I love select committees

house-of-lordsIn the process of investigating education I have found myself in awe of the marvellous democracy of the online age. I can read every word spoken in the debate of the new education bill, I can ask someone in a dusty House of Lords archive* to send me the government reply to a review of grammar school ballots in  2004. (Thank you Simon the Archives Office for sending that PDF of Cm. 6349.)

And tonight I had reason to wonder if the Education Select Committee might have more recent insights into the Grammar School Ballot. This legislation is the one and only way to add democracy to the selective education issue.

I ended up emailing the select committee folks, because they don’t have a very good search function for their reports. I may be able to read a government reply from the House of Lords dusty archive* while I’m waiting for my son to finish his swimming lesson (I think that’s  pretty impressive) but sadly the search function of http://www.parliament.uk/education-committee needs an overhaul.

ImageVaultHandler.aspxSo I explored the pages looking for the ‘contacts’ bit of the education committee pages. Then I came across a news item,  ‘Neil Carmichael elected as Chair.’

It’s probably best to ignore the dubious modern art in the committee room… But I realised that this man’s opinion on selective education really matters.

Do you ever get that ‘thank you Google feeling?’

I Googled ‘Neil Carmichael grammar schools’ and found an article where he spoke about his views on selective education. Here’s the lowdown:

He is enthusiastic about the grammar schooling his own children have benefited from, but he is not one of those Tory (and Ukip) types that think everything was better when there were more grammar schools. “I have two grammar schools in my constituency, they’re excellent schools and they’ve educated my three children, they’re all still going to grammar schools. My opinion is that they should be allowed to expand, but that future schools should not be grammar schools.”

Instead, he argues, the state sector should provide such excellence across the board that grammars are not seen as a necessity for bright children from modest backgrounds to get on. “I think that the types of school we are starting to see are the ones that we need to have. I genuinely believe that all schools should be providing excellent education for all of their pupils, so I don’t think grammar schools or new grammar schools, at least, would contribute to that.”

I felt a bit of a ‘yay’ at that! His role in this committee is important, and select committees sometimes dare to criticise the government. It’s one of those ‘Good Democracy’ things.

So it seems he has reasonable moderate views, but it would have been quite possible for this committee chair to be someone on the Conservative right hoping to strengthen selective education. So I felt a bit of relief to read this. Also I liked his ‘all schools’ thing, it’s not far away from my own ‘how to fix the selective problem’ ideal. 

Anyway, I will keep you posted with the select committee response. But I’ve decided Neil Carmichael might be an okay guy, and if he’s sending his kids to grammar schools that’s fine. They’re probably the best local schools. Which is kind of the point.

Would it be too much to hope that he feels a twinge of guilt about that?

* I just imagined the House of Lords Archive to be dusty, for all I know the report was sent from an annex office in Slough.


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