April 10: Attlee’s lasting error in failing to end private education

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From: Edward Grainger, Nunthorpe, North Yorkshire.

YOUR CORRESPONDENT T Marston of Lincoln (The Yorkshire Post, April 1) rightly lists Clement Attlee’s achievements during his years as Prime Minister from 1945 to 1951, one of which was to see through “the main provisions of the 1944 Education Act”.

However, his successes should be set against his failure, against strong advice from his own party and leading academics, to leave in place public and private schools. It was a serious error of judgement.

I take no pleasure in repeating the terms of an earlier letter to The Yorkshire Post that “Attlee fell short of abolishing private schools”. This meant that the intention in the Act to create a level playing field in educational terms for all pupils from the first weeks of this administration could not be achieved.

When Attlee realised that his own public school was to be abolished, he drew back and left them to continue to prosper against the state education system. The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission clearly identified the gulf there is even today and all these years since 1945 between the two levels of education.

Yorkshire continues to lag behind in terms of literacy levels and as the Commission report states “once these basic academic levels fall compared to the private sector, youngsters find it difficult to catch up”.

Even if Attlee had not erred, and given this nation’s propensity to make money out of even educating our young people, I am sure a government of some political leaning would have seen fit to create a system of privately funded education.

Had an Attlee-type figure later fronted the Labour Party, this lack of charisma would have won him less voter appeal just as the same could be said of another great socialist, Michael Foot. As it was once remarked at the time of the first TV showings of the proceedings in Parliament: “It isn’t about what you have to say, but how you look when you’re saying it that counts with the watching public.”

From: Mr V Platt, Cold Bath Road, Harrogate.

HAS anyone noticed that during the election campaign Lab and Con have been telling porkies, saying that full fee-paying members of the EU will not trade with us if we leave the European Union? Do they really believe that the Germans will refuse to sell us their Mercedes, VWs or useless wind turbines or the French will stop exporting their Champagne or the Spanish their wines? The ordinary British people won’t be taken in by such nonsense.