Forcing her way back on to the fringes of relevance yesterday came the all too familiar figure of self-promotion specialist Julia Hartley Brewer, as ever keener than everyone else put together to promote Herself Personally Now. Sadly, the subject on which she decided to pontificate was education, an area on which she talks ad infinitum, and indeed ad nauseam, but where in reality she knows very little.
We know who you are, thanks
Ms Hartley Dooda had, like so many of the Press and Pundit Establishment, taken grave exception to the provocation by Owen Jones which suggested of the media class that “much of it is a cult. Afflicted by a suffocating groupthink, intolerant of critics, hounds internal dissenters, full of people who made it because of connections and/or personal background rather than merit”. She wasn’t having any of that, thank you.
So she announced to anyone not yet asleep that “I didn’t go to Oxford because I was privileged. I went to Oxford because I was clever”. Well, yes, past tense and all that. What happened in the interim can only be guessed. But there was more.
“A lot of lefty Labour types seem very upset about this tweet. If I didn’t get into a top uni because I was privileged or privately educated then what other explanation would they think *was* acceptable? Did I get in by accident?” Ooh, don’t tempt me [thinks] Toby Young, Louise Mensch, London’s formerly very occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, accident, well, best keep schtum about that one.
Still, let’s not be too cynical - yet - about Ms Hartley Dooda’s exposition of alleged knowledge. Let her dig herself in a little deeper. “If you’re *genuinely* angry about how few working class kids get into top universities & top professions, as I am, then you should support the expansion of grammar schools so poorer kids can get the high quality academic education they need to get into those institutions”.
Grammar Schools, eh? And why should anyone advocate for more grammar schools? As if you need to guess. “Otherwise, you’re just a class warfare bullsh*tter who doesn’t really want to do anything to help those kids. You’d rather keep them ‘in their place’ so you can keep complaining about The System. Why not change that system instead?”
And with that, she continued the superior tone as she signed off “It’s way past my bedtime. Night night all. Please join me for my no nonsense @talkradio breakfast show from 6.30am to 10am tomorrow when, frankly, we’ll be talking a lot more sense than most of the people on here”. So let’s see how much sense she was talking on Grammar Schools.
Kent still has grammar schools. So BBC Newsnight’s Chris Cook compared the county’s GCSE successes with the national average, to give us an idea of what we might expect. And in Kent, pupils from the most well-off families get GCSE grades better than the national average. But for the poorest, they do worse. In fact, around half the population in Kent does worse than the national average.
Yes, Julia Hartley Dooda was talking out of the back of her neck once more. Perhaps, whisper it quietly, she isn’t as clever as she thinks she is. No surprise there, then.
It wasn't the "back of her neck" she was talking out of. It was the other end.
Someone should tell her to fart and give us a clue which of hers is which. Oxford should at least have taught her that.
I went to a four form entry grammar school. 30 pupils in each class = 120 pupils admitted each year.
Miraculously exactly 120 pupils passed our local 11+ each year. And whatever method of selection - the number passing would have been the same.
There's also this more recent study that shows slective schools make no academic difference:
I the 1990s I applied to Oxford to read law. I attended a bog standard comprehensive and FE college. In those days you had to pass an entrance exam and interview, and if successful your offer was ridiculously low - 2 E grades or so. Basically pass the test and you're in.
I got to the interview stage. I was the only state school kid there. The rest were from public schools, a few from Singapore and Hong Kong. All doubtless intelligent and generally pleasant, but I was clearly not 'one of them'. They inhabited a world I just didn't get, and they had no connection to me, the kid from Dudley. One (from Eton IIRC) curiously and cautiously asked me if I was a drug dealer. And if so, could I score him some stuff?
I flunked the interview. Lack of confidence. Lack of coaching. But what I took away was that for those 2 days in Oxford I was made to really know my place.
Public schools don't turn out bright kids as a matter of course. What they do turn out are kids with confidence, connections, and the certainty that it's their role to run things. And how to excel in situations such as Oxford entrance interviews.
AS a former resident of Kent who had several teacher friends they all used to say that the problem with the Grammar Schools was that if your parents couldn't afford the (often) years of private tuition to pass the 11+ then you were never going to pass. There was also very often the comment that you could tell within the first month those who had been tutored beyond their ability, but were nevertheless taking up a place that should have gone to a brighter - and almost inevitably of lower social standing - student instead!
And the damage that Grammar Schools do to the morale of those who fail to get into them is immense as well. It is no accident that there have been times when Kent has had more Ofsted failing schools than anywhere else. The high school pupils are totally demotivated by their second class citizen status! If JHB wants to change the system she should be campaigning for more money for education, not bolstering those already privileged as Grammar Schools do!
Just consider this: without Twitter we wouldn't have an insight into the thoughts of Julia Hartley-Brewer, (whoever she might be). Doesn't bear thinking about really.
Living virtually next door to a Grammar School, there's a whole year dedicated to getting the boys top grades in GCSEs. They teach the boys how to pass the interviews for Oxbridge.
You can get anyone to pass any exam with enough time and coaching.
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