Thursday, March 11, 2010

Balls' Commons gaffe forces apology

The TimesOnline was two days ago reporting the recent spat between Michael Gove, the shadow education secretary, and Ed Balls, the education secretary, at Education Questions in the House of Commons.
The point at issue was why, according to Michael Gove, in a year, only forty-five out of a possible eighty thousand pupils eligible for free school meals had gone on to study at Oxford or Cambridge. 'Why,' demanded Gove, 'were so many poor children being failed by Labour?'
Ed Balls was having none of it and retorted that the shadow secretary was utterly wrong and needed to do his homework better. After that, it didn't get any better.
Who was right? Well, as was conceded on yesterday's Radio 4 Today programme and, as reported by some of the blogs today (See Guy Fawkes' blog posting 'Making the Most of a Rare Treat'), Balls had to take a very large helping of a free slice of humble pie and admit that he was wrong. Gove had already given him an F and hoped he'd go and stand in the corner.
The tragedy is that while these two and their proxies fiddle to their parliamentary parties, huge numbers of poor children are being failed. The execrable Balls drones on about the 'progress' his government have made in raising educational standards since 1997, much of which is highly dubious and, where it has been true, has not in the least been cost effective.
Meanwhile, the Tory party seems unable to take advantage of the fact. According to a Newsnight programme on BBC 2, the 'free schools' Swedish model of schooling the Conservatives want to adopt is not understood by the public.
The truth is that, at primary level at least, people want a local school that teaches their children to read, write and perform basic maths. Sadly, none of the three major parties seem to understand this, still less try to make sure it happens.

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