Bill Carmichael: Costly lesson in schools dogma

WHATEVER happened to "Education, Education, Education"?

You may remember that was how Tony Blair set out his top three priorities for a Labour government shortly before the 1997 General Election.

And true to his word, Labour embarked on an unprecedented splurge on state education once they were in power.

Under Blair, and his successor as Prime Minister Gordon Brown, education spending doubled in the decade from 2000 from 35.8bn to 71bn a year.

Along with a similar spending spree on welfare benefits, this helps to explain why the Labour government effectively bankrupted the country.

But at least we could comfort ourselves in the knowledge that the money was spent on something worthwhile.

Not so fast – because it turns out far from improving education, the extra money has coincided with a catastrophic decline in standards.

According to international league tables published this week, the UK has plummeted from eighth to 28th in maths, from seventh to 25th in reading and from fourth to 16th in science.

Fully a fifth of British 15-year-olds are "functionally illiterate".

Countries such as Slovenia, the Slovak Republic, Estonia and Poland – all of which spend a fraction on education compared to the UK – now comfortably beat us in the tables produced by the respected Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Why is this so? Perhaps it's not unconnected to the fact that many British pupils spend half their time being force- fed global warming propaganda and the other half being drilled in how marvellous Islam is?

In some schools if teachers manage to squeeze a bit of physics or maths in between the dreary slabs of fashionable dogma, the pupils can count themselves exceedingly fortunate.

And perhaps it is no coincidence that countries that dominate the international league tables – China, Korea, Singapore and Japan – all concentrate on traditional teaching?

Not all British schools have taken the "progressive route" however. Fee- paying and selective schools – the sort of establishments favoured by Labour leaders when it comes to educating their own children – are steadfastly traditionalist and produce some of the best results in the world.

What is clear is that extra money, without fundamental changes, won't improve standards. Education Secretary Michael Gove is trying to change this with a raft of reforms.

He has his work cut out, because he's faced with an educational establishment that refuses to believe in the damage done to British schooling by progressive ideas over the last 50 years.

Clarke's injustice

According to Albert Einstein, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

By this standard, we have a right to be worried about our Justice Secretary Ken Clarke.

The last time he was in charge of the criminal justice system in the early '90s his soft sentencing policy resulted in the highest crime rate in British history.

It was only after his successor, Michael Howard, instituted a tough "prison works" approach that we saw dramatic decreases in crime.

Clarke refuses to believe the evidence in front of his nose. The results of this folly will be felt by the poor, the elderly, the disabled and vulnerable who are likely to be the victims of the inevitable increases in crime and anti-social behaviour that will arise from Clarke's reforms.