David Kurten has kindly shared with us this transcript of his excellent Conference speech. Part Two, focussing on Ofsted, will be published on UKIP Daily tomorrow.
It was about 28 years ago that I was 18 years old and I set off to St Andrews bright eyed and bushy tailed to go and study at University.
The first experience that new students have at University is Freshers’ Week. I remember this as a great time of meeting and making new friends, joining clubs and generally enjoying your freedom.
However in the new era, increasing numbers of students are required to have some ‘Induction Training’ which features diversity and inclusion training. Before you can start your course you must attend some compulsory sessions for your ‘safety’ – because there is nothing more harmful to wellbeing than a microaggression! These are events where students feel that they are slightly uncomfortable and can include:
- Asking someone where they are from
- Telling a foreign person they speak good English
- Not saying hello to someone
- Not smiling at someone
- Eating foreign food
- Dressing up as an Indian
- Misgendering someone
Now this kind of thing is utter nonsense, and these courses should really be re-named – ‘How to be a Narcissistic Snowflake.’ Because that is the kind of people our Universities are churning out who are less use to society when they leave at 21 than when they went in at 18 – young people who cannot hear an opinion which they disagree with without being offended and needing to go and cry in their safe spaces.
We need to re-establish our Higher Education Institutions as Centres of Excellence for those with an academic talent – and allow students to discuss and debate issues with rigour and intelligence, and who can learn high level skills and carry out ground breaking research. There are of course, parts of our system which still do that: that muscle is still there, and it sits on a reputation for excellence going back a thousand years. The UK is still an attractive destination for foreign students to come and study – particularly from the Far East, which is a good thing. But that muscle is being covered by an ever increasing amount of fatty tissue, and that needs to be cut away so that those students who will not benefit can do an Apprenticeship or go to a technical skills training.
One of the worst decisions ever made was by John Major who turned all the Polytechnics into Universities, thus depriving generations of British young people of the opportunity to gain high level technical skill. This needs to change and what I say is ‘Bring back the Polytechnics!’
And for those who are not suited to any of these – get a job when you’re 16. Another bad decision of the Conservative Party was to increase the school leaving age to 18. This means that what was once a pleasure – to teach sixth formers, is now often a drudge – as more students take up A Levels who are simply not right for them. For some people, the right thing is simply to get a job, and they will learn more about real life doing two years working on a shop floor stacking shelves or making sandwiches, than they will spending years more flogging the dead horse of trying to get qualifications that they will never get.
I’m sure that the Inclusion Lobby will disagree, but not everybody is the same, and it is foolishness to try to force everyone down the Academic route when there are many better options for different people.
And the same applies to our secondary schools.
But children are not all one size. The ‘one-size fits all’ ideology introduced by Labour in the 1960’s decimated our tripartite system and we must slaughter this Marxist sacred cow. After all, most of the Labour apparatchiks send their kids to Grammar or private schools. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander!
Children have different abilities, aptitudes and temperaments. There are of course some wonderful teachers in comprehensive schools who do a great job where they are, but they are not right for everyone, and they are no longer right for the country.
The results of this disastrous policy are a continuing decline in core academic achievement – England continues to slide down the world rankings in PISA tests, and there is an exacerbation of the skills gap which has grown up over the last four decades, combined with grade inflation and fiddling of the exam boundaries to make it look like children and doing better than they are in their GCSEs.
The A to E standard in GCSE’s was abandoned years ago for the A* to G standard. Now so many people are getting A* that they introduced a new system of 1 to 9.
New A levels were also introduced this year in some subjects with final exam only marking – no coursework. Now this is a good thing. However, a few days before the results were announced, Ofqual went into a panic because with the return of the rigour of final exams, fewer students were going to pass – also a good thing. However, instead of letting those students who are not academically gifted fail and move on to something more suitable, they allowed the grade boundaries to be lowered so that more candidates would pass. In fact the grade boundary for a passing E grade was lowered from 42% to 29%. What a shambles!
This should not be happening and UKIP will change it. We need to be honest and realize that it is wrong to force all children through the academic route. If a child is talented in sports or music or art, no-one would disagree that they should not be selected to go to a specialist arts school or conservatoire or sports academy to hone their skills at a very young age. Yet when it comes to academic talent or technical or vocational skills, we have been cowed into silence and fearful of suggesting selection to appease the politically correct brigade.
We need to turn back from pursuing the one-size-fits all model for education and embrace a different system which will be good for the country and good for the individual children. We need to challenge the viewpoint which says that academic schools are up here, and everything else is down there; it is simply not true.
We need to consider that different kinds of schools at secondary level are good for different children with different aptitudes, talents and temperaments: grammar, technical, home, special, independent, church and other faith schools and comprehensive schools as equal – a true diversity in the real and good sense of the word, where there are different streams of education for different children.