Attacks on state education are getting me down

H & F Parent's picture
I was fed up to find yet another diatribe against state education online this morning. I'll allow you to guess the source of the following quotations:

"I noticed that several schools are not academically rigorous, and that their emphasis is on skill rather than real subjects."

"If kids are poor, or come from a chaotic background, they are not considered deserving of good quality education."

"As a result, most children in state secondary schools learn nothing."

It is of course, Toby Young. His interview appears on the English pages of an Italian website.

Nothing too surprising or original in his views, certainly. But depressing to see them again all the same.

There were a couple of things which really piqued my interest in that interview.

Firstly, the man who is on record as saying here "Being an environmentalist, like being Catholic, is compatible with a limitless degree of hypocrisy," he appears to be undergoing something of a Pauline conversion. He now says, "In such an ideological outlook, I am convinced that religious belief can be a true bulwark against ideology and the like."

And more interesting still, he says, "Religious people support the idea of free education, and the principle of the Anglican school nearby gave us invaluable help. I also remember that this is one of the points that the Holy Father stressed with special attention."

Did he really use the phrase "Holy Father"? Is this the influence of arch-Catholic John McIntosh on this free school steering board?

And, which C of E school head in Hammersmith gave Toby Young such invaluable help? WLFS is avowedly non-denominational, I thought.

Prime candidate would be Burlington Danes Academy I guess*. Whichever headteacher was kind enough to spend time with Toby Young and his fellows, good on them. Christians reaching out to the needy and all that.

* Other C of E schools "nearby" include:

Lady Margaret
St Paul's Primary
All Saints Primary
St Stephen's Primary
St Peter's Primary.
Share on Twitter Share on Facebook

Be notified by email of each new post.


Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 09/04/2011 - 16:12

So "most children in state secondary schools learn nothing". What a daft statement. Sorry to be boring - I'm getting rather tired of repeating OECD stats, but the PISA 2009 figures showed that UK students were at the OECD average for English and Maths, and above-average for Science. If UK state school students learn nothing then it follows that the OECD average pupil also learns nothing since the UK is average (and above average in Science - it's worth repeating - so UK pupils must be learning something).

The article also contained the quote: “In history courses you are often taught three topics: Henry VIII, Hitler, Martin Luther King to teach that feudalism was wrong, and that racism is wrong.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought feudalism had passed before the age of Hitler and Martin Luther King. And what is improper about teaching that racism is wrong?

Andy Smithers's picture
Sun, 10/04/2011 - 07:36

H and F Parent, trawling Italian websites in order to attempt to undermine a local school. how sad is that?

H & F Parent's picture
Sun, 10/04/2011 - 14:54

I don't see any attempt to undermine a local school. What I see is another attempt to undermine state education.

Allan Beavis's picture
Sun, 10/04/2011 - 17:17

Andy - there is nothing wrong with Italian websites but I agree with you that it is a bit pathetic for Mr. Young to have to go outside the UK to denigrate LA maintained schools.

georgina emmanuel's picture
Mon, 11/04/2011 - 07:59

Toby, I have not seen the Italian website, but please can you quote the schools where teachers and heads do not bother to provide a good quality education for the 'undeserving poor' or those from a chaotic background?

Like H & F parent, I'm getting utterly sick of the constant disparaging remarks about all who teach in state schools.

You want a private education for your children that you do not have to pay for. Fine. I think all of us would love to provide the gold standard of education for all children. It is something most people who write to this site seem to have in common, no matter what their political/educational affiliations.

State education has many short comings. I, for one, absolutely hate the National Curriculum, the new E Bacc, KS2 tests, the demand for ridiculous targets, league tables and the like. I should love all pupils to have the broad, but academically rigorous education wih all the extras that independent schools offer. But this is desperately expensive so we do the best we can with what we have.

And there probably are a significant number of teachers out there in ALL schools including the independent sector, (and in all areas of professional life) who are 'jobs worths'. But from my very limited experience of teaching in the state sector, I have been literally stunned at the sheer love and dedication that goes into so many teachers' work. As I have said before on this site, I personally set nothing but the highest standards for all the pupils whom I teach. I have never given up on anyone. I teach pupils after hours, in the holidays and at my home. I even teach some of the parents - anything, if it means the pupils can eventually get to university and have a future. I work with ethnic minority pupils and English additional language pupils some of whom have been rejected from schools because they are not deemed to be capable of getting the gold standard of five GCSE A - C grades on which all schools are judged.

If you want to write these kind of negive, 'all-ism' statements please ensure that you accept in your school some of the toughest apparently 'no hoper' pupils who come from appalling backgrounds, arrive in schools with their own huge anger issues, who are totally disengaged, have had no prior education, speak no English.. and on and on..and then show us .. please.. their brilliant results. Then you have my full support for any kind of school you wish to set up in the future.

Toby Young's picture
Mon, 11/04/2011 - 15:21

Another day, another attack on the WLFS – or is it just me you're obsessed with? It's as if the LSN employs a team of dedicated stalkers who trawl the Internet day and night to search for excuses to bash this project. Have you really got nothing better to do? It's getting to be a bit sad.

Why don't you devote your energies to improving local schools or setting up taxpayer-funded, academically rigorous schools that are accessible to all, regardless of income, ability or faith? You'd be surprised by how close you can get to your ideal school within the state sector, Georgina, if you're prepared to sacrifice some of those "extras". Plenty of outstanding state schools show it can be done. You're welcome to come and visit us once we're open in September to see how we're hoping to do it.

For the record, I did not say that a majority of children at state schools learn nothing. I gave an interview to an Italian journalist a few weeks ago and I can only assume that she wrote up the interview in Italian and it was then translated back into English – probably by a computer programme. However, I stand by my remarks about religious belief being a bulwark against ideology. The problem with 90% of the posters on this site is that you've allowed yourselves to be captured by the ideology of the Big State and that's why you devote so much energy to attacking anyone who challenges the state monopoly over taxpayer-funded education.

Toby Young's picture
Mon, 11/04/2011 - 15:23

One last point, H & F parent. I at least have the courage not to hide behind the cloak of anonymity.

W Smith's picture
Mon, 11/04/2011 - 17:29

Good question from Toby -
Why don't you devote your energies to improving local schools.....?
Why don't you Toby? - could prove to be even more beneficial than adding another tier of schooling into the mix.
A fairer and more intelligent way of spending taxpayers money perhaps? Or maybe you know better and have access to a never ending pot of taxpayer gold with enough money to go around so that every child gets the best!

H & F Parent's picture
Mon, 11/04/2011 - 17:51

Seems you haven't heard of Google alerts, Toby.

Seems, too, that you didn't request sight of the draft article from the journalist who interviewed you, which would have given you an opportunity to correct any errors.

You didn't jump in when the Guardian published the glaring error that your school was entering into a formal partnership with the London Oratory School despite the headmaster of that school denying it. Why didn't you demand a correction on that occasion?

You have no idea what people who write or comment on LSN do to support and improve their local schools. I am proud of what I do but don't feel the need to tell everyone about it.

And while we're talking about lights under bushels, let me address the cloak of anonymity barb. I can't speak for others, so this is my personal view.

I am intimidated by voices more powerful than my own - yours included Mr. Young. I'm a parent who cares about state education. Compared to you, I'm no-one.

I am amazed then, that you allow yourself to vent on LSN when all people here want, are answers.

Rosemary Mann's picture
Mon, 11/04/2011 - 22:13

Toby, there is no cloak of anonymity that would fit you. Metaphorically speaking of course.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 12/04/2011 - 16:20

The state comprises taxpayers. It is therefore the duty of the government to ensure taxpayers' money is spent wisely. The OECD in its latest document has said that money for education in the UK should be "better targeted" for disadvantaged children (page 85). Better targeting does not mean spending millions on the pet projects of a tiny minority or diverting money to fund academy conversions.

As a regular poster on this site I refrain from making sweeping statements about my fellow contributors. I have no idea what 90% of them feel. I am one voice struggling to draw attention to the hypocrisy and mendacity of the government and its policies towards education. I cannot use my fame to make it hard for ministers to "ignore" me.

However, I can write. And I will continue to do so.

Having said that, I am pleased to have the opportunity to debate with Toby Young. I wish Mr Gove would appear on this site so that I could argue with him.

georgina emmanuel's picture
Tue, 12/04/2011 - 19:24


I don't think you actually read what I wrote??

I am not attacking your new school at all. What I actually tried to say was that I wish you would stop making statements that villify all teachers in state schools for not bothering to provide an excellent education for the 'undeserving poor' and those from 'chaotic' households.

Please could you explain what you meant by that remark with examples.


Happi's picture
Mon, 18/04/2011 - 19:13

Why are you all so obsessed by Toby Young and the WLFS? It's going to have to abide by the same admission standards as other local schools and, if it fails to attract students, will close so you'll be proved right. What am I missing?

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 19/04/2011 - 15:03

What Happi has missed is the mis-match between the alleged comprehensive make-up of the West London Free School and its stated curriculum which is not suitable for all. A school cannot be fully-comprehensive if it is not providing a curriculum for all pupils.

That said, H&F parent was expressing his frustration with yet another attack on UK state education - an attack that was inaccurate and ill-informed (see my post above). This attack was made by a high-profile proponent of one of the first free schools so it is reasonable to criticise both the comments and the policies of the school especially as its ethos will be underpinned by the philosophy put forward in the article.

Add new comment

Already a member? Click here to log in before you comment. Or register with us.