CASE in the media

CASE in the media

Fighting for fair funding for schools,  The Hitchin Comet  26/7/18

My commitment to local lobbying for schools began with the inspirational Caroline Benn’s Campaign for Comprehensive Education.  I went on to join the movement to stop corporal punishment in Leicester schools (including the one where I was assistant principal).  But In the last eight years I began to find the energy and fun missing from local lobbying. Central government was draining local resources dry and for me lobbying local council meetings became as edifying as watching ferrets sleep in a sack.

This feeling of local powerlessness was halted by the recent surge in support for local parent action groups. 1300 have joined Hitchin Parents Against School Cuts in less than a month. In concert with HPASC the leader of the small Labour group of Hertfordshire county councillors persuaded councillors to vote unanimously to support the Hertfordshire headteachers’ campaign against school cuts.  

The controlling group of Conservative councillors now advocate lobbying Hertfordshire MPs (who at present support the education policies of this Conservative government).  With another unanimous council vote the Conservative councillors of the District Council agreed to follow.  An astonishingly swift and neat conclusion to the first round in our local lobbying campaign for fair funding in schools.

The non-party-political Campaign for State Education view supports the Hitchin heads:

The Government has depleted public assets and wasted a great deal of money.  The Public Accounts Committee has noted that Government policy has transferred land and buildings from the public realm to MATs and Free Schools.  Opening 422 Free Schools during the past seven years has cost about £3.6 billion with an estimated £900 million going to lawyers.”  

Good that our councillors support our headteachers.  I ask all councillors to look again at what their headteachers are saying:

The government seems to continue to squander millions of pounds on education where it suits them so they do not have the money to fund education fairly and reasonably.”

The fight for fair funding continues

Peter Thomson, Vice Chair Campaign for State Education

Technical and vocational education, The Guardian 20/6/18

Chiding Fiona Millar for her pessimism about the new T-levels, Anne Milton MP, Minister of State for Skills and Apprenticeships, assures us that "these exciting new qualifications...are here to stay" (letters, June 16th).  She bases her optimism upon two factors: the care taken with the design of T-levels and the fact that they will be part of a "holistic" approach to technical education which will include the establishment of institutes of technology "that will offer ... technical training to degree standard".

Leaving aside that some of this looks remarkably like a case of "back to the future", the Minister completely ignores the underlying reason for the failure of every single government attempt since 1945 to provide high quality technical and vocational education: namely, the historical role of academic qualifications in reinforcing social class hierarchy.  This became quite explicit in 2004, when the government rejected wholesale the excellent Tomlinson Report, because its recommendations would have given equal status in the Sixth Form to both academic and vocational studies by incorporating both into the same school-leaver's diploma.

As Fiona Millar points out in the article to which Ms Milton takes exception, vocational education in the UK has always been seen as essentially for "other people's children".  T-levels, however well designed, won't change this.

Michael Pyke, Campaign for State Education

Oxbridge: bucking the trend, or hogging the limelight? The Guardian 5/6/18

Our schools are facing unprecedented financial difficulties and many are in danger of becoming insolvent; the government cannot recruit enough teachers and those already recruited are leaving in droves; rates of mental illness among schoolchildren are soaring, yet The Guardian has devoted the bulk of over a week's education coverage to criticisms of Oxford and Cambridge.  Apparently these two universities are wealthy (gosh, who knew?), don't admit enough students from deprived and/or ethnic minority backgrounds (quelle surprise!) and do admit some students who behave very badly.

There is indeed room for improvement in our elite universities but, compared with the disaster engulfing our schools, this is a trivial issue.  Please recover your sense of perspective!

Michael Pyke, Campaign for State Education

Base schools policy on hard evidence, London Evening Standard 12 Oct 2017

THE publication of evidence demonstrating potential injustice or discrimination in our public services is wholly to be welcomed. The proof of this particular pudding, however, will be some clear signs that the Government is prepared to base future policy decisions on the available evidence.

It is, for instance, a disgrace that graduates who were privately educated should secure more of the highest-paid jobs than state-educated students with similar or better degrees. But since it has also been demonstrated that students educated in comprehensive schools regularly outperform their privately or grammar school-educated counterparts at university, it was bizarre that the Prime Minister decided that her priority was to introduce more grammar schools!

More policy based on research, rather than on personal anecdotes or hunches, can only be a very good thing for our country. But I'm not holding my breath.

Chris Dunne, Campaign for State Education

Tuition fees and the shrinking graduate premium, The Guardian 5/10/2017

Pace Michael Rosen, whatever is driving the disastrous education policies of the present government, it is most certainly not "Pisa-envy" (Letter from a curious parent - September 26th).  While Rosen is right to be sceptical of the value of these international comparisons, those systems which are most regularly successful in Pisa do seem to have certain characteristics in common, regardless of cultural differences.  Three of the most important seem to be (i) a properly comprehensive system of secondary schooling; (ii) a heavy investment in the education and training of a truly professional teaching force; (iii) a curricular emphasis upon problem solving, rather than upon the acquisition of large amounts of factual information.

It does not take an expert to recognise that these are not the chief characteristics of the English education system!

Michael Pyke, Campaign for State Education

London Schools are better because of ethnic diversity, London Evening Standard 29/8/2017

YOUR leading article about London schools outperforming the rest of the country at GCSE ("London school reforms have been effective", August 24] states that "the main reason is that over the past 20 years London has led the land in progressive educational reform", in particular the drive for "academisation". If this was the reason for London's success it would surely have had the same effect elsewhere.

Research into the "London effect" has shown definitively that the difference in pupil progress from the end of primary school to the completion of GCSEs" is entirely accounted for by ethnic composition".

It will be an uncomfortable fact for some white British pupils that they made the least progress both in London and the rest of England. But whereas they account for about 85 per cent of pupils outside the capital, they account for only 35 per cent in London. Its schools have almost two- and-a-half times fewer of the lowest- performing pupils.

Teachers and headteachers in London have worked very hard over the years to raise standards. It doesn't help them, or their pupils and parents, to ignore the most blatantly clear evidence that the main reason why London's schools have been so effective is a factor entirely beyond their control.

Chris Dunne, Campaign for State Education

Selective schools are peddling myths, The Guardian 20/6/2017

In a somewhat revealing interview with Peter Wilby, Shaun Fenton asserts that the raison d’être of selective schools is “academic excellence” (Education section, June 13th).  This is a self-serving myth: there is no evidence that the academic achievements of children who attend selective schools are significantly better than those of children of similar ability and social background who attend comprehensive schools.  In the long term, indeed, the reverse would appear to be the case, since all the evidence shows that, among similarly qualified university students, the best degrees are obtained by those who have been to comprehensive schools.

This may be one of the many reasons why not one of the world’s best education systems employs academic selection of the kind that persists in England to the detriment of so many young lives.

The real raison d’être of selective schooling is that it reinforces existing patterns of social hierarchy, which is why it is favoured by those who are already well-placed.

Michael Pyke, Campaign for State Education

Good comprehensives deserve high praise, The Guardian 18 October 2016

Sadly, it comes as no surprise that even the present Labour leadership lacks the moral courage to commit to ending the 11-plus once and for all. It was a Labour government that decided to interpret the great 1944 Education Act by con­tinuing with the pre-war, class-based system of selection at 11, and the prin­cipal architect of this disastrous system was not RA Butler but Ellen Wilkinson, the first post-war minister of education. Although a highly intelligent, liberal and humane woman, she, like so many of her successors, could not imagine any high- quality system of education other than the one that she herself had enjoyed.

The first opportunity for Labour to put things right was grasped so timidly and half-heartedly by Harold Wilson in 1965 and 1970 that 163 selective schools were left in place, with disastrous conse­quences for the status of comprehensive schools in many areas of the country. Worse, in 1997, it was a Labour Education Secretary - David Blunkett - who, having said “Let me say this very slowly indeed. Watch my lips: no selection by examina­tion or interview under a Labour govern­ment”, then failed to carry the policy through, as a result of which the number of children in selective schools actually increased.

Michael Pyke, Campaign for State Education

In reply - The Guardian

What is it about politically progressive folk that they often spend more time attacking friends and allies on the left than targeting opponents on the right? There’s a typical example in the letter from Michael Pyke of the Campaign for State Education (Letters, 18 October), where he has withering words about three generations of Labour politicians in relation to the failure to abolish 11-plus school selection, naming and shaming Ellen Wilkinson, Harold Wilson and David Blunkett, with nary a word about any Tories.

No one would deny that Labour governments over decades have made many mistakes, but often in the face of massive hostility from Conservatives and their allies in the media, where around 80% of newspapers have habitually favoured the right.

Why do lefties do the Tories’ dirty work by piling on attacks on Labour as though they should always take the brunt of the blame for disappointments and defeats? In the last three decades it has largely been the right who have “made the political weather”, and they should always be the main target for criticism in seeking progressive reform.

Giles Oakley, London

In reply - The Guardian

Giles Oakley (Letters, 19 October) complains about people like me “spending more time attacking friends and allies on the left than targeting opponents on the right”. First, the Campaign for State Education (Case) is not aligned to any political party. Nevertheless, of the last 30 letters published by members of Case in a wide range of publications, only three have been in any way critical of Labour. These three did not take more time to write than the other 27! Second, Case expects the Tories to uphold existing socioeconomic privilege; Labour is supposed to be different.

Michael Pyke, Campaign for State Education

Only the best is good enough - Hitchin Comet, 6 October 2016

Thank goodness for The Comet Speaker’s Corner and the opportunity taken by Councillor Judi Billing (Labour education spokesperson) to support comprehensive schools.  The non-party political Campaign for State Education (CASE) has been promoting comprehensive education since the time that Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson is reputed to have declared “The grammar school will be abolished over my dead body”.

CASE supported Councillor Billing’s call to Conservative councillors to join the protest about forced academy status and loss of local accountability for schools. Such pressure produced a result with Conservative councillors in Hampshire and Oxfordshire forcing something of a Conservative government climb down. CASE is in strong support of Councillor Billing’s recent Speaker’s Corner call to overturn the latest Conservative government proposals for new grammar schools.

Only the best is good enough for all our children.  Hitchin needs more councillors like Judi Billing who are not afraid to warn of the divisive nature of academic selection at 11 years.  For every child who is selected for a grammar school education at least two are rejected.  

Peter Thomson, Campaign for State Education (Hitchin)

The Tablet - September 2016

Contrary to what Dr Alfred Layton asserts, the arguments against selective education systems are not ideological at all but are entirely based upon evidence, of which there is a great deal.  For a start, not one of the world's half dozen most successful educational jurisdictions, as identified by the OECD, employs selective schooling.  Between 2009 and 2012, the OECD itself carried out repeated research in this area and concluded unequivocally that selective systems result in poorer overall outcomes than non-selective ones.  The reason for this is that any gain in learning to the selected minority is greatly outweighed by the much poorer performance of the majority, for whom rejection results in loss of confidence, self-esteem and motivation to learn.  This helps to explain why Kent, which has retained the post-war selective system and whose results are boosted by the inclusion of some prestigious private schools, is out-performed by Hackney, which has no grammar schools and no private schools of note.

Moreover, such gains as can be identified are insignificant.  Dr Rebecca Allen at Datalab, who has made a detailed study of the effects of selective schooling in England, not only concurs with the findings of the OECD but calculates that the added value of attending a selective school varies from zero to three quarters of a GCSE grade.  In Higher Education, this added value disappears: both the Sutton Trust and the Higher Education Funding Council have established that, at Russell Group universities, among students with similar A-level grades, those who have been to comprehensive schools regularly outperform those who have attended grammar schools.  It is now also becoming apparent that, although state schools as a whole are still under-represented at Oxford and Cambridge, this under-representation is worse for grammar schools than it is for comprehensive schools.

Dr Layton, who seems to think that the disadvantage of being classed as a failure at age 11 can be rectified by the expenditure of money, offers no evidence in support of his argument but instead relies upon irrelevant analogy and bogus science.  Educating the nation's children is in no way whatsoever the same thing as developing a small group of elite athletes and the idea that "academic talent" (or, more properly, cognitive ability) is a fixed quantity, identifiable at age 10, we now know to be quite wrong.

Michael Pyke, Campaign for State Education

Private Eye – August 2016

Seamus Milne may or may not be guilty of "hypocrisy" in allowing his children to attend grammar schools in Kingston, rather than comprehensive schools in Richmond, but your article in Eye 1425 is certainly guilty of the ill-informed and lazy assumptions that characterise so much of your coverage of state education.

In the first place, Milne did not "send" his children to the Tiffin schools.  Parents cannot "send" children to grammar schools in the way that a few can to such places as - to quote an entirely random example - Ardingly College.  Applicants to grammar schools have to pass a test of "ability" which, in the case of the Tiffin schools, rejects over 90% of the candidates.  Moreover, it seems to have escaped your patriarchal notice that Milne has a wife and that she may have had a say in the matter, a say with which, for all you know, Milne may not have entirely agreed.

In the second place, you say that "the grammar schools did the trick", strongly implying that attending a grammar school enhances a child's chance of obtaining a place at Oxbridge, which current research suggests is decidedly not the case.  Currently 48% of Oxbridge students have attended a comprehensive school, with 12% having been to a grammar school.  The Sutton Trust considers that these figures show that grammar school pupils are, if anything, less likely to obtain places at Oxbridge than comprehensive school pupils of similar ability and background.  Moreover, it turns out that the latter also get better degrees.  As for Milne's children, it seems highly probable that their combination of high intelligence and privileged cultural background would have got them into Oxbridge from almost any kind of school and that no "trick" was needed.

Finally, in saying that he has "spoken of it" you underplay Jeremy Corbyn's opposition to 11+ selection.  It is widely believed that Corbyn's second marriage ended because of it and he was the only Labour leadership candidate last year to commit to discontinuing it (Kendall, Burnham and Cooper all informed CASE that selection was "wrong" but declined to act on this moral perception).  Whatever Corbyn's shortcomings, he is unlikely to have changed his view for fear of embarrassing Milne.

Michael Pyke, Campaign for State Education

We will come to regret not having defended our education system -The Financial Times 18/3/16

Sir, In the light of last week’s damning assessment by Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector of schools, of the efficacy of seven separate chains of academy schools, it is all the more depressing and alarming that the government’s announcement of a programme of enforced “academisation” marks the start of the final phase of the destruction of our national education service.

The education bill’s aim is to speed up the process by which more than 20,000 schools are removed from local democratic oversight and, together with their physical assets, handed over to unaccountable private academy chains, with little or no parental involvement, no access to freedom of information requests, and a less rigorous inspection framework. All this despite the fact that the empirical evidence to date provides no support for the idea that academy trusts are any better at improving schools than local authorities (and may indeed be much worse); the growing evidence that Ofsted believes some academy chains are not competent or trustworthy providers, and despite the fact that our primary schools — where most of the significant educational improvement that Ofsted and the Department for Education rightly celebrate happens — are still largely maintained and supported by local authorities!

Almost no one seems to be aware that of the 50 most developed countries in the world only one other European country (Finland) and four in Southeast Asia outperform this country in overall educational attainment, and none of them have privatised their schools in the way this legislation will promote. On the contrary, they are all fiercely protective of a national system of education.

We have down the decades, quite rightly and passionately, defended our National Health Service. I believe the country will quickly come to regret that it did not as robustly defend and protect one of the most successful national education systems in the world.

Chris Dunne, Retired headteacher and member of the Campaign for State Education

Teacher recruitment crisis – The Observer 6/3/16

In an otherwise very good article, Laura McInerney unfortunately failed to refer to the most worrying feature of the current crisis in teacher recruitment: the fact that vast numbers of teachers are quitting the profession because they simply can't stand it any longer (Golden handcuffs for teachers won't solve the staffing crisis in our schools -February 28th).  In early 2015 The Guardian reported that 50% of newly qualified teachers were quitting within 5 years, with a whopping 37% not even staying for one year.  In a recent ATL survey, 76% of teachers were considering giving up.

McInerney mentions declining salaries but, among the five most common reasons cited by teachers for planning to quit, pay does not feature heavily.  By far the biggest problem is workload and the impossibility of have a proper work/life balance.  Other commonly cited reasons for quitting are: denigration in the media, leading to a feeling of being undervalued; having to cope with the never ending series of changes imposed by politicians; challenging pupil behaviour, and the feeling of being constantly under hostile observation, with 63% citing OFSTED as a heavily disliked feature of the job.

Michael Pyke, Campaign for State Education

Soaring state schools and the society we want to live in - The Guardian 9/2/2016

The general secretary of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference rightly attributes rising standards in the state sector to “the expectations of parents and pupils” having “been transformed over the past two generations”, whereupon Nicky Morgan and the DfE promptly jump in to claim the credit. What shameless opportunism!

Politicians are, of course, always eager to see instant results but it will actually be some years before we can assess the outcome of the “reforms” introduced since 2010 as the great majority of children affected by them are not yet out of primary school. So far, the only measurable result has been a crisis in the supply of teachers.

Michael Pyke, Campaign for State Education

Schools must not forget the less bright - London Evening Standard 22/1/2016

Well done to the London Academy of Excellence for offering standards equivalent to independent schools with state and external funding [“Headmaster of ‘East End Eton': Our school raises aspirations - it’s a genuine case of social mobility”,January 20].

However, what happens to the students who do not achieve the results the school requires?

It seems our education system is creating a selection process focusing on the brightest, raising the question as to who will educate the disadvantaged and less bright children?

N Dixon (Campaign for State Education)

Testing times for Tory education policies - The Guardian 6/11/15

The conclusion of Wednesday’s editorial is that the new education secretary “must listen to what she’s told” (Back to the drawing board: Nicky Morgan reinvents the wheel, 4 November).

If Morgan had had the slightest intention of basing her policies on evidence and detached professional advice, she would never have advanced so utterly stupid a set of proposals in the first place.

There is not nor ever has been the slightest evidence to justify the expansion of the academies programme. There is no reason to suppose that so-called free schools will be any less of a disaster here than they have been in Sweden; sending hit squads of “high-flying” teachers into areas with poor educational standards is a crassly simplistic idea, dreamed up by people with no understanding of how children learn. Most stupid of all, for reasons which your editorial well explains, is the proposal to reinstate formal testing for seven-year-olds.

Morgan is, however, merely the latest in a long line of education secretaries, Labour and Conservative, who have ignored both evidence and professional advice, preferring to base policy upon prejudice and the perceived need to protect vested interests. Indeed, the last education secretary of real ability and integrity was the late Keith Joseph who, having seen the evidence, changed his mind and introduced the GCSE.  Sadly for our children there seems little chance of anyone of such stature holding the post these days.

Michael Pyke, Campaign for State Education

Academies plan is a flawed solution - Evening Standard 13/10/15

My heart sank when I read that David Cameron wants all state schools to become academies within five years [October 8]. There are many problems with education but removing local oversight and parental involvement is not a solution.

I then read that Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has invited businesses to be involved in schools. It sounds as though my local secondary will be forced to convert into an academy against the wishes of parents. After all, who knows who will run it - maybe Poundland?

Nicky Dixon, Campaign for State Education

Selective reasoning on secondary schools - The Guardian 12/7/15

Good to see the strong moral convictions and determined sense of purpose offered by most of the candidates for the Labour leadership on the vexed question of selective schools (Fiona Millar, 7 July). Yvette Cooper believes that “a comprehensive intake is a good thing” but is not going to close schools that make such an intake impossible because she doesn’t “think this is the right approach”. Andy Burnham doesn’t “believe in selection at all” but is going to leave it to others to decide “at a local level”. Liz Kendall believes that “selection is wrong” but plans to continue with it. Apparently, only Jeremy Corbyn believes in translating his convictions into political action.

Michael Pyke, Campaign for State Education

Testing times for primary school pupils and Labour's education policies - The Guardian 31/3/2015

Tristram Hunt neatly avoids the issue when answering Patrick Yarker about making grammar schools non-selective (You ask the questions: Labour, 31 March). When the 11-plus examination labels and damages so many children before they have had the opportunity to develop, it is hardly surprising that parents should feel compelled to try to get their children into the selective schools in order to avoid this premature and stigmatising failure. That is not popularity - it is desperation.

What Hunt overlooks is the dismal performance of the rest of the schools in the grammar school counties. The two-tiered system predicated on antediluvian beliefs about intelligence and testing does needless and wasteful damage to thousands of children. A Labour education policy should focus on all children being able to receive a life-enhancing and supportive educational entitlement. Summative judgment about achievement is more appropriate to when the education process is complete rather than when it is only half way there.

Keith Lichman, Campaign for State Education

The malign effects of coalition education policy in England’s schools - The Guardian 4/2/2015

Zoe Williams is right to pour scorn on the education secretary’s ridiculous “war on illiteracy and innumeracy” (It is time ministers realised that teachers do want to teach, 2 February). Presumably Nicky Morgan is borrowing her metaphor from the “wars” on drugs and terror; sadly, she can expect just about the same level of success. Moreover, she appears to be fighting a war from the 1950s. What on earth, for example, is the point of requiring children to learn the 11 and 12 times tables and to “perform long division”? While she’s at it, why not bring back the rod, pole and perch, and all the other outdated weights and measures that used to adorn the back of exercise books? Oh and let’s ensure that every child understands the dangers of the pendent participle and the split infinitive!

As for her and David Cameron’s threat of more sackings and forced academy conversions for schools which fail at this nonsense, obviously neither of them has taken seriously the latest report of the education select committee, whose (Conservative) chair has just stated that “Current evidence does not prove that academies raise standards overall or for disadvantaged children” adding: “While some chains have clearly raised attainment, others achieve worse outcomes creating huge disparities within the academy sector and compared to other mainstream schools.

Michael Pyke, Campaign for State Education

New Statesman 12 December 2014

Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett is mistaken in her uncritical acceptance of the idea that private schools "instil confidence" by teaching their pupils to "dream big".  Moreover, the behaviours she quotes exemplify not the confidence of self-possession but the arrogance of wealth and the sense of entitlement that wealth engenders.  Private schooling may reinforce these anti-social attitudes but it does not create them.  As for the tendency of the privately educated to earn more than the rest of us, this is easily explained by the tendency of those in positions of power to promote people like themselves.

Rather more worrying is that the same mistaken belief is apparently shared by Tristram Hunt.  Does Hunt (University College School) seriously believe that his education has given him some je ne sais quoi that is lacking in Ed Milliband (Haverstock Comprehensive School)?  If so, perhaps Hunt would explain what it is.


Michael Pyke, Campaign for State Education

THE BBC Complaints department is having trouble distinguishing between opinions and facts - Private Eye 8-21 August 2014

On Radio 4's Broadcasting House on 13 July, Jon Snow lamented "the tiny minority of state school kids that get into Oxbridge, it's now under 50 percent again, which is incredible". Michael Pyke, of the Campaign for State Education, knew this was wrong - latest figures have Oxford at 57.4 percent and Cambridge at 63 percent - and wrote to the BBC to tell them so.

He received this mind-boggling reply: "I understand it was factually inaccurate for Jon Snow to suggest that the proportion... had fallen below 50 percent. We make no editorial comment or judgement on the views expressed by contributors to our programmes, and our aim is simply to provide enough information for listeners to make up their own minds. This may include hearing opinions which some people may personally disagree with but which individuals may be fully entitled to hold in the context of legitimate debate."

Data showed clear public opposition to Gove’s policies – Financial Times 1 August 2014

Sir, Andreas Wesemann (Letters, July 26) joins the list of Michael Gove admirers who clearly prefer hyperbole to debate, gut instinct to empirical evidence in support of their positions on education.

He admires Mr. Gove for launching “a free school programme that is unique in western Europe”. It is in fact unique anywhere in the world and it does not seem to have occurred to Mr. Wesemann that this might be because no other country in the world thinks it is either an intelligent or an effective way for a mature democracy to plan its educational provision.

Mr. Gove was demoted not only because he was regarded as personally “toxic” but also because polling data showed clear public opposition to his policies, in particular free schools, which are very expensive, too often exclusive and increasingly being established in areas where there is already an oversupply of school places.

Empirical evidence gathered for its Learning Curve database by The Economist Intelligence Unit shows clearly that schools in the UK are, with the exception of Finland, more successful than those in any other European country.

Not that anyone would have known this after listening to Mr. Gove rubbishing our schools and our teachers for the past four years, without a shred of sound evidence to support his onslaught.

The even greater academic success of schools in London during the past decade – all of it achieved when schools were supposedly being “controlled” by local authorities, and long before the rush to “academisation” and “free schools” – should persuade politicians in all parties to think long and hard before allowing any more maverick secretaries of state to try out their “radical” ideas at our nation’s and our children’s expense.

Chris Dunne (recently retired headteacher, and member of the Campaign for State Education

Change of direction needed on schools - Guardian Tuesday 15 April 2014

David Laws has noticed the approaching general election (Boost for teachers, 15 April), but his attempt to distance himself from the disastrous education policies of the coalition government is unconvincing. Much more than pre-election posturing is needed. The government should change direction. A responsible government would:

Rather than the whims and harebrained ideas of Michael Gove and David Laws, we will be campaigning for a fair and inclusive education policy based on evidence, professionalism and a strong sense of responsibility to every child in England.

Melian Mansfield, Chair, Keith Lichman Secretary, Campaign for State Education; John Edmonds Chair, Comprehensive Future; Margaret Jones Director, Information for School and College Governors; Sheila Dore, Chair, Martin Dore General secretary, Socialist Education Association

Through the glass ceiling: from Newham to Eton on a scholarship  - Guardian 1st March 2014

“Fifteen-year-old Ishak Ayiris grew up in one of the country's poorest boroughs, but now he's off to Eton. It will change his life, but it won't change his values, he says.”

Emine Saner quoted Michael Pyke, spokesperson for the Campaign for State Education as saying: "As far as this young lad's concerned, good luck to him, but the idea that this can be replicated to a large enough extent to make a significant difference is completely fatuous. If Eton started offering free places to a significant percentage of people, that would different, but they can't do that because they would then find that people who are paying £33,000 a year for their children will be wondering why their fees are going on this sort of thing."

A "significant percentage", he thinks, would be what Anthony Seldon, the headteacher at Wellington College, proposed in January - around 25% of places at independent schools to be reserved for disadvantaged children. "But of course it's pie in the sky."

Fantasies shaping children's futures

If what you want is to understand Michael Gove as a public figure in charge of the nation's educational needs, there is little point in debating what he might call his "ideas" (Letters, 4 February). One needs rather to focus on three things. First, and notwithstanding the acquired, but now melting, patina of Oxford cleverness, his manifest stupidity, apparently incorrigible. Only an idiot could seriously maintain that a day will come, causally engineered by none other than Michael Gove himself, when it will be impossible to distinguish state schools from fee-paying schools - a deft account of the sheer idiocy of this view is provided by Peter Wilby (Comment, 4 February).

Second, his fantasy life, that of a man lost in translation between past and present, and more precisely the fantasy, bordering on obsession, of the arriviste, wannabe toff drooling over the lexicon of long ago while dreaming of the glory days of "prep" and "lines". Third, the political ambition. Despite all the guff about linking educational "standards" and "social mobility", everything that Gove does as secretary of state for education serves a very precise purpose. Gove wants to be the next leader of the Tory party and one day perhaps prime minister.

How do you use the education brief to best serve that end? By playing to the Tory right and making an educational offer to those sections of the electorate which, in the context of recession, no longer feel able to afford private education for their children. It is only a matter of time before the sharp-elbow classes swamp the academies and the free schools. Reintroducing the "common entrance" exam at 13 (another of the terms in the vocabulary of Gove's regressive fantasy life; the common entrance, I ask you!) will seal the deal on that front. The rest is dross. Gove is not only the silliest member of the government; given that his compulsions and ambitions are currently shaping the future of millions of children, he is also the most dangerous. The priority has surely to be not debating him, but getting rid of him.

Professor Christopher Prendergast, King's College, Cambridge (Spotted by CASE in The Guardian 5th February 2014)

What is the Education Secretary trying to do to Ofsted? - The Guardian 4/2/2014

Your editorial (3 February) attributes the sacking of Baroness Morgan as chair of Ofsted to "partisan grounds", and Labour tries to embarrass David Cameron by claiming that her sacking is part of a larger pattern. However, the real issue is Michael Gove's determination to gain control of Ofsted and silence its outspoken chief inspector. Seeking to widen the argument merely lays Labour open to counter-charges and distracts attention from Gove's doings.

Two features of Sir Michael Wilshaw's reign as chief inspector have made him intolerable to Gove: the ease with which he commands headlines for pronouncements that do not always support Gove's ultra-reactionary ideas, and the fact that Ofsted has dared to find serious fault with some academies and free schools. It would be egregious to sack Wilshaw at this point, so replacing the "superlative" (Gove's term for her) Morgan with the head of an academy chain would be an obvious first move.

If Ofsted becomes an enforcer of government policy, Wilshaw's position will become untenable as he is ordered to shut up and start giving an easier ride to failing academies and dodgy free schools.

Michael Pyke, Campaign for State Education

It's resources not teachers that give private schools their edge - The Guardian 12/12/13

Our education system may indeed be unfair but where on Earth is Martin Kettle's evidence that this is in any way due to the ability of private schools to employ "the most memorable teachers" (Comment, 12 December)? If Kettle bothered to do some research, instead of making lazy assumptions, he would discover that (a) the proportion of state-educated pupils obtaining places at Oxbridge is the highest it has ever been and is far higher than when he was at school; (b) according to research by the Sutton Trust, the students who obtain the best degrees at Russell Group universities are the ones who went to comprehensive schools; (c) according to research by the OECD, pupils at UK state schools are better taught than their counterparts in the private sector.

The unfairness of the system lies not in the quality of teaching available in private schools but in the overwhelming superiority of the resources that such schools are able to provide to already highly motivated and, in most cases, carefully selected children. These resources include privileged access to professions such as TV and broadsheet journalism, which explains why Kettle is in a small minority of regular Guardian columnists who have not been to private school. If he really thinks his privately educated colleagues are there because of "memorable teachers", it can only be that he has internalised a set of unpleasant social class prejudices.

Michael Pyke, Campaign for State Education

Private schools, Oxbridge admissions and educational inequality - The Guardian 20/8/13

The Rev EJ Penny is right to argue that current government policies will worsen the educational prospects of the children of the poor but wrong to assert that "Fifty years ago, Tory-backed grammar schools and grants gave hope to many of the least well off of my contemporaries. They went to university and found jobs worthy of their potential." Even if this was true of Mr Penny's contemporaries, it was certainly not true in general. In the early 1960s only 4% of school leavers went to university at all and the Robbins report found that, of this 4%, only 6% came from "the least well off". This is not "many" – it is hardly any!Michael Pyke, Campaign for State Education

Michael Pyke, Campaign for State Education

Lessons in performance-related pay - Guardian

If there is clear, research-based evidence that performance-related pay for teachers is an effective tool for raising standards, why doesn't Michael Gove simply publish it, instead of referring to the results of meaningless opinion polls and mounting cheap ad hominem attacks against those who disagree with him? Could it possibly be that such evidence does not exist and that Gove is (or imagines himself to be) in receipt of a form of divine illumination denied to his inferiors?

Michael Pyke, Campaign for State Education

Chalk it up to experience -  Observer 16/6/13

Barbara Ellen misunderstands the opposition to Michael Gove's "Troops to Teachers" wheeze, attributing it to anti-military prejudice ("I salute the idea of soldiers in the classroom". A common characteristic of all the world's most successful education systems is that their teachers are educated and professionally trained to the highest standard. Finland, for example, which has by far the most successful education system in Europe, admits only the brightest and best to teacher training, rejecting 90% of applicants

Michael Gove, by contrast, regards school teaching as something that can be learned "on the job", even by people who may lack education, a view apparently supported by Ellen, since "not everyone has the opportunity to get a degree or even make it to sixth form". Such attitudes derive from the Victorian "pupil-teacher" system and, along with the rest of Gove's reactionary ideas, can only result in our education system going backwards.

Michael Pyke, Campaign for State Education

Michael Gove's GCSE plans and the problem with exams -  Guardian 12/6/13

Your criticisms (Editorial, 12 June) of Michael Gove's reactionary "reforms" of GCSEs are fair enough – although making the exam more dependent upon short-term recall will do nothing to address the problem of grade inflation – but you fail to consider the more pertinent question of why Britain persists in spending a small fortune on public examinations which have long outlived their purpose. Britain's 16-plus examinations were designed for a time – long since gone – when most pupils left school at 16 and went into employment. With the majority of pupils now remaining in education, the GCSE is redundant.

Gove's argument that his reforms are essential to make our system "world-class" is ludicrous. No system of education which is driven by the exigencies of high-stakes exams can ever be world-class. What characterises those systems that really can be described in this way is not a set of hopelessly outdated exams, but a highly educated and highly trained teaching force – something which Gove is extremely unlikely to create. Like the rest of his idiotic policies, these "reforms" will merely take us back to the 1950s, where, mentally at least, Gove appears to dwell.

Michael Pyke, Campaign for State Education

Parents at Roke primary school should not blame their school - Guardian 12/3/2013

Parents at Roke primary school should not blame their school for being targeted for enforced academy status with the Harris academy chain (Report, 11 March). As financial incentives diminish, DfE officials need to offer some easy meat to allow academy chains to "balance their portfolios" of problematic schools. So the new victims turn out to be popular schools with favourable demographics and no major building problems. They can be easily absorbed by the chains and their school budgets top-sliced to fund the well-paid executives that run them..

Paul Martin - Campaign for State Education

The Tories' Eastleigh candidate speaks ignorant nonsense on state schools - 18 February 2013

Maria Hutchings, the Tory candidate for the Eastleigh by-election, apparently believes that her "very gifted" son would find it "impossible" to achieve his ambition of becoming a cardiothoracic surgeon if he did not attend a private school.

Our view at Case is that the children of politicians should be left alone and that their education ought not to be a matter for public debate, especially one initiated by one of their parents.  However, as Ms Hutchings has made a public pronouncement, we are obliged to point out that the evidence is against her.

In 2011, the last year for which widely published figures are available, 72% of those studying medicine had attended a state school.  This figure is slightly higher than we might expect, given that 30% of all A-levels are sat by pupils at highly selective private schools.  If giftedness includes the ability to distinguish between evidence and prejudice, it appears that young Master Hutchings has not inherited it from his mother.

This is not to deny that attending the kind of school that charges £30k+ per annum confers a wide range of advantages, not least the acquisition of valuable social capital, but too much of the debate about "social mobility" ignores the many years that elapse between attending school and reaching the top of a profession.  For example, we are constantly reminded that more than 60% of High Court judges have been privately educated but, with an average age of 61, these people were at school far too long ago for us to be drawing conclusions about what is happening in schools today.

What we do know is that, while there is still a very long way to go before we can claim to have a genuinely fair and meritocratic education system, the achievements of state schools are routinely underestimated by politicians, journalists and the metropolitan chatterati.

For example, the proportion of state-educated Oxbridge students has never been higher and has more than doubled since the 1960s, when state secondary schooling was almost wholly selective.  An important factor in this has been the modular A-level system, introduced in 2000, which has enabled colleges to have first-hand evidence of real academic ability, instead of having to rely on interviews and teachers' predictions. Naturally, the blundering and inept Michael Gove plans to abolish this system.

Research by the Sutton Trust, among others, consistently shows that at Russell Group universities it is the state educated students who obtain the best degrees.  Much is made of the private school background of the present Cabinet but it is entirely feasible that the next prime minister and a majority of his cabinet will have attended comprehensive schools.

It would have been honest of Maria Hutchings to say that, as a parent who can afford it, she intends to purchase what social and educational advantages she can for her child.  What she has actually said is ignorant nonsense, of a kind with which we are all too familiar from politicians.

Michael Pyke - Campaign for State Education

Local authorities' vital schools role - Guardian 30/11/2012

Camden has now been recognised by Ofsted as having the best outcomes in the country, with 92% of primary-school children attending a school rated good or outstanding (This bid to force all schools into line will end in failure, 28 November). The "Camden model" is based on the recognition that schools thrive not by making themselves independent of the local education authority, but by being part of a "family of schools" that works closely in partnership with the LEA. A partnership that is based on mutual challenge, not on control from the centre.

In Camden there are hardly any academies and free schools. In other words, the Camden model is the antithesis of the worship for schools' independence that has been advocated by successive governments. The same worship of independence that forms the basis of the academy-conversion programme. Admittedly, some LEAs are poor, and I understand the frustrations of teachers, governors and parents in those parts of the country. Democratic accountability is sadly not always sufficient. But surely a system can be found for challenging underperforming LEAs, just as a system was found for improving schools. What may be needed are independent inspections, better data and more thorough local challenge.

Camden has not followed the siren calls for greater "freedoms" and independence that have been made over the years by the likes of Tony Blair, Andrew Adonis, David Cameron and Michael Gove. And Camden's children and young people get a better education as a result.

Luca Salice  Chair, Camden chairs' and governors' forum

Simon Jenkins is right to say that "accountability for England's schools is now a total mess" and to attribute this chaos to the ever-growing meddling by central government in what was once and should have remained a locally administered public service. Before Kenneth Baker's 1988 Education Reform Act, the education secretary had just three powers over schools (removal of wartime air raid shelters, managing numbers in teacher training and opening/closing schools). Baker increased these powers to 250 but the megalomaniac Michael Gove has now given himself more than 2,000.

As for Ofsted, since Kenneth Clarke invented it, it has done little more than go around finding fault according to an ever-changing set of criteria. Its purpose was and is to cow the teaching force into obedience and give the secretary of state yet more excuses to interfere. Its "findings" have no serious academic validity and the proposed "league table" of local authorities is just a device to allow Gove to continue his destruction of local accountability in state schooling by forcing primary schools to become academies. It can only be hoped that an incoming Labour government will have the moral and political courage to start picking up the pieces of Gove's wreckage.

Michael Pyke - Campaign for State Education

Educational choice and privilege - The Guardian, 26/7/2012

Janet Murray is, of course, free to pay “£10,000 to £30,000 a year” to buy a better education for her child than the state sector offers to the other children in her area, but it is not clear why she wishes to be applauded for doing so.

She does not seem to have registered that state schools are funded on a per-pupil basis and could offer the smaller classes and longer hours she wants if well-paid people such as her were willing to vote accordingly and pay their taxes towards it.

As an “expert” in the field of education, what does Ms Murray advise parents to do who don’t enjoy her financial means– play the Lottery?

Paul Martin, Campaign for State Education

The Observer, 27/5/2012

No one who is seriously concerned for the future of education in this country can fail to be grateful for the work of Peter Lampl's Sutton Trust. It is all the more disappointing therefore that he barks up several wrong trees. His nostalgia for the "post-war wave of booming social mobility", which he associates with the education system of the era, is largely misplaced. If social mobility was indeed greater than now, it had little to do with educational opportunities: 80% of children at that time left school at 15 with no qualifications at all; only 9% of the school population overall obtained even five passes at O-level and only 6% of university students came from semi-skilled or unskilled working-class backgrounds.

It is sad that Sir Peter returns to the comfort blanket of sending "bright" working-class children to the former direct grant grammar schools. The idea that the wealthy parents whose children attend these schools will tolerate entry to them being "democratised" by allowing in more than a handful of others strains credulity.

Michael Pyke, Campaign for State Education

Tamworth Herald 10/5/2012

In response to Mr R I Caffrey's letter (Herald, 3rd May, 2012) in which he rightly identifies that the current government's push to convert our state schools to independently-run academies will "break up local education authorities, fragment education and undermine one of the cornerstones of our society," I would say it's happening already!

Sadly, those of us who fought hard in the 'Hands off Tamworth Schools' (HOTS) campaign were all too well aware of the implications of this policy, which the previous Labour government began and which the coalition government has since propelled with 'rocket boosters' (as promised by Secretary of State Michael Gove!). Unfortunately, important questions we tried to raise about the future of democracy in education under the academy system were overshadowed by the media focus on the proposed closure of QEMS and our mainstream sixth forms as part of the Building Schools for the Future programme.

Alarmingly, the radical changes taking place in state education are on a par with those now underway in the NHS, but this is barely reported in the mainstream media. Parents in particular do not realise that many school services are being privatised, while the last vestiges of democratic accountability in education are fast disappearing as increasing numbers of schools become 'independent' from the (elected) Local Authority and offer merely token representation to parents and the local community on their governing bodies.

Further, existing support for special educational needs (SEN), school improvement and governor services in mainstream schools is withering on the vine due to 'top-slicing' from LA education budgets to fund Mr Gove's free schools and academies pet projects, despite no conclusive evidence that they improve our children's educational outcomes. Evidence does exist, however, to show that academies increasingly select their intake and exclude a much higher proportion of children with behaviour difficulties and SEN, which the remaining mainstream schools are then expected to pick up, with obvious consequences for their places in the league tables. Hardly a fair and accountable system.

However, it is not too late for those opposing this policy to make their voices heard. Although around 49% of the country's high schools are now academies (through force just as much as choice) fewer than 3% of primary schools have become so. More and more Head Teachers, governors and parents are actively opposing the policy. Should Mr Caffrey wish to add his name to this growing number of people, I would advise joining the Campaign for State Education (CASE), the Anti Academies Alliance and the Local Schools Network, all of whom can be contacted easily via their websites.

Julie Morgan (Former HOTS campaigner)

Press enquiries - phone: 07743 503920
Home Getting Help Who we are Publications Media Campaign