M'learned friend on social mobility
Saturday, July 25, 2009
The vicious ideology of our Leftist establishment is denying opportunity to millions. Both my learned friend and I would be malcontents in unsatisfying jobs if the world had been ordered as it is now when we were young. Labour - and the Leftist establishment in education - are the greatest enemies of the educational aspirations of working people. Such people need a champion now and - if he is an Old Etonian and former member of the Bullingdon Club - so what? Step forward Mr Cameron. Give the lie to Milburn. Not for the sake of your fellow Etonians, but for all the hundreds of thousands of would-be Nigel Tozzi QCs and Tom Paines mired helplessly in the swamps of our education system.
I was called to the Bar 29 years ago. My mother was a dinner lady; my father was a door to door collection agent for an insurance company. No one in my family had ever been to University.
I was given an opportunity to "realise aspirations", to quote Alan Milburn, as a result of receiving a grammar school education, a full local authority grant that enabled me to go to university and to study for the Bar, and scholarships from Gray's Inn that covered the cost of my training. Of these three facilitators, only the scholarships from Gray's Inn remain.
The professions cannot ensure greater social mobility on their own. We cannot re-educate those who have failed to receive a sufficiently challenging secondary education or who, in many cases, lack basic literacy and numeracy skills. We cannot fund every aspiring lawyer through university.
The root causes for the depressing statistics are government policy towards grammar schools and selective education, and the replacement of local authority grants with loans. It is unfortunate, but not altogether surprising, that a government committee chaired by Mr Milburn could not bring itself to be honest about this.