - 12:12am

    The end point of this idea that we want politicians to look ambitious, to do the best for themselves and their children, is the sort of corruption we see in many countries. Politicians use their position to make millions for themselves and their children. In some countries a politician who does not behave like this is considered suspect, because they do indeed suppose that if you are not personally greedy for yourself and your children, there’s something wrong with you.

    I find this idea that there are “good” and “poor” schools, and their goodness or poorness is purely to do with the school, to be a bit suspect. What is mainly meant by this is the nature of the pupils. A school is “good” because its pupils mainly come from wealthy and educated backgrounds. If you had the same school buildings and the same teachers teaching the same subjects in the same way, the school would be considered “poor” if it were in an area where most of its pupils came from backgrounds of deprivation and little education.

    Buying yourselves out of a situation where your child might have to mix with children whose parents are poor and don’t know or care much about education does look like you are someone who does not know or care about those below oneself in social status. The existence of those special private schools open only to those parents who can afford the high fees does lead to the inequality in our society persisting as it means the children of the wealthy have this natural advantage. It is therefore not an entirely neutral thing – it IS benefiting yourself at the expense of others. It is saying you are a superior type to other human beings, and as such, I am afraid, is easily and not incorrectly interpreted as an insult to those other human beings. I don’t believe dog-eat-dog attitudes have yet grown in this country to the point where we wold universally admire those who step on others to benefit themselves and their children.

    I appreciate the point about human nature here, if you have the ability from your position to give great advantage to your children, it can be VERY hard to resist the family pressure not to do this, just because you want to make a political point. That is indeed why some politicians in other countries who were themselves decent people succumbed to the pressure to act corruptly. However, seeing this dilemma is why I offered a solution. If Mr Clegg honestly feels he is unwilling to sacrifice his children’s future, rather than sacrificing his party’s future by the bad impression its leader behaving in this way will give, he should sacrifice his own career. He should return to the backbenches. I think this would be seen as very good and noble, people would then very much appreciate the strong feeling he has for his children and accept the sacrifice as suitable compensation for the signals he was giving out by his rejection of the schools his position would otherwise mean he pushed other people’s children into.

  • Julian Critchley 28th Jan '13 - 12:35am

    @Martin Pierce

    “As Nick Clegg seems perfectly happy to foist Academies and Free Schools on us and remove the last vestiges of local accountability through local Councils, one might at least imagine he would be happy with his children going through the system he and his government have created. And he can’t claim ‘it’s all that Michael Gove’ – the LD MPs have not rebelled against any of that stuff and David Laws, whom Nick has expressly put into the Education Dept, is in favour. As I say, if they think it’s all so brilliant, then why aren’t their children going through it? And THAT is why the issue is relevant.”

    Quite. Well said.

    Another reason why this matters is that it is yet another statement from a leading politician based on a complete myth about education. Nearly every political statement about education is now predicated on the idea that the prime, or indeed only, determinant of student outcomes is the school, with words like “oustanding” or “failing” thrown in. This is, of course, demonstrable rubbish. The great majority of any child’s educational outcome has nothing to do with the type of school, or the quality of teaching. It is, instead, dependent upon such factors as socio-economic background, and parental experience of and attitudes towards education. Indeed, the “school effect” has even been quantified, although not without debate and dispute, to account for somewhere in the region of between 8-10% of student outcomes. Now that’s not to be sniffed at. 10% might be a whole grade’s difference in a public examination, and as such worth having. But it’s not the same story being told by politicians, or being heard by the public. Yet all politicians know that the single best predictor of educational achievement is not school type, gender, race, pupil-teacher ratio, curriculum, lesson structure or traditionalist v modernist approach. It’s whether a child is in receipt of free school meals. And God knows that successive governments have tried hard enough to find alternative predictors which suit their ideologies, but nothing much has come up yet.

    So the evidence of how and why students achieve is completely at odds with the picture painted by politicians : a child who gets straight A’s at a private school is a child who is just as likely to get straight As at a state school. A child who’s fantastic at rugby union in a private school, but is going to struggle to get 11 GCSEs, is a child who will struggle to get 11 GCSEs at a state school, but could still be fantastic at rugby league. Yet even today, we have another announcement from Gove’s pet court jester, Michael Wilshaw, who announces with all solemnity an urgent OFSTED review of why it is that some state schools don’t seem to get the same sort of results as independent schools. Which is a bit like visiting a sheep farm and announcing that you’re concerned it isn’t turning out as many goats as the goat farm down the road.

    When Clegg makes statements like this, he’s backing that misleading idiocy. His suggestion is that there might not be a state school “good enough” to take on his children. The answer is that of course there is. With the background that his children have, they have every chance of achieving the highest possible results whether they go to a private school or a state school (I know it’s an easy statistic to miss amodst the nonsense, but MOST students at Russell Group universities were educated in state schools – they’re not all charity cases, you know). So given that his kids will be fine in the local state school, and given that – as a clever guy – Clegg knows full well that they will be fine in the local state school, then that leads us to ask the question : why is he considering private education at all ? If there’s no great educational outcome advantage to private education, then what is the point ?

    And the answer is the same, unpleasant, answer which is always under the surface of such decisions : maintaining a privileged access to networks of power and money which are closed to those who aren’t already wealthy; and keeping my children away from the scummy ordinary kids down the road. It’s not a great answer, is it ? So it seems to me to be entirely reasonable for politicians’ decisions to be scrutinised, and their attitudes open to criticism.

    Clegg is reinforcing an inaccurate and damaging public impression of the state educatoin system which serves the great majority of us, while also demonstrating the sort of elitist and selfish attitudes which this party used to oppose.

  • There is a very interesting ‘open letter’ in the Independent today from John O’Farrell…….
    http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/an-open-letter-to-nick-clegg-on-the-matter-of-his-children-possibly-being-educated-privately-8468906.html

  • Anthony Hawkes 28th Jan '13 - 7:48am

    Press interest about 1 week. Voters interest about 3 days. Storm in a teacup.

    If Nick Clegg compromised on the future of his children, then he would surely not be trusted on the future of our party.

    Do what you think is best Nick.

  • Commenters are in danger of confusing rights and privileges.

    Rights are universal, privileges are individual.

    We defend rights, and seek to expand access to privileges.

    Education is a right, the best possible education is a privilege.

    Neither the private sector or state can provide the best possible education in all instances, so the issue is more about which is more appropriate and how to get adequate funding. Removing charitable status from private schools would be a start, so those who choose this pay requisite taxes on their privilege to assist improvements in the universal basic right.

  • So Nick Clegg didn’t go to a normal school with normal people and now hs son may not do so either. What’s so wrong with mixing with normal people?

  • Liberal Neil 28th Jan '13 - 11:06am

    @Sue Doughty “I’d be most interested if anyone contributing to this debate would actually send their kid to a poor school next door when they could get them into a better school next door but one.”

    Well it depends what you mean by ‘poor school’ – because there’s a whole debate there around whether you look at raw results, value added etc.

    But we made the decision to send our eldest child to our local state primary school at a time when it was in special measures, because we felt it important that she attend the local school in the community where we lived, where she would meet children from a range of backgrounds and because we felt we had a duty to help the school turn round rather than abandon it.

    We were one of a small number of local families to make the same conscious decision.

    Now I also happen to believe that the biggest influence on a child’s academic performance is the family they grow up in, rather than the school they attend, so for me it wasn’t a question of being a ‘sacrifice’, but of being willing to find the time to help.

    After several years hard work, and with some investment levered in by me when i was the local County Councillor, the school is now much stronger. We’ve moved house (for none school related reasons) and our children still attend the local state schools.

    For a long time we argued as a party that our aim was to ensure that everyone’s local state school was a good one, and some of Nick’s recent speeches have said the same. I still think it’s a fine objective.

  • Liberal Neil 28th Jan '13 - 11:14am

    @Andrew Martin “ultimately (it seems we are down to word play here), the word ‘sacrifice’ might reasonably be seen as an exaggeration,”

    For me it’s an important point, because the meaning of the word ‘sacrifice’ adds a huge amount of strength to the argument that he is putting his child’s interest ‘ahead of politics’.

    However if you don’t use a word as loaded as ‘sacrifice’, and are instead more accurate. then that argument is significantly weaker. What Nick is actually doing, should he send his child to private school, is increasing his chances of getting better exam grades slightly, and providing him with significantly better sports, arts and other facilities compared to most state secondary schools.

    ” which I used to convey the point that he should send his son to the school where the family think he would best prosper (which is not just a matter of academic success), and that his politics should not prevent him from doing this.”

    And that’s fine, except that so many of Nick’s previous statements have suggests that that is a cycle he wants to see the end of. By joining in that cycle of the rich being able to buy a leg up for their children he weakens his credibility when trying to make the same point in the future, and makes it very clear that he doesn’t really believe his government is going to do much to stop it.

  • Liberal Neil 28th Jan '13 - 11:16am

    @peter.tyzac “Parents have only one duty to their kids.. do your best for them.”

    You don’t think we also have a duty to our community and to the opportunities other children have.

    If so, what was all that rhetoric about social mobility and fairness in aid of?

  • Peter Watson 28th Jan '13 - 11:46am

    I’m very late to this party, but would still like to add my tuppence worth.
    It is none of my business where Nick Clegg sends his children, and it is certainly not hypocritical of him to choose the best school he can for his children. I would consider it hypocritical if he and his children were irreligious but opted for a good faith school for academic reasons, and that would be the same sort of hypocrisy shown by many who “game” the state sector.
    He should be judged by what he says and does about the rest of the education system. It is his dismissal as “dumbing down” of the system in which my children, their teachers, and my wife and I as parents have worked so hard. It his support of Gove’s dogmatic and rushed changes. It is his lack of consistency in opposition and in government. That is why he has lost my respect, not because of the choices he can afford for his own family.

  • @Anthony

    Press interest about 1 week. Voters interest about 3 days. Storm in a teacup,,,

    Well, you are probably tight in the short term – but if Clegg educates his childre privately and is still the leader at the next General Election then any talk about his belief in stopping the corrosive inequality of this country is going to sound very hollow.

  • Steve Griffiths 28th Jan '13 - 1:31pm

    @peter.tyzack

    “All the rest of what is said above is mere rhetoric.”

    Yes I’m sure you’d like it to be, but Nick Clegg has chosen to be a high profile public figure by entering politics. When I became a mere local Lib Dem councillor I accepted that my actions and decisions, public or private, may be subjected to closer scrutiny than I had been previously been used to. When a politician makes pronouncements, decisions or gives their opinion upon national policy they will inevitably be judged by the public on what they do for themselves and their family, against the position they have stated publically. If you don’t like it, don’t be a politician.

    It would however be illiberal to dictate to anyone where they send their child for education, whether they have the money to do so, or not. I do think Orangepan makes a very pertinent point regarding the Charitable Status of public schools. This massive perk to the private sector allows them to keep fees lower than without the resultant tax breaks; money which would be very useful in the state school system, especially for schools in poorer areas. If parents choose to send their kids to private education, fine – but they should pay the going rate without what is in effect a state subsidy.

    It would be interesting to know whether the individual contributors to this blog above were private or state educated and we could value and judge their points made, against that background. I am happy to reveal I was state educated – so now you know where I’m coming from…

  • All our family are state educated and now so are our children. We did consider sending our children to private school at one stage (we could just about afford it if we stretched ourselves) but decided we would rather our children mix with ordinary kids and families. My aunt taught at the private school and her feedback was that majority of kids were so previledged rich and spoilt) that they had no idea what it was like to struggle.

  • Old Codger Chris 28th Jan '13 - 2:34pm

    The most amazing thing about this non-issue is that it’s generated 101 comments (102 now I guess).

    But I must just comment about the “foisting Academies and Free Schools on us and removing the last vestiges of local accountability through local Councils”. Each individual case is different – at a School where I’m on the governing body the best thing we’ve ever done is to ditch our useless (Tory) local authority in favour of an academies trust offering genuine value and a far higher level of rigour and support.

  • Nick Thornsby Nick Thornsby 28th Jan '13 - 4:45pm

    @ Liberal Neil

    Yes, they have a duty to those people and groups by virtue of being elected, but are you really saying that that duty extends to decisions they and others make about their own children?

  • Julian Critchley 28th Jan '13 - 5:19pm

    @NickThornsby

    Of course it does. The alternative is that we have politicians who see absolutely no problem with prescribing one thing for their voters, which they consider somehow too inferior for their own offspring.

    It’s very easy to have all sorts of theoretical positions of principle, which are utterly meaningless if you are not willing to apply those principles to yourself – only to others.

    It is what we do which affects our own lives which gives an insight into our principles. I can afford to send my children to private school. I choose not to, because I believe that our society, and my neighbours’ children, are harmed by the separation of an elite privileged class from the other 95% of the population. If I were to provide my children with access to the social networking privileges of private education (although I have no doubt their results would be identical), I may well be giving them a foot up the ladder, but I would be participating in that harmful process. So they go to state schools. As I did.

    A principle isn’t a principle if it only applies to other people. If Clegg chooses a private school for his children, theh he’s making his own principles very clear indeed : he values privileged advantage for his own children over the welfare of the population at large. That’s exactly the sort of principle which we have every right to know our politicians hold.

  • Nick Thornsby 28th Jan '13 - 5:25pm

    @ Julian Critchley

    Could you point me in the direction of Nick Clegg “prescribing” the use of state schools for his constituents, or indeed anything close to such a prescription?

  • Julian Critchley 28th Jan '13 - 6:07pm

    Nick

    He’s the Deputy Prime Minister. His government are responsible not only for the education of that 90+% of us who attend state schools and send our children to state schools, but he has also sanctioned the most devastating series of changes to that education system which we have seen since the 1960s. In other words, he is responsible (increasingly so, given the massive centralisation of education control under Gove) for the state education provision which our children use.

    So it doesn’t matter one fig if he’s never done a Diane Abbot and criticised public schools. What matters is he’s making a clear statement that the education system he is responsible for, and the changes he is voting through, are creating schools which are not suitable for his own children. Only for the children of the rest of us.

    I’m not accusing him of hypocrisy. Others may do. I don’t know what he has said in the past about private schooling. I’m accusing him of demonstrating exactly the sort of selfish, divisive principles which have always characterised the Tory party, but which didn’t always characterise the LibDems.

    In any case, the question you mooted was whether a politician’s decisions regarding his own circumstances or that of his family, are relevant to the public. The answer is yes. A politician’s decisions about himself and his loved ones will always give us a far clearer picture of their real attitudes and principles than anything he or she may actually say. Clegg has revealed his own true principles : he believes wealth entitles his children to future privilege, and that buying this advantage for them outweighs any sense of responsibility or co-existence with his neighbours.

  • Martin Lowe 28th Jan '13 - 6:29pm

    @Nick

    Could you point me in the direction of Nick Clegg “prescribing” the use of state schools for his constituents, or indeed anything close to such a prescription?

    If they can’t afford private schools in his constituency then his very actions are prescribing state schools for them. ‘Let them eat cake’ and all that.

    There’s no reason to be as cross with Clegg as there is to be as cross with Labour over this, but inequality remains and the last time I checked we Liberals aren’t that keen on inequality of opportunity.

    To paraphrase Edmund Burke, all that is necessary for privilege to triumph over ability is for good men to do nothing.

  • Julian Critchley – thank you for your razor-sharp insight yet again.

    Lib Dems – please get rid of Clegg et al and vote for Julian Critchley to be your leader if you want to regain the sould of your party.

  • @Julian Critchley. You are spot on . I really don’t know why people join our political elite when they regard themselves as ‘above’ or more deserving than the elecorate they supposedly represent. Nick Clegg (among others) has made decision in government that affect millions of his fellow citizens adversely. Education is one such area. Mr Clegg will (apparently) side-step the results of his own policies and decisions by using lots of money – thus buying his family out of the consequences of his own government. He is, after all the Deputy Prime Minister. I will show my age by declaring his actions show – just like many of his contemporary politicians – a lack of moral fibre.

  • @ Stuart Mitchell

    “Any school will find it easier to raise standards if the ratio of able & willing pupils to time-wasters is increased.”

    Any evidence? I will give you that if you add more high numbers to a data set then the mean will rise. That does not mean that the rest of the data set is affected just that you have changed the population to play with the statistic.

    Surely the aim of improving the education system is to improve the outcomes for all pupils including the “time-wasters” as you call them. Hiding those that find education hard (due to any of the multitude of problems that could challenge them) in a larger population will not do that. Though spreading limited resources more thinly will not help.

    “(the avoidance of which you have deluded yourself into believing represents some sort of act of public philanthropy on the part of those who use private schools).”

    I did not claim that this was a philanthropic act on the part of parent of privately educated children. I also don’t claim that Sainsbury is carrying out an act of charity by selling my digestive biscuits, but the sale benefit both me (I receive a good that I want: in a time, condition and location I want) and them (they make a profit). There are such things as win-win transactions.

    @ Matthew Huntbach

    I can see the speech marks and I note that they are you telling them want to say so they are your words. Until you can show me Clegg saying this then I will continue so say that these are your words and I can only use them as a basis to estimate your ideas, and not those of Clegg.

    People may have many reasons for sending their children to private schools. Often it is a misestimate of the benefit (most would do much better state educating and then spending the saved cash on other resource). Some people (like military parents) do it to take advantage of the boarding facilities to give the child stability, etc.

    @ Steve Way

    Looking at the current tory cabinet is hardly a reliable basis for judging the effectiveness of private education. Do you think that people with the family connections of Cameron and Osborne would not have been able to get on if they had gone to a state school. Gove got in to private school on a scholarship so also likely to have done well after regardless, don’t confuse private schools headhunting the very bright, to the cause of the brightness.

    In relation to the sporting situation, how many premiership footballers are private school educated?

    You have to consider both your source and look for causation.

    @ toni
    Well, Lord Adonis (former Labour Minister) criticises the leader of a party on the other side of the house to him. Shocker… Not exactly a reason to take him seriously.

    @ Peter Tyzack

    “Children have only one ‘go’ at their education..”

    Well, it should not be that way. We should be more open to those who may have missed opportunities in the past but later come back to catch up.

    @ Phyllis

    “My aunt taught at the private school and her feedback was that majority of kids were so previledged rich and spoilt) that they had no idea what it was like to struggle.”

    My mum taught at a number of different private schools along with many state schools and the only advantage was when dealing with the lowest achieving was that in the state sector school children arrived unable to speak (some could only grunt when they started) but the “product” offered by the school was certainly not really better. You have to be really careful about what you expect if you think private education is a passport to success, I have worked with several educated at the “top” public schools and the quality is variable. Don’t believe the public school propaganda that they offer some kind of passport to success. Many of my friends at my state school were of far more intelligent and capable (and prove so in the work place).

  • Private education is not superior. It is inferior because it gives its participants a warped and biased perspective on reality. It does, however, buy privilege. It is the gateway to a club, not dissimilar in a way from the Masons. We liberals must of course, permit such deviant choices. Otherwise we would not be liberals.

  • Steve Griffiths asks us to say what school we went to. I went to the local comprehensive. It was streamed. As the top stream of seven, almost all of us were nailed on to get 5 A-Cs at GCSE (number of pupils getting 5 A-Cs at GCSE was the school’s performance metric), so our education was de-prioritised, for example we had a much larger class size than the average for the year. We all turned out fine, but for example none of us went to Oxbridge (the performance metric that the media thinks is most important). I am bringing up my own kids abroad, but if I was back in the UK (and had a money tree) then I would probably think about private education a lot more if the kids were very strong academically, and probably not bother if they were not.

    By the way, I tend to think that the “contacts with power” aspect of public schools is probably a lot more relevant to students from Eton and a few other top schools than it is to the majority of the slice of the population going to non-prestige private schools.

  • @ Richard S

    I think you are right and many have missed this point. There will be benefits to being at Eton, Harrow, Charterhouse, St Pauls, Westminster etc where you mix with the children of foreign leaders, oligarchs and the best connected people in the country. Though if parents can afford to send their children to those places they are probably very well connected to start with.

    If you are at an average private school you won’t see those benefits and could have a worse standard of education.

  • Nick Thornsby. I disagree with your piece, because I believe that Nick Clegg (Second in-charge of Great Britain) is very very close to “talking the talk, but refusing to walk the walk” (others on this site have used much harsher language). It is clear that Mr and Mrs Clegg are financially in a different league compared with the vast majority of the electorate. And it is that same vast majority of the electorate that Mr Clegg is pretty determined to keep his family clear of. It is Education Apartheid, plain and simple and totally devoid of any kind of ‘liberalism’. My two children went through the state education system and were/are very successful (UCL), so why is state education OK for my kids (as well as c.93% of the British school-age population) but unsuitable for the British Deputy Prime Minister? What are parents to think when one moment Mr Clegg declares that the consequences of a divided education system [presumably meaning private/state education] are “corrosive”, a sentiment with which I very much agree, and then days later announces, more or less, that he will buy private education for his family? And on the question ‘putting the knife in’, I will put it this way (with apologies to Edward Pearce); if Nick Clegg insists on wearing a huge target on his back, and then proceeds to hand out big knives to his critics, what does he expect? Politics is a rough old trade, I think that Nick Clegg needs to either get a grip or get out. I believe it is too late for the former.

  • Michael Parsons 29th Jan '13 - 10:53am

    Nick Thornsbury asks: “All those who disagree with the thrust of my post – what is your response to the hypothetical situation I set out?”

    Answer: if a politician is persuaded by pressure from family, friends or business associates to make some private arrangement to the advantage of his son or other family member that is not available equally to the mass of the citizens then he is either corrupt, or a member of an oligarchy of wealth acting in its own interests. It might also be in the same category as any other private arrangement for queue-jumping. In Clegg’s case compounded by the fact that his government had just sold-off sports facilities at the school his offspring would otherwise have attended.

    The issue being ducked here is a basic one. For example why were examinations introduced for entry into the Civil Service by the Northcote-Trevelyan reform? It was so as to end the unfair privilege of the wealthy and well-connected, and improve the quality of the service as well. In short: Clegg’s Gambit would be OK if all citizens had entry to all schools by equal examination selection (intelligence plus commitment) but we don’t.

    Nor is it true that family background is always the prime determinant of school success – it depends what the in-school variables are, not just as usually measured (teacher qualification, library size etc) but the impact of the school in overcoming the background of the student :- old-fashioned traditional discipline and methods bid fair to be best for that “Having my school, I had everything”. Indeed, very successful private schools often remove pupils from the family all together – good or bad. Prof. K. Marjoribanks’ extensive work on intelligence, family and ethnic background, class, and student response as related to school and post-school outcomes is a fine lead-in to that discussion.. Know-so being better than think-so.

  • Julian Critchley 29th Jan '13 - 5:34pm

    @Michael Parsons

    re your final para :

    While it is not true that family background is ALWAYS the prime determinant of school success (indeed, no single factor is ALWAYS the prime determinant of outcomes, otherwise there would never be any anomolies at all), the evidence is very clear indeed that when considering populations as a whole (rather than individuals), the single most important factor in determining educational outcomes is socio-economic background of the child. Other factors have been shown to play a marginal role, including peer groups, “culture”, and schools themselves. But there is simply no significant predictive relationship between different types of school, and different teaching methods, and student outcomes, despite repeated attempts by OFSTED, the DFE and journalists to assert that there is. Your own example of some boarding schools removing students from their families is, I@m afraid, simply irrelevant – you might well be able to remove a child from his or her family physically at that time, but you can’t remove the advantages which the child has already accrued from the background into which they were born, and which they have lived with until that point. Dr Susan Greenfield, amongst others, has done much research into the development of intelligence, and it is now universally accepted that the early years – by which I mean 0-3, are absolutely vital in developing the neural pathways which will decide how well a child is able to manage at school. That doesn’t, of course, mean that no child from a poor background can achieve great things academically – they can, and there are always individuals who do better or worse than their comparable peer group. But we have to make policy based on evidence across the population, not anecdotes surrounding individuals, and the evidence is really very consistent. Family income is the best predictor of educational outcome, followed by parental attitudes to education and educational achievements of the parents, and that predictive relationship is retained whether the child goes to a private or state school, selective or comprehensive.

    As for the idea that “traditional” teaching methods are the best, I’m afraid it’s just more anecdote. For every “traditional” classroom which gets results, there’ll be a non-traditional classroom which achieves the same results. Much of South-East Asia practises “traditional” rote-learning and ferocious compliance and discipline, and they get fine results as long as you don’t want too much creativity or independence (which is a problem educationalists in places such as Hong Kong have recognised). Meanwhile, in Finland, a play-based primary approach which would look remarkably non-traditional to Daily Mail readers, regularly delivers some of the best results in Europe. It’s far more complex than simply dressing up our classrooms as anachronistic throwbacks to the 1950s and expecting results.

    The problem with education policy in this country is that it’s far more often based on anecdote than evidence (read John Bangs’ book on the absence of evidence from education policy-making under New Labour to see chapter and verse).

  • Julian Critchley 29th Jan '13 - 5:58pm

    Sorry to add one more thing (then I’ll stop, because education policy is my particular thing, and I can bore for England on it), but there’s a well-written piece in the Guardian today (link below), which points out the fundamental flaws in the “Anyone can achieve anything if they just work hard enough” line which is peddled by Government, and which has become the mindless Orwellian mantra which all headteachers are required to repeat, even if the evidence is quite the opposite. As a mantra, it serves those who already have, rather better than it serves those who have not.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/29/myth-lazy-mob-hands-rich?

  • Old Codger Chris 29th Jan '13 - 6:04pm

    Government should be working towards a situation where every publicly-funded school offers an education so good that it approaches the very best fee-paying schools. I say “approaches” because the public purse can’t afford the fantastic facilities offered by the best and most expensive in the private sector (it’s a moot point to what degree an individual’s education benefits from this – there is something called The Law of Diminishing Returns).

    This is not really the forum for debating whether Mr Gove is taking us nearer that happy day or moving us in the opposite direction – but we can all agree that we’re not there yet. Given that fact, and that Mr Clegg’s children, like everyone else’s , “only get one chance” there’s nothing wrong in this wealthy man choosing to spend some of his own money in educating his children instead of charging their education to taxpayers, most of whom are much less well off than he is.

  • Julian Critchley 29th Jan '13 - 7:06pm

    “Old Codger”

    I think you missed the point raised above. It’s simply not the case that all private schools are better than all state schools, and therefore any parent with the ability to pay has a duty to their children to choose to go private. The fact is that there is no evidence to support this. Yes, on average, independent schools achieve higher pass rates and results. But they are drawing from a very small pool of largely high-ability students. If those students went to state schools, whether comprehensive or selective, then they would achieve similar results, or even better. Stating that independent schools must offer a better education because of their results is a bit like saying that pig farmers must be better farmers than sheep farmers, because they produce more bacon.

    This isn’t mere conjecture : there’s plenty of evidence here. For example, we can now measure contextual value-added in many different ways. Yes, little Johnny left his independent school with 10 As, but would he have left his local comprehensive with 11 ? If little Darren left his comprehensive with just 4 GCSEs, does that mean the private school down the road would have given him 5 ? The answer is to look at the contextual value-added scores for the schools.

    Now the problem with this is that independent schools don’t provide value-added figures to the league tables, because essentially they draw on such a narrow social range (despite anecdotes about scholarships for poor students etc), that they argue their figures can’t be compared to the state schools. However, grammar schools do have their value-added figures in the tables, so we have some comparisons. For example, Grammar schools often have very similar absolute results to independent schools, and often have quite similar student intakes (less than 1% free school meals, compared to 16% nationally).

    So by looking at how grammar schools do – educationally selective, drawing on a narrow, disproportionately affluent cohort – we can get an idea of how well Independent schools are doing.

    If you have a look at the league tables for an area with grammar schools, then you’ll nearly always find the grammar an independent schools. For example, here :

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/special/education/school_tables/secondary/12/html/eng_maths_886.stm?compare=

    This is all the secondary schools in Kent (a large authority with a selective system for comparison), and I’ve sorted it according to 5 A*-C GCSEs. I could have sorted it by A-level point scores, and the results would have been similar : interchangeable grammar and independent schools at the top. Certainly the absolute results of grammar and independent schools suggest that the selective private schools aren’t achieving anything different to the selective state schools.

    Now I sift it using contextual value-added – what is a school adding to performance.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/special/education/school_tables/secondary/12/html/va_886.stm?compare=

    Suddenly, the picture changes. There are still grammar schools near the top, but the majority of schools in the top twenty (14/20) are non-selective, ordinary, state secondary schools. Given the similarity in absolute results and socio-economic background between independent and grammar schools, it would be odd to the point of unreasonable to assume that the independent schools would find themselves in a different position to the grammar schools.

    In case you think I’m being overly selective, look at the next borough, which happens to be mine. This is a small, outer London borough which is very affluent by national standards.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/special/education/school_tables/secondary/12/html/alevel_305.stm?compare=

    Ranked on average A-level scores, the two grammar schools (one girls, one boys) are top of the tree, followed by two Independent schools (one girls, one boys), and then the non-selective state schools (several of which significantly outperform two independent schools even on absolute results, despite having local top students creamed off by the grammars!)

    Then we sift according to value-added :

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/special/education/school_tables/secondary/12/html/va_305.stm?compare=

    The two selective state schools are still near the top, although they’ve been overtaken by a non-selective school, and are not really significantly different from several other non-selective schools. Again, we can’t see the value-added for the Independent schools, but there’s no reason at all to believe it would be better than the grammars, and indeed – given their even more affluent intake – every reason to believe they would do worse !

    The bottom line is that whenever someone asserts that private schools are better than state schools in terms of the education they provide, then they’re wrong. When anyone asserts that private schools’ absolute results demonstrate that their methods are inherently superior to state schools, then they are wrong. Whenever anyone asserts that state education is somehow inferior, or unsuited to their children, then they are wrong. Whenever anyone asserts that private school teachers, or headteachers, are superior to their state school counterparts, then they are wrong.

    The evidence is out there. You just have to look. But it contradicts such a powerful article of faith amongst media commentators and politicans (a very high porportion of whom attended private schools), that it is almost impossible to shake. Nevertheless, I’ll keep trying.

    For the record, I went to a very tough comprehensive in St Helens, was inspired by excellent teachers and went to Oxford, where I got the same degree, at roughly the same time, as Cameron. I send my own kids to state schools, and that school you saw at the top of Bromley’s value-added table ? That’s where I teach. So you could argue that I find it pretty irritating when politicians who should know better, like Clegg, make public their uninformed and inaccurate assertions about the relative value of private schools.

  • Peter Watson 29th Jan '13 - 9:03pm

    @Julian Critchley
    Very well said.
    I only wish that the Lib Dem leadership could take such a well thought out, evidence-based approach to education policy now that they are in a position to influence it instead of appearing to unquestioningly support Gove’s ideas.

  • Michael Parsons 29th Jan '13 - 10:05pm

    We may have drifted from the point here: the question asked was how do critics respond to Nick Thornbuty’s query (assuming Clegg is seeking to buy advantage for his child by going private), and my answer, was:-
    Question: All those who disagree with the thrust of my (Thornbury’s) post – what is your response to the hypothetical situation I set out?”
    Answer: if a politician is persuaded by pressure from family, friends or business associates to make some private arrangement to the advantage of his son or other family member that is not available equally to the mass of the citizens then he is either corrupt, or a member of an oligarchy of wealth acting in its own interests. It might also be in the same category as any other private arrangement for queue-jumping. In Clegg’s case compounded by the fact that his government had just sold-off sports facilities at the school his offspring would otherwise have attended.

    Whether private schools offer better education is irrelevant to that as such – the point being that Clegg made his choice believing they do (‘I must do the best for my son etc’).
    What is being bought in the context of our class system is advantage rather than learning as such, much more so now the Coalition has financialised learning, I suspect.. Since it isn’t true that every supply creates its own demand it is unlikely that general education, guarantees social and economic advantages.. Marjoribanjks reviews the complex interplay of environmental variables that influence school and post-school success; we need He makes a plea for parents, teachers and members of the community to keep alive the “inner room” of pupils’ lives, their dreams and possibilities otherwise shut off.. He saw his “context analysis” of school outcomes as helping to make that possible. After years of work inb the field of “second chance” education of course I agree we need to start to apply these ideas, but the starting point here was a questions as to how we assess Clegg’s Option and do we have a right to assess it? My answer was it was a bad option and we have every right.. Nepotism continues, however. But I also suggest we should value scholarship as such absolutely, rags or riches. Intellectual achievement has intrinsic value, not just that profit-seekers might hire it cheaply to enhance their market position. The system should respect that. ideally.

  • Matthew Huntbach 29th Jan '13 - 10:44pm

    Psi

    @ Matthew Huntbach

    I can see the speech marks and I note that they are you telling them want to say so they are your words. Until you can show me Clegg saying this then I will continue so say that these are your words and I can only use them as a basis to estimate your ideas, and not those of Clegg.

    I was replying to what you wrote in response to me “I think you really over estimate the value of a private education”. Thus you were stating you think that I, Mathew Huntbach, has a very high estimate of the value of private education. I don’t. I went to a state comprehensive and got top grade A-levels myself. I was for many years the admissions tutor for my university department, handling thousands of UCAS application forms over that time, most of them from applicants from state schools, so I was very much in a position to see there are plenty emerging from such schools with very decent A-levels. So I know full well this idea that is often put about that if you go to a state school you haven’t got a chance of a good university place is completely false.

  • {wonders about moving to Bromley so that our kids can be taught by Julian Critchley}

  • But if politicians want to keep their private life private why do they include statements in their manifesto’s saying that they are married with kids? Why do they go on “Desert Island Discs”? Why to they write autobioraphies? Why do they parade their spouses at the party conference? Why do they tell us anything about their families at all?

  • Michael Parsons 30th Jan '13 - 11:16am

    Hi Matghew Huntbach:
    That’s easy: in his interview on the Andrew Marr show Clegg said:’I totally accept that when we make a decision that’ll be subject to public commentary, criticism and so on, but in the meantime we want to protect the privacy of an 11-year-old boy and make the decision that we as parents think is best for our son.’
    The deadline for applying for entry to Ark Putney for 2013-14 was last October. The school is part of the Ark academy chain, set up in 2004, whose chairman is Paul Marshall, one of the Liberal Democrats’ biggest donors, has been muich praised and Clegg didnt c heck it out first.
    No doubt all sorts of people go to all sorts of universities, but the private schools system answers the question “Yes, but is he one of us? ” positively.

  • Liberal Neil 30th Jan '13 - 2:44pm

    @Nick Thornsby – I’m saying that if you genuinely believe that we should have an education system that is fair to all children and gives everyone an equal chance to make it in life you won’t make personal decisions that contribute to achieving the opposite.

    And if you genuinely believe that the Government’s policies are going to achieve what they say they will, you wouldn’t have any reason to go private.

  • Helen Tedcastle 30th Jan '13 - 3:25pm

    Matthew Huntbach wrote: ” There is a simple solution to this. Nick Clegg should say “I recognise there is a conflict here – between my own ability to pay for extra privileges to ensure my children have a social advantage denied to most children in this country, and my political belief in equal opportunity and role as a politician in running the state education system which I believe is not for the likes of my children. Therefore, as I will not sacrifice my children’s future privilege for my career’s sake, I will sacrifice my career instead- I resign”.

    A brilliant post. I agree with every word. Clegg has allowed Gove to make wholesale changes to the curriculum in state schools and yet he still doesn’t have the confidence to send his own son to one of them.

    He has allowed Gove to create havoc and narrow the curriculum with little sustained resistance. Either he thinks these changes are good or he doesn’t. If he doesn’t why is he not fighting them ?

    The truth is, he knows he should have stopped Gove in 2010 but he chose not to in the interests of ‘coalition unity.’
    The fact that Gove’s ‘revolution’ is not even mentioned in the coalition agreement is a ‘minor detail’ apparently.

  • Helen Tedcastle. Well Said! I was going to post along the lines of your contribution. I have no need to – your have put it better than I could have done.

  • Helen Tedcastle 30th Jan '13 - 5:24pm

    @BigDave – Glad we agree.

    I regard the education ‘revolution’ as one of the biggest failures of this government and Lib Dem acquiescence as a disgrace. It will come back to bite Mr Clegg. ( I write in sorrow and in anger as a party member who believed in the coalition agreement but not the bits written in invisible ink).

  • nvelope2003 1st Feb '13 - 11:26am

    No one would care what school Nick Clegg or any other politician sent his children to if the political establishment did not continue to impose a failed comprehensive system on the country despite 76% ( 85% of those between 18 and 24) wanting the return of grammar schools. As we are supposed to be a democracy that should decide the issue and no amount of tinkering with fake Academies or Free Schools is going to make any real difference.

    Of course for the political elite comprehensive schools have been a roaring success because their expensively educated offspring no longer face much competition for jobs from state educated people since grammar schools were abolished. Arguing that comprehensive schools are fairer than selective schools can no longer be sustained because they are not fair to those with different aptitudes, particularly those with more practical abilities who are forced to pursue academic subjects for which they are not suited and take out their anger and frustration by bullying the academically minded children and disrupting their studies. I have been told this by almost all the people I have spoken to who attended comprehensives. If selective education is so bad why do the elite continue to use fee paying schools and why is Germany so much more successful than other European countries ?

    Those who talk about the percentage of grammar school children who receive free school meals seem to overlook the fact that the remaining grammar schools are in more prosperous areas . How many comprehensive school children who are in the more academic streams receive free school meals ?

    We have every right to criticise those in the elite who fail to use the systems they impose on the rest of the population although I accept that it would be just as unfair for Mr Clegg etc to spoil their own children’s chances of a decent education as it is for them to ruin the chances of everyone else’s children.

  • Julian Critchley 1st Feb '13 - 6:03pm

    @nvelope2003

    As with nearly all pro-grammar school posts, there’s a lot o errors in here.

    “Those who talk about the percentage of grammar school children who receive free school meals seem to overlook the fact that the remaining grammar schools are in more prosperous areas ”

    No, they’re not. Kent is a large county with some areas of major deprivation, for example. The fact that grammar schools have much lower FSM figures than comprehensives is because there is a direct correlation between socio-economic background and academic ability. It’s not becauser grammar schools happen to be in rich areas and take all the local kids.

    “How many comprehensive school children who are in the more academic streams receive free school meals ?”

    Usually a smaller percentage than are present in the school at large, and the bottom sets of a stream tend to have FSM heavily over-represented. I’m not sure what your point is, however ? This evidence merely confirms that the idea that grammar schools “rescue” bright working class kids from low expectation culture is a bogus one. Grammar schools take already able, already advantaged kids, and physically separate them from less able, less advantaged kids. Streaming does the same thing, except it happens within the same schools. It seems to me that as long as the students in question are achieving their potential, then it doesn’t matter if they’re in the same building as less able children. Unless, of course, what really drives the desire for grammar schools is a desire not for educational excellence (the evidence simply does not back this up), but for social exclusivity – in other words, keeping one’s nice middle class kids away from the nasty working class kids down the road. Which is, of course, what grammar schools have traditionally majored on.

    “despite 76% ( 85% of those between 18 and 24) wanting the return of grammar schools.”

    I’d be very interested to see this poll, who it was conducted by, where and what the question was. Because even in the heyday of grammar schools, the overwhelming majority of children did not attend them, and despite the often throwaway assertion by grammar school fans that somehow secondary moderns would be better for that majority of children, the fact is that they were absolutely rubbish, and most of our children left school in the 1950s with no qualifications at all. Results have, without any doubt at all, risen dramatically since the introduction of comprehensivisation.

    “If selective education is so bad why do the elite continue to use fee paying schools ”

    If you’re still asking this, then you haven’t read the thread above, and you’ve completely ignored the evidence presented. Private schools do not secure an educational outcome advantage for children – the evidence is very clear from value-added results. They DO secure a social advantage through networking : the traditional modus operandi of the British establishment.

    “and why is Germany so much more successful than other European countries ?”

    This is a whole separate thread, taking in industrial policy, financial policy, the role of the Bundesbank, post-war reconstruction, the quality of German politicians during the post-war period and a thousand other factors. None of which have anything to do with grammar schools v comprehensives.

    “I have been told this by almost all the people I have spoken to who attended comprehensives.”

    And here’s the problem. You’re looking at evidence, which contradicts your opinions, then choosing to ignore it in favour of anecdote which supports your opinions. Normally, I’d say that makes you a Tory !

    However, you can save yourself from Toryism by having one last go at the evidence, rather than ill-informed prejudice. Have a look at the following article. You might need to sign up for it. It’s published in that hotbed of radical leftwingery and egalitarianism, the Financial Times. It rather nails down the coffin lid on the idea that selection is the wonderful cure-all that its fans claim it to be.

    http://blogs.ft.com/ftdata/2013/01/28/grammar-school-myths/?

    Basically, grammar schools have no claim to greater academic success than comprehensives. They produce the same results, by and large, which those children would achieve if they were in comprehensives. At the same time, they have a major negative impact on poorer children. No benefits, but proven negatives. Should be a no-brainer. Set against that, they provide a sort of social exclusivity which excludes non-middle-class children. The same sort of service offered, for a price, in the private sector. I’m really surprised that there are members of the LibDems who think that principle is what our education system should be designed around.

  • jenny barnes 2nd Feb '13 - 8:59am

    The difficulty with this is that there are two quite different issues being conflated in Mr. Clegg’s choic of education for his children. One is structural. Let’s say that an educational system which somehow provides perfect equality of opportunity to every child would be a good idea. And there could, quite reasonably, be a LD policy to try to achieve this – we could call it social mobility or something – and as LD leader Mr. Clegg would work to get policies put in place to move in that direction. And the party could criticise him if he didn’t.
    Then we have the situation as it is, where the rich and privileged can buy considerable advantage for their children by buying private education. Whether or not he does so for his children changes nothing structural, all it does is put his children in the same position as the children of someone who is not rich and privileged. And why should he?

    An analogy would be an LD policy for much more public transport, and a leader who bought a nice car.

  • Old Codger Chris 3rd Feb '13 - 4:48pm

    Julian Critchley – I should have responded much sooner to your post of 29th Jan. I entirely agree that not all fee-paying schools are better than state schools (I was sent to a ropey fee-paying school myself!). I do think that all state schools should aim to be as good as the best in the private sector – and the best in the public sector come to that.

    “Best” doesn’t necessarily mean topping the league tables of course.

    I still think that Nick Clegg’s duty to his own family comes first. He obviously thinks – rightly or wrongly – that a fee-paying school will be best for his children.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Feb '13 - 11:01pm

    Old Codger

    I still think that Nick Clegg’s duty to his own family comes first. He obviously thinks – rightly or wrongly – that a fee-paying school will be best for his children

    Yes, it probably would – at the expense of the chances of other children whose parents can’t afford to pay the fees. That’s the issue.

    It’s like the MPs expenses situation. MPs could argue they were doing the best for their families by trying to claim as many expenses as they can, wouldn’t anyone do the same in that situation? That argument did NOT go down well with the public.

    I appreciate the genuine dilemma for Clegg – he’s someone who had the cash to push his children forward and get them into positions in life that they would not get into if they went to an ordinary state school. That goes against his personal support for equal opportunity, but when it comes to his kids, why should they suffer for his political principles? However, I think it WOULD look bad if he did that, it WOULD damage his party. So, what comes first, personal duty to kids to buy them privilege, or duty to the party which has chosen him to be leader not to do anything that would damage it? Well, it’s fine if he puts his kids first – only if he does so, the decent thing would be to recognise the damage done to the party and so resign his leadership position. I’m not saying stand down as an MP, and I think the personal sacrifice in going to the backbenches for the sake of his kids would be recognised as decent and so more than balance any resentment at what he had done or feeling it as hypocritical.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Feb '13 - 11:12pm

    jenny barnes

    An analogy would be an LD policy for much more public transport, and a leader who bought a nice car.

    A better analogy would be a LD leader who bought himself a nice foreign-made car from a company which had just closed its British operation and thrown a whole load of people out of work. It’s legal, and maybe the car is the best car for what he wants it for, but it would still look bad.

    Sorry, our country IS damaged by the fact we have too many people at the top who are really rather dim, who oughtn’t to be there, but are there because their parents were able to buy them hot-house education which made them look cleverer than they really were, gave them the manner and accent and contacts of those at the top which enable one to get effortlessly ahead. If one is part of that system, it’s hard to sacrifice one’s own children by refusing to buy them the advantage one had oneself from it. That’s why it would be better for us not to have leaders from that sort of background.

  • Old Codger Chris 4th Feb '13 - 9:31am

    Matthew Huntbach – “At the expense of the chances of other children whose parents can’t afford to pay the fees”.

    If Clegg had chosen a state school he would have been open to the criticism that this wealthy man was educating his children at the expense of taxpayers, most of whom are much less well off than he is. I would have defended him against that charge as well!

    We are supposed to be LIBERALS. Aren’t we?

  • nvelope2003 8th Feb '13 - 6:27pm

    @julian critchley
    The statistics seem inconclusive. Maybe the perceived unpopularity of comprehensive schools springs from the fact that they have been imposed by an arrogant governing elite whose children do not normally attend them. I have no objection to comprehensives in principle, just to the wholesale imposition of that system to the exclusion of other types of school throughout most of the country. It is a socialist system and as a Liberal I thought we were in favour of choice. The logical conclusion of the comprehensive system would be for everyone to be compelled to send their children to them and the nationalisation of independent schools or restricting them to foreign students to bring in money to the country..

    Most people live on hope. Some parents want to be able to hope their children will go to the grammar school. This is why over 60% in Richmond (Yorkshire) voted to retain the grammar school though many must have known that their children might not attend one. No more ballots were ever held after this.

    I have no intention of joining the Conservative Party but I am a bit unhappy at the transformation of the Liberal Democrats into a sort of non- union Labour “lite” party for middle class people who do not like Tories. When all parties favour the same policy then it is time to start questioning it.

    I know that the success of Germany cannot be attributed to the education system alone but it is one of the factors.

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