The comprehensive generation breaks through

Fiona Millar's picture
Very much looking forward to Ed Miliband's conference speech this afternoon. I have read the early reports of what he will say and picked up the sneering comments from some commentators and others in response to his description of his comprehensive school days at Haverstock School in Camden, where I live.

I think this bit of his speech matters a  lot. We all have our characters formed by our schooldays to a certain extent so, as a potential Prime Minister, it is legitimate for him to spell out crucial formative influences.

In fact he is probably the only possible future PM we have ever had who has been to  a comprehensive school. I believe all previous PMs who were state educated went to grammar schools.

And Ed is symbolic of the comprehensive generation that is now breaking through.  The comprehensive revolution got going in earnest in the 1970s and the young people educated then and in the subsequent three decades are starting to make their mark. Think of the great Olympians Mo Farrah, Jess Ennis and Bradley Wiggins, Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham, even new schools minister Elizabeth Truss.

When I look at my own children and their friends I can see that the myth of the downtrodden, low achieving comp school pupils, perpetrated by the media, is just that  - a myth. Ed Miliband is right to stand up for all those young people who are following in his wake  and have had  their characters formed not by Eton or Harrow, but by their local schools. Their time has come and it is long overdue.

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Ricky-Tarr's picture
Tue, 02/10/2012 - 11:26

I haven't read Ed Miliband's speech yet, but I think he should be careful.

There are at least 75 Tory MPs who went to comprehensives (more than those from grammar schools). In most cases - people like Mark Pritchard and Paul Uppal spring to mind - they were 'proper comps', as opposed to places fahionable among Marxist academics.

Pritchard, indeed, spent his early years in an orphanage before being fostered by a family living in a council house.

Such class distinctions will only matter if Ed, who inherited millions from his dad's estate, starts trying to play the 'pleb' card.

Roll on the academy generation.......

Patrick Hadley's picture
Tue, 02/10/2012 - 12:59

Can you back up your claim that Ed Miliband "inherited millions from his dad's estate"? Ralph Miliband died in 1994 and left an estate valued at £394,000, (basically the family home in Primrose Hill) to his widow Marion, who is still alive. Marion Miliband gave a 20% share in the ownership of the house to Ed shortly afterwards.

Tom's picture
Tue, 02/10/2012 - 13:26

What do you mean by 'proper comps', incidentally? To an extent, I think you could argue that somewhere like Haverstock is more of a 'proper comp' than many, precisely because it's 'fashionable among Marxist academics' - that is, it's truly comprehensive, rather than missing a large slice of the best supported or most able students because they're going off to grammars and independent schools.

Debbie Humphry's picture
Thu, 04/10/2012 - 10:25

Haverstock school is local to me - I don't know what it was like then, but now it is a school predominantly with working-class pupils. It is definitely not fashionable amongst the middle-classes - Marxist (if only there were some) or otherwise. It is a school that has worked very hard to be an improving school, and now has an excellent record particularly for encouraging enterprise. Contrary to the image some middle-class people have of Chalk Farm, it is a mixed-class area with many many working-class people living there - and by working-class I mean people living on very low incomes - struggling to survive in the face of the horrendous cuts. I think Ed at least has some understanding of these kind of struggles . Of course going to a comprehensive does not make you automatically sympathetic to these struggles, but it is valid for him to say that that is what he took out of it personally if that was his experience.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Tue, 02/10/2012 - 14:18

"Millions" is admittedly over the top. But as well as his stake in the family home in Edis St, Ed also made money from developing a flat in the upper half of what had been his grandmother's house in Chalcot Square (David had the downstairs flat). When David bought Ed out of Edis St, Ed then sold Chalcot Sq and bought a property in the next street, which he soon after sold for around three quarters of a million. Assuming that he pooled this money with Justine's capital to purchase the £1.6m property he now lives in, then the contribution to his present net worth from the family's canny (and possibly death-tax avoiding) property dispositions can't be far shy of £1m.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Tue, 02/10/2012 - 14:23

I wonder if Ed remembered to mention attending the same primary school as ...... Boris Johnson?

Fiona McWilliam's picture
Tue, 29/10/2013 - 09:05

His personal wealth his surely his business and it seems weird that you lot seem to know so much about it. Love him or loathe him, Ed Miliband was educated, as I was, at a comprehensive school. Comprehensive schools have long been seen to work well (for children from all backgrounds) in areas without (or with fewer) selective schools to "cream off" the brightest. I've no problem with rich people privately educating their offspring outside the state system, but selective state education has a terrible impact on the vast majority of this country's children.

Rod McKie's picture
Tue, 02/10/2012 - 13:30

I think there's a world of difference between Ed Milliband's upbringing, and kids who go to comprehensive schools on sink-estates because they don't have any choice or any other option. Many of those kids return home to houses with no library of books, and no handy Professor and his academic chums for homework help and extra-tuition. The only reason Ed didn't go to Eton was because his parents were idealogically against sending him, not becausse the family couldn't afford it. Ed had no choice in the matter, so why are we supposed to think his deigning to go to the same god-awful school as some of the rest of us had to attend is somehow heroic?

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Tue, 02/10/2012 - 13:47

"kids who go to comprehensive schools on sink-estates because they don’t have any choice or any other option"
Like me.

"Many of those kids return home to houses with no library of books"
So? the library was only down the road in Forest Hall. I used to walk there every weekend. I seem to remember I read a lot of Enid Blyton and Nancy Drew. Nowt decent you might reasonably say but it wasn't because the books weren't there - it was because I wasn't interested.

"no handy Professor and his academic chums for homework help and extra-tuition." I don't ever remember getting any help with my homework and I think I only had about two sessions of extra tuition ever - for my step papers - but they were arranged through school and were nothing to do with my parents. Although I suspect both parents having PhDs and big sis being at Oxford didn't do me any any harm. :-)

I think seeing life as it was full on has helped me understand important aspects of our recent history and pf society. It raised a lot of questions in my mind which it's taken me decades to understand and answer and I don't think that's been time wasted. I don't think its' heroic (!!!) I just think it's relevant to understanding aspects of society. I wouldn't write off people who hand't done it though - but I'd like to see a fair few of them in the mix of politicians at the top. I don't want 'them and us' politicians - I want to see people who can be genuinely at ease with and understand people from all areas of society as I can.

I'm not labour by the way.

Debbie Humphry's picture
Thu, 04/10/2012 - 10:31

No-one is claiming it is heroic, it simply gave him a particular kind of experience that helped shape who he is, what he believes in and what he is able to understand better. Yes he was privileged of course, but this does not negate his school experience and what he personally took from it, and as long as his experience leads him to better redress the massive inequalities between the privileged and the unprivileged then that is, in my view, a valid position.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Tue, 02/10/2012 - 15:20

Oh dear.

It seems Ed told the party conference:

"My school taught us a lot more than just how to pass exams: it taught people how to get on with each other, whoever they are and wherever they were from."

I doubt it will be long before the media catch up with Kevin Mustafa again.

Mr Mustafa, 40, who is now a gardener, was one of Mr Miliband’s classmates from 1981 to 1986.

He said.......

‘He called me a Turkish b*****d so I hit him. I gave my reasons as to why I did it but was dismissed and I was suspended for three days.’

Recalling their school days, Mr Mustafa, from Barnet, North London, claimed the young Ed Miliband ‘was a very stuck-up person looking down his nose at everybody’.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Tue, 02/10/2012 - 17:16

Blimey - Ed went to the same school as Tulisa!!!!

I have it on delightfully credible report that Gove wore a boater to school to try and inspire his peers to raise their standards of behaviour.

I wonder how Mr Mustafa would have reacted to that...... :-)

Ben Taylor's picture
Tue, 02/10/2012 - 18:30

Well this is a fair enough account of what is judged to be a success of instances of comprehensive schooling. I hope therefore that you can also accept the narrative and actions of those who don't agree and want different schools, when they particularly find that the instances of their local schools are not satisfactory, even if this is 'only' a subjective judgement of a child or their parent.

How many poor people living with poor schools would take the chance of Harrow or Eton over a local comprehensive, particularly when they experience problems of poor academic targets, savage behaviour and lack of leadership?

I look forward to Ed empowering those who are not as fortunate as him and look forward to hearing a detailed view of how this will happen, including detailing his party's development of the legacy of the academy and the specific implementation of the free school variety of this type of school.

agov's picture
Wed, 03/10/2012 - 08:39

When I lived in that area Haverstock was usually regarded as a secondary modern dump. I wanted to go there, but didn't.

Just goes to show how community schools can be improved beyond recognition. But then they are not run by edu-businesses keen on handing out vast rewards to their executives.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Wed, 03/10/2012 - 09:56

Just goes to show how community schools can be improved beyond recognition.

Huh? Haverstock? Its last three years GCSE results: 50%, 37%, 38%.

Just keeping its head above floor level. And > ten points below its LA average.

Fiona Millar's picture
Wed, 03/10/2012 - 15:06

Haverstock is a a hard working improving school with an excellent head teacher. You like to quote Ofsted so I suggest you read their latest report. However like many other schools, its English GCSE results were stolen this year by a combination of political interference from your boss Michael Gove, and incompetence on the part of Ofqual and the exam boards. This has caused its GCSE results including E and M to go down rather than up. This has also affected many academy schools, which is why Camden Council is joining forces with several chains and other local authorities to seek a judicial review that might right this injustice.
It really is a magnificent feat on the part of your political leaders to have alienated so many parents, pupils, governors , heads and schools from every sector in one swoop. If it weren't for the devastating effect this has had on the kids concerned, and the morale of the schools involved, I would say keep going because eventually no one at all ( who has an interest in state education) will want to vote for you. And believe me, that is a helluva lot of people.

Debbie Humphry's picture
Thu, 04/10/2012 - 10:35

Gosh - maybe the parents of those children couldn't afford private tuition then!!! Looking at results without taking any account of the unequal situations of those attending them is absurd, if not immoral!

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 04/10/2012 - 09:09

.....except that, as you know full well Fiona, the 'political interference' leading to this year's GCSE injustices was not on the part of Michael Gove but of the previous Labour government.

It was Labour who established Ofqual with a statutory remit to end grade inflation.

It was Labour who specified the particular technique (which comes close in some circumstances to norm referencing) and began phasing it in.

But if Ed Balls and Co are now giggling with delight about how their ever-so-clever time bomb went off, once the appropriate papers are....ahem....'leaked', they will surely reap the political punishment due.

Fiona Millar's picture
Thu, 04/10/2012 - 10:43

You are on the defensive now! Everyone knows Gove either gave Ofqual a nod and a wink, or even a direct instruction, to do this. Why won't they release all the correspondence between the regulator and DFE?! Must be galling to see Labour so united and doing well and the Coalition/Tories so divided. Even Cameron's and Goves mates are turning against them for being so chaotic and unstrategic. Definitely time for a change.

Guest's picture
Wed, 03/10/2012 - 16:26

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 04/10/2012 - 10:56

Everyone knows Gove either gave Ofqual a nod and a wink, or even a direct instruction, to do this.

We have had the director of Ofqual 'on oath' before a select committee testifying that there was no instruction, no nod and no wink.

Ofqual is an independent regulator established by Parliament. Had Gove tried to tell them what to do, you would have been the first to condemn such political interference.

As for Labour taking its cues from Disraeli........ well, it's a start. But I doubt the public will think it's sincere.

Fiona Millar's picture
Thu, 04/10/2012 - 11:47

I don't think there are oaths at Select Committees, although misleading Parliament is a serious offence. Everyone knew that M Gove wanted to end what he sees as grade inflation. Ofqual didn't have to look very far to see the evidence of that.

Mind you it will be something to behold when Gove condemns himself. I notice today that he is justifying his rushed reform of GCSEs ( against criticism from Select Committee Chair Graham Stuart) on the grounds that everyone knows the system is in chaos and needs urgent reform.

Chaos caused M Gove in his careless briefing of the Daily Mail and fiddling with hard working pupils' exam results.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 04/10/2012 - 11:56

I don’t think there are oaths at Select Committees...

No, that's why I put 'on oath' in inverted commas, Fiona. I thought you'd get that.... but hey-ho...

Everyone knew that M Gove wanted to end what he sees as grade inflation

Yes, but that's rather like saying everyone knew that M Gove wanted an end to starvation or deaths from cholera.

I think you'll find pretty well everyone is against grade-inflation. I can't think of anyone saying they're in favour of it. Not even the Labour front bench.

Fiona Millar's picture
Thu, 04/10/2012 - 18:56

Good - I am glad that we have agreed Ofqual were under no legal obligation to be completely open at the Select Committee.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Thu, 04/10/2012 - 11:20

"Ofqual is an independent regulator established by Parliament"

So is Ofsted.

It sounds to me like you're getting more and more confident that Gove has managed to get all the relevant emails deleted this time Ricky - so can we assume the relevant freedom of information requests to which Fiona seems to be referring will now come back squeaky clean? It is such a good idea to employ yes men, spin doctors and 'comms people' rather than anyone who actually understands education.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 04/10/2012 - 11:42

Sir Michael Wilshaw understands education.

Chris Wormald understands education.

As for your Downhills link....... why don't you read it? It actually demolishes your innuendo, rather than supporting it.

You will see that far from using nods and winks or exerting under the counter political pressure, in the case of Downhills the SoS invoked a statutory power in a formal way.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Thu, 04/10/2012 - 20:39

"Sir Michael Wilshaw understands education."
Did you read his article in the RSA summer magazine? It was deluded. Not that I'd expect you to be able to tell Ricky.

"As for your Downhills link……. why don’t you read it? It actually demolishes your innuendo, rather than supporting it."
My direct accusation relates to the fact that a regulator should be independent of government. The evidence couldn't be more damning.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Fri, 05/10/2012 - 17:40

Fiona - just some feedback on how Labour are doing in education at the minute which they can take or leave.

In general both Stephen and Kevin are speaking well. They give balanced and reflective comments and are out and about doing a lot of listening. I think it's great they've got Tim Brighouse on board.

But I'm rather concerned about this:

The first thing that strikes me about it is that it hits in hard with the emphasis on the schools in the most deprived areas. We've recently had 13 years of labour government during which time all the policy emphasis was on the schools in the most deprived areas. This suffocated policy and prevented normal schools being able to do things they really needed to do. Labour realised this in their last few years and started policies to rectify the problem but then they were all cancelled. Hence policy which goes back to that dynamic will not be popular. It's fine to say to the sibling of a disabled child - I'm going to ignore you while I focus on your sibling for a while but it's understandable that that message isn't going to be particularly popular 15 years later when all the other child got was a couple of years of the parent promising they would pay them some attention and then not bothering to.

If Labour wants to focus on schools in the most deprived areas they need to reassure people that normal schools will not be neglected again. So they should reverse the order of their message in this article and they should reassure people that the most deprived areas stuff will not suffocate normal policy.

The 'enormous' financial carrot to get people to work in these schools is not a great idea. Don't bribe them - support them so to the extent that they can live and thrive professionally. Remember all the RSA animate videos about incentivisation?

The stuff about colleges of excellence and all that needs to be looked at again in the light of modern technology. We need online discussion and resources. Teachers TV but in the modern interactive age. Collaborative networks. Build from the hubs we've got and plug the gaps. This needs to be about people on the front line and what they want and need - not about a new building the vast majority of people will never get to. I've been working with the US Dept Ed. on their programs for building teacher networks and I'm happy to chat and share with anyone who wants to know.

We certainly need Ofsted sorted out. It's really easy policywise but will take a coherent degree of practical implementation. Hopefully we'll get some way with that during this parliament yet. I know Steven is aware of some of the issues and I'm happy to explain and explore them in detail with anyone who want to know more.

But beyond that we really do need to move towards direct accreditation with professional oversight - building comprehensive systems of formative assessment which lead directly to accreditation rather than completely dislocating formative and summative assessment as happens at present. The reasons the two have been separate are mainly practical ones but technology has moved on and companies such as TLM have bridged the gap and are properly Ofqual accredited. But we need policy to be right to move further in that direction. They should also look at the Mod Bacc rather than the technical bacc. because it understand the future....

FJ Murphy's picture
Sun, 07/10/2012 - 13:15

Edward Miliband's background is hardly normal: Marxist sociology professor as father, Oxford, LSE, Harvard, internship with Tony Benn, special advisor to Gordon Brown......
I am interested in his policies, not his background. What are they?

FJ Murphy's picture
Sun, 07/10/2012 - 13:18

James Callaghan was state educated but did not go to a grammar school.

agov's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 10:27

Really? I thought he went to Portsmouth Northern Grammar School for Boys.

FJ Murphy's picture
Sun, 07/10/2012 - 13:20

I cannot resist adding that Ed Balls was sent to an independent school by his father, who was campaigning against grammar schools in Norfolk. Typical Labour hypocrisy (on the part of Balls senior, not the son).

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Mon, 08/10/2012 - 18:13

Ed Balls's father taught at Eton.

FJ Murphy's picture
Mon, 08/10/2012 - 20:19

Like Diane Abbott who attacked Blair for sending sons to a Catholic state school, then sent her son to the expensive City of London Boys' School, having said local schools in Hackney were not suitable. Happy to draw the salary as MP for Hackney, but not happy to allow her son to mix with the locals at a local school.

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