Friday, 10 December 2010

Reactionary views in private

On a very depressing day for everyone who cares about education, I thought I'd share a bit of forthcoming research. Don't get too excited, eh.

Chapter ten of my new book, Governing Post-War Britain, concerns Labour's attempt to set up 'Educational Priority Areas' in 1968-70, and their fate in the 1970s. The idea was to pump more money into 'deprived' areas - a concept which ran into quite a few tanktraps, as you can imagine.

Any, and with copyright of course still residing in the National Archives, here's what one top civil servant (the Second Secretary in charge of schools, no less) privately thought of this effort:

There are plenty of people who do less well in school and in later life than other people, not because they are black, or female, or live in Balsall Heath, or have parents who will not let them speak at mealtimes,… but because they actually are stupid, or nasty, or hopeless. But the will of the wisp of equality of educational opportunity and subsequent achievement in later life is obviously irresistibly attractive to the middle class sociologist.

That's what a lot of people do actually think of their fellow citizens. We should all bear this in mind when we hear some of the constant weasel words about 'access', 'opportunity' and 'widening participation'. What some people really think behind the scenes is different from what they say in public.