Today I read in the Guardian appalling news that is of particular relevance to my work in the Parliament. This is that some Tory MPs are pouncing upon research that is sneakily reintroducing the idea of ‘innate’ intelligence, which may have profound impact upon educational policy.
All previous studies suggest that success in school is overwhelmingly determined by a parent’s income – as early high-achievers from disadvantaged backgrounds are gradually overtaken by early poor-achievers from advantaged families. It turns out, however, that many Conservatives would like to argue that these findings are wrong and that the reason many children from poorer backgrounds do less well is as a result of their lower levels of intelligence…which just so happens to correspond with their family background.
This news is particularly concerning since political beliefs invariably impact upon policy and this can only indicate many Tories’ disregard for investment in education, predominantly in the early years, as a means of rectifying our entrenched social immobility in the UK. I myself have been deeply involved in the Parliament’s work on education, including writing a report that was overwhelmingly adopted by the Parliament that recognises the role played by socio-economic conditions in determining a child’s educational achievements, and promotes the vital role played by early years learning in tackling social immobility and disadvantage.
Our country remains one of the most socially immobile in the Western world. Under the current government this problem can only get worse. The Conservatives have already shown that education for the less privileged is not high up on their priority list.
Firstly there was the raising of tuition fees, then the mooted plans to allow the rich to buy extra university places which apparently was meant as a means of freeing up more spaces for those without the extra cash – an unlikely scenario to say the least. The Tories also slashed EMA, a vital and pioneering tool introduced by Labour which enabled and encouraged children from disadvantaged backgrounds to remain in education. Then there are the plans to “encourage competition” through non-state provision of education which in reality means increased manoeuvring ability for parents with the sharpest elbows.
That some Tories embrace these ideas, therefore, is not particularly surprising but even for a government composed of the most privileged and out of touch members of our society such views and decisions cannot fail to appal. Altogether it is eminently clear that the Conservatives consider education to only be of merit to the elite and middle classes. I personally am glad that the EU is doing its part to push all Europe along the right track for educational provision but it is a shame to our country that our government takes such a shamelessly elitist line on that which is meant to be a right for all citizens.