Examination of Witnesses (Questions 340
MONDAY 10 NOVEMBER 2003
Q340 Valerie Davey: It helps the
situation in independent schools inasmuch as you get highly academic
youngsters from low income families, but it does not help in my
situation because of the disproportionate number of schools from
which that minority left would then be coming. Your proposal is
actually based on academic selection, which is where I think the
Chairman started. Academic selection in a situation like mine
denudes the state sector of the relatively small numbers of high
achievers if we are not very careful. I do want to say to you,
that like you I am facing reality rather more than I did in the
past. Therefore I met the heads of my independent sector schools
last week. They are looking for options and opportunities to work
with state schools and we are trying to come up with ideas which
do not say to the state sector "You're not as good as us".
They are sensitive enough to realise that you cannot just go around
saying "You're no good. What can we do for you?". Have
you any other ideas which you can relate to our situation, which
might bring those links together in a way which is positively
beneficial to both sides?
Sir Peter Lampl: We actually pioneered
so-called independent/state school partnerships and that is originally
how I got involved with the government. We got a couple of schemes
going with King Edward's Birmingham and Dulwich College working
with state schools and then the Labour Government came in in 1997
and abolished the assisted places schemes. I was introduced to
Stephen Byers and we then got the independent/state schools partnership
schemes off the ground. Those are helpful and actually that scheme
could be much bigger than it is. It is running at about £2
million to £3 million a year and could be a much bigger scheme.
I do not really think it is the answer. It is a sort of sticking
plaster. To have partnerships in all sorts of ways, joint use
of facilities, classes, etcetera, and we have funded and looked
at all those possibilities, is well worth doing, but to integrate
the independent day schools in the inner cities truly into the
education provision for everybody is really the way to go. I agree
that there will be some selection. You are not increasing selection
as those schools are already selective, you are just maybe selecting
some different kinds of people; other people will be being selected.
At the moment well-off people have the opportunity to opt out
of the state sector into what are by and large academically the
best schools in the country. There was a headline in the Sunday
Times which is what is wrong with this country. The headline
said "Top state school in Reading got better results than
Harrow". It damn well should. I am sorry, but Harrow is not
a very good academic school. This was a huge "Isn't that
amazing? They actually did better than Harrow". I am sorry,
but when I was at school you could go to the best academic school
in this country for free and that is the way it should be. We
all accept that these private schools should all be better and
we have to get away from this "Oh, it's a private school,
we don't like you" or "It's a grammar school".
There is too much dogma and ideology in all this. Let us try to
Q341 Valerie Davey: But also let
us be fair. What you are actually saying is that what you want
for the best youngsters is a social mix as well which gives them
Sir Peter Lampl: Yes, I want the
best youngsters, who have the ability and the aptitude, to have
the opportunity to go to these academic schools.
Q342 Valerie Davey: Where does that
leave the rest?
Sir Peter Lampl: I am not looking
at going towards a totally selective system. We are talking about
maybe 100 or 200 schools. The main focus has to be to improve
state schools full stop. We are focusing on that. That does not
preclude doing something to open up the top end. That is all I
am saying. I agree with you. We happen to be funding four specialist
schools a year. I know you have doubts about that programme. I
happen to think it has some merits. Most of our effort is focused
on the state sector and improving general provision for everybody,
but we would like to open up the top end as well.
Dr Stone: May I add that one example
where this sort of scheme might best fit the situation you find
in your constituency is in the outreach? In the Pate's scheme
in particular the key to this is that you are not just dealing
with a scheme which is interested in creating good recruitment
for the school, you are actually dealing with a scheme where we
have a full-time member of staff who goes into these primary schools
for a morning a week every single week. That is the sort of interaction
which, if you replicated it in the independent sector in Bristol
you would have a dedicated member of staff who is providing outreach
and relationship building as well. That is a key to the success
of some of these things.
Q343 Valerie Davey: We are beginning
to think, from my meeting last week, that someone as a catalyst
effect, a neighbourhood link to other links, might be useful.
Dr Stone: Exactly and that develops
a relationship whereby it is not the independent school saying
"We're better than you and let us help you", it is much
The Committee suspended from 4.30 pm to
4.40 pm for a division in the House.
Q344 Chairman: Basically the evidence
we get from the PISA studies and places like that is that the
system which seems to benefit most children across the piece is
a non-selective system entirely. How do you react to that sort
of evidence or do you think it does not make any difference to
the system we already have in the UK?
Sir Peter Lampl: As you know,
in all previous surveys we actually did rather poorly. We did
much better in PISA. We have a study under way to look at all
that. I have lived in Germany, worked in Germany, owned businesses
in Germany and I think their selective system works quite well.
I know they did poorly in PISA, but they have done better in previous
surveys. At the end of the day, according to PISA we do quite
well at the 14 or 15 level. We have a big fallout at 16 and 17
and, if you look at the OECD data, when our kids get out into
the big wide world, the workplace, we are way behind other countries
in terms of the level of education and training. I think on a
whole system basis that the jury is still out. It is a theoretical
discussion: we are not going to go back to a selective system
in this country, there is no way. We did it very badly, let us
be honest. The people who were deselected had a pretty rough time
and the method of selection was, and still is today, pretty bizarre:
just to have a single test and then draw a line above a certain
number and everyone above the number gets in and those below it
do not. The way other countries do it is a better way to go. I
am familiar with Germany where it is done by consensus, where
people move between schools after they are selected. You could
argue that maybe an unselective system, where you have some sort
of setting in schools, works quite well. I am very happy to accept
that. For the brighter kids, if you said to the average middle-class
person who does not really have a political affiliation that they
could send their child to a grammar school if they were of that
abilityforget the system benefitsto an individual
grammar school in an area, rather like my old school, where there
is only one grammar school in Cheltenham, Cheltenham Grammar School,
they would perceive that child would do better in that school
than if he went to a comprehensive because he would with his peers
and because there would be a certain ethos of achievement in the
school, he would be getting better qualified teachers and people
with degrees in the subject, all that sort of stuff. For the individual
child, there is no question that a kid who is selected will probably
do better in the selective system. Okay so there is a comprehensive
school which has better value added, but people look at the hard
data which are the results at the end of the day. The value added
stuff is very soft and suspect at this point, It cannot take into
account what is a more important factor even than the ability
of the child, which is the level of parental support. If I took
two schools, one where they were all Afro-Caribbean or white working
class and they all tested the same as another school with, say,
Asian children or children from middle-class backgrounds, they
could all test the same but you and I know at the end of the day
as a headmaster that the school with the Asian children is going
to show huge value added. Has that been added because the school
has added that value? Is it because they have supportive parents,
parents making sure the kids do their homework, making sure the
kids behave properly, all that stuff? For the kid who has the
ability, that child is probably going to do better in a selective
school. From a system point of view, I agree with you if you have
a wholly selective system, which we had in this country, and I
am not at all advocating going back to that. It worked much better
in Germany where there are three types of school and kids move
between schools after the selection takes place and selection
takes place at a later age, so I think there are lots of benefits
there. The PISA stuff by itself is not the final answer on selection.
Q345 Helen Jones: We have heard from
you about how you think children of high academic ability could
be dealt with. Do you have any suggestions for how we might improve
the performance of many of our children who are of average ability
or even those who have a special need, using the system such as
the one you have told us about? I think you will accept that it
is relatively easy for a school to produce very good results when
it has a highly academically selected intake. Have you done any
work you would like to tell the Committee about on how we might
improve the results for many of the other children in the system?
Sir Peter Lampl: One of the things
we are funding, although we have not done any independent research,
is specialist schools. We are funding the Phoenix school as a
specialist school. We are looking at low-performing inner city
schools where we put one of our people on the governing body,
we put some money into the deal and work with those schools. I
know there is a lot of debate about how well they do. I happen
to think that the data which is produced is optimistic on their
performance and the Committee came to that conclusion. Some of
it does stick. The fact that they have to put together a strategic
plan means the school gets more of a focus and in those sorts
of ways, yes, we are working. The other route of City Academies
is somewhat more controversial, just because of the amounts of
money involved. I am not sure that investing £20 million
or £30 million in a school for 700 or 800 children is cost
effective. I cannot say I have a better idea, but something the
Committee should be thinking about is persuading someone like
myself to put a bit of money in, though the whole thing is mainly
government funded. I really have a question-mark over whether
putting that much money in one school, new buildings, new staff,
making it a quasi-independent school, is money well spent and
whether it could not be spent more effectively in other ways.
Q346 Helen Jones: Would you envisage,
under the system you outlined to us as a possibility, independent
schools taking in, for example, children of average ability from
poorer families as opposed to children of high academic ability
from poorer families or even children with special needs?
Sir Peter Lampl: The selective
independent schools on which we have been focusing will not want
to do that and if you try to get them to do that they will say
they are not going to participate in the scheme. It is very difficult.
There are some independent schools, and you could talk to the
Independent Schools' Council, which are less academic and which
are prepared to do that kind of thing. You could expand the scheme
to the less academic independent schools who are not taking a
highly able intake.
Dr Stone: That is right. We tend
always to focus on the highest performing independent schools.
There is a vast selection out there. I was recently giving evidence
to the Bedford Charity which owns four independent schools in
the Bedford area and is currently considering what it should do
with those schools and is thinking about the mix of intake. They
have a very different attitude to selection than, say, the Belvedere
does or some of the top academic independent schools. They are
looking at a broader intake and wondering how best to make their
bursary schemes serve the community in the best way they can.
They are looking at special needs and they are looking at the
sort of students you are talking about. There are enough independent
schools out there with different approaches and different constituencies
that it would be possible to expand it in a variety of ways.
Q347 Mr Turner: I take it that you
believe that social selectivity is a bad thing.
Sir Peter Lampl: Yes; in general
Q348 Mr Turner: Is that because of
its educational outcomes, or is there another reason?
Sir Peter Lampl: There are two
reasons. One is the educational outcomes. I also think that you
learn as much from the children you were at school with and at
university with as you do from the school. It is a real shame
that we have a system in this country where children go into independent
schools when they are three or four years' old and they stay in
that system the whole time and all they meet are children with
the same sort of backgrounds. I think that causes a lot of problems
in our society and the fact that children from less privileged
backgrounds are not mixing with those children has a lot of social
outcomes which are undesirable. That is one of the reasons I am
very interested in bringing independent schools into the education
provision for everybody, so you do get more of a social mix, both
in independent schools and state schools. I really have a question-mark
over this. At the moment people with means can afford to send
their children to independent schools and have nothing to do with
the state schools. If that automatic right is affected, if the
good independent schools are removed from that equation, I believe
the knock-on effect will be that they will become much more interested
in this. One of the problems we have in this country, which is
totally wrong, is that people with means and good jobs and money
are not really engaging with the state sector, because they are
not part of it and they are not using it and they have an opt-out.
If you were to close off that opt-out to a certain extent, like
the Belvedere scheme, saying "Hey, you can't just come here
because you can afford the fees" and a lot of those kids
were to be displaced, there would be much more interest in the
state sector, which would be a good thing.
Q349 Mr Turner: So it is soft educational
achievement measures rather than hard educational achievement
measures. I think you said both, did you not?
Sir Peter Lampl: I said both;
Q350 Mr Turner: But the hard educational
achievement measures . . . ?
Sir Peter Lampl: The hard educational
achievement measures are if you let kids from less privileged
backgrounds go to independent schools. There is no question that
if you send the same child to an independent schooland
this has been researched by LSE and the Institute of Education
in Londonas opposed to a state school there is higher value
added in an independent school, just because of resources and
all those sorts of reasons.
Q351 Mr Turner: In your statement
you say that there has been a fall in mobility between the 1960s
and 1970s on the one hand and the 1970s and 1980s on the other.
To what do you attribute that fall in mobility?
Sir Peter Lampl: It is not me.
I will tell you what the research attributes that to. Two major
reasons. The first one is that actually the gap has widened enormously
between the bottom and the top over that period. If you look at
what people in the City were earning compared with teachers 30
years ago, not just teachers but working class people etcetera,
that gap has grown enormously. This means that you have a bigger
gap to jump than previously, in order to become more mobile. There
is a bigger disparity in income. The second reason the researchers
have come up with has been that although there has been increased
educational opportunities which have been created over that period,
they have gone disproportionately to well-off people and that
has been because well-off people are getting their kids into independent
schools, getting their kids into good state schools, getting their
kids into university. You have seen the university participation
rate for kids from the lowest social classes is about one in eight
and at the top end it is eight out of ten. There is a huge disparity,
much bigger than other countries, far bigger than the United States,
where you are looking at 45% from the bottom income quartile getting
into university. We are about 15% on that basis. What has happened
is that although increased educational opportunity has been created
in this country, clearly more people going to university, it has
gone disproportionately to the haves rather than the have-nots.
Q352 Mr Turner: You are saying that
increased educational opportunity was created between these two
periods, that is the 1960s to 1970s, compared with the 1970s to
Sir Peter Lampl: Yes; children
born in those periods.
Q353 Mr Turner: I am sorry, I thought
you were talking about those who went to school. Children born.
Sir Peter Lampl: They took a birth
cohort from the 1950s and they took a birth cohort from 1970 and
compared them 30 years later, the relationship between parents
and children from the 1950 cohort compared with the 1970 cohort.
They discovered that the earnings and social position of children
born in 1970 was much more closely related to their parents' earnings
and social position than kids born in the 1950s.
Q354 Mr Turner: Most people would
observe that the biggest single change which took place for those
who were born in the 1950s compared with those who were born in
the 1970s, was the abolition of grammar schools or the large-scale
diminution of the London grammar schools.
Sir Peter Lampl: That was one
of the things which took place and the other thing which took
place was big expansion in universities, which was another area
of opportunity. I am not sure you can attribute that to the abolition
of grammar schools.
Q355 Mr Turner: Attribute what?
Sir Peter Lampl: Attribute the
decreased social mobility to the abolition of grammar schools.
I am not sure that conclusion follows.
Q356 Mr Turner: You have no evidence
to the contrary but
Sir Peter Lampl: I do not have
any evidence but what has happened is that we got rid of grammar
schools in order to try to improve social mobility and what we
put in its place was supposedly a comprehensive system, but it
has not worked that way unfortunately.
Q357 Mr Turner: It has reduced social
Sir Peter Lampl: I am not sure.
The school system has and the fact that many opportunities at
universities have gone disproportionately to the middle classes.
It is a combination of schools and universities which has done
Q358 Mr Pollard: Does competition
between different schools and different types of school raise
Sir Peter Lampl: You are talking
to someone who has spent most of his life in business and has
been competing in all sorts of businesses. In general I think
that is true. We have a very strong independent sector in this
country. If you look at the surveys they are probably, arguably,
academically some of the best schools in the world. One of the
reasons is that they compete with each another and they are very
competitive and they compete with state schools. I do think competition
raises standards; I believe it does.
Q359 Mr Pollard: You implied at the
beginning of your presentation that you were disappointed in the
Labour Government. You said that six years in and we are where
we are. I just wondered whether my reading of that was correct
and if it was correct, what would you suggest should have been
Sir Peter Lampl: The Labour Government
has been good in some areas and not so good in others. In terms
of what was done in primary schools, in terms of raising standards,
it has been great and that has been a good thing; what is now
going on in secondary schools with specialist schools in another
area. The Labour Government is trying to improve the general level
of education in this country, which is a great thing. What it
has not done is address the issues of social justice in my opinion,
both at the school end and at the university end. I think it has
stayed away from that for political reasons. It has been very
disappointing that there has not been more action in this area
of selection into schools, secondary schools. It has left the
independent sector alone basically. It has said it is not going
to challenge the charitable status, it has done a few partnerships,
it has sort of ignored it. I do not think that is the right answer.
It has not really done anything about grammar schools. I think
the answer to grammar schools is not to abolish them, but to open
them up and make them available to a wider audience. A lot of
them are effectively free private schools for middle-class kids
and that is wrong. In terms of improving social mobility and social
justice, it has been very disappointing. In terms of trying to
raise education standards overall, it has done okay. It has not
changed the balance of who benefits from those. You are focusing
on a really crucial aspect, which is how kids get allocated to
schools and how it all works. There are so many things. I keep
coming back to school busing which is a huge social inclusion
issue, which government has not addressed: school transport. In
the States and Canada it is very different. It is the school's
responsibility to get your kid from home and to school. The school
day starts when the kid leaves home and actually finishes when
the kid gets back from school. It is very interesting. Here it
is your problem. I am sorry, but if you do not have a second car,
theoretically you have the choice to go to a school of your choice
but in practice you do not. The government say there is actually
school choice, but we all know deep down that a lot of people
do not have school choice. What I am concerned about is to get
real school choice.
6 Note by witness: It is running at about £1.25
million this year rising to £2 million in 2005-06. Back