On the 22nd September Tory MP Neil Carmichael came in to discuss schools and education reform in the midst of a fierce political debate over the proposed lifting of a ban on building new grammars. It was perfect timing then in the perfect location for a fiery talk on grammar schools.
As chair of the education select committee, Mr Neil Carmichael is uniquely positioned to comment on the news surrounding grammars. A topic that he returned to throughout his talk was social mobility and it truly appeared to be a subject Carmichael is passionate about. The education select committee, he said, had identified 4 key areas in education that affected social mobility. Grammar schools, in his view, helped none of them. The reality of schools today, he explained, is very different from the memories of those who went to grammar schools in the heady romance of their 1950s heyday. His argument was all the more convincing considering the most common argument in favour of more grammars is that they can be employed as a tool for social mobility. The inference was that this move was a political effort to appeal to those of that generation in the electorate and as appeasing ‘red meat’ to the Tory Right, rather than a wholehearted effort to improve education.
Mr Carmichael did however shower praise on Cameron’s academies program, portraying the council control of schools as a barrier to the schools improving. The less links in the chain between the parents, their children, and the school, the more chance the schools have to improve, he argued. This revealed some of the ideas that may have shaped this rare breed of Tory’s politics (he is both Northern and anti Grammars), those perhaps being an optimistic belief in the abilities of people in institutions like schools to run themselves better than the government can. Also evident was a genuine desire to see the disadvantaged helped up with social mobility through education.
Questions, as expected, were centred mainly on Mr. Carmichael’s work in the education select committee. He clarified and elaborated on his earlier positions about grammar schools and academies, as well as his opinions on select committee work itself and on the Education Secretary. Our resident controversy stirrer, Archie Knight, attempted to catch Carmichael out with a question on an old comment of his on some local wind farms he called ‘abominations’. But, the experienced Chair (who is no doubt used to intense question and answer sessions as part of his job, albeit usually being on the other side of the questions) deftly swiped away any embarrassment by declaring his recognition of climate change as an important issue.
Lastly, an update on cake-related developments. Gabriel Ralph followed up a strong first week with the return of his signature lemon drizzle and new recipe peanut butter base brownies, but had a challenge to the cake crown this week from none other than Mr. Endersby, who brought chocolate brownies and a classic shortbread. This blog declares it a draw between these two political and culinary heavyweights and looks forward to next week’s lineup.
Our thanks to Mr Neil Carmichael MP for coming in to talk.
By Alex Whitehorn
This article represents the views of the author, and not the views of the Politics Society, nor of Bishop Wordsworth’s School.