You know education in Britain is in trouble when you have someone as ignorant and obnoxious as Ed Balls in charge of it. Balls launched an astonishingly bigoted and narrow-minded blast at grammar schools yesterday which is born out of his undiluted Marxism and socialist hatred of success.
He said the existence of the 11-plus in some areas created a damaging two-tier system in which many children fell behind.
Let's start with the blindingly obvious. If the children who don't make it into grammar schools fall behind, that is the failure of the schools they do go to and not the fault of the grammar schools. As education is his responsibility then that means it is ultimately HIS fault.
Secondly, if there is a part of education that is working and a part that isn't - you don't sort out the problem by abolishing the working part. The idea of abolishing grammars because of the failure of the secondary moderns is akin to an aircraft manufacturer chucking out a great airframe but keeping the dodgy engine which repeatedly broke down.
As for the "two-tier" system - if Balls thinks all we have are two tiers in our education system then he is utterly stupid and really shouldn't be left in charge of a sharp instrument let alone a major state ministry. We have multiple tiers in education which are mostly dependent on where you live and how much money you have. In a nutshell the tiers are these ....
Public (fee paying) schools
Above average comprehensives
Bog standard comprehensives
Bloody awful comprehensives
Desperately bad comprehensives
Absolutely appalling comprehensives
Last resort comprehensives
In a speech to headteachers, Mr Balls insisted those who missed out on grammar school places were made to feel like they had "already failed" at the age of 11.
That alone is a questionable statement, but if it is true then Balls really needs to ask himself why they feel like they have failed. The 11 plus is not a qualification - there is no failure attached to it. The simple point of the 11 plus is to discern which pupils are suited to studying academic subjects and which pupils would be better off with vocational studies.
That way you can make school interesting for the pupils that go there. They won't get bored and won't truant so much, but if you force pupils to go to schools for which they are totally unsuited you will guarantee high levels of truancy - as we see in Britain today.
If kids feel like they are "failing" then that is the fault of government presentation - not of the 11 plus itself. It is entirely due to socialist rhetoric over the last 50 years which has over-hyped the "selection" that kids now feel like they have "failed". That wasn't the case in my day where many of my peers wanted to go to secondary modern to learn skills they would not have learned in grammar school.
Grammar schools also ensured that bright kids, regardless of how poor they were or what area they lived in, could progress in academia. That doesn't happen now outside of grammar school areas. If you're a bright kid on a sink estate served by one of those appallingly bad comprehensives you will go there and receive an appallingly bad education. End of story.
Besides, his government introduced SATS which test kids at far earlier ages than the 11 plus - do kids feel like they have failed with that? Balls also misses the point that failure is part of life - we all fail at something somewhere along the line (Balls should know that better than anyone!).
At what point in life is it OK for someone to understand that it is OK to fail - it's just not OK not to try?