School choice a matter for parents – Even party leaders?

 The crucial and agonising decision on where to send a son or daughter to school affects all parents, yet does not normally elicit national comment. If you are David Cameron and if the choice is, shock horror, not the nearest large comprehensive but a small ‘faith school’ the matter apparently warrants column inches of speculation and national scrutiny. Armed with a politically loaded definition and dredging up memories of the Blair-Oratory controversy the Daily Mail, Times, Guardian, and Daily Mirror seem intent on hounding David Cameron on issues of school choice and religious observance.

With the recent UN report on the decrepit state of our nations ‘yoof’ and the all too clear relevance of gang inspired gun crime, the decision of Mr Cameron to invest his child’s future in a local ‘faith school’ belies a deeper concern of the morality, accountability and standards of British education. Perhaps the obsessive Labour focus on exams and entrepreneurial academies, whilst addressing employers concerns, fails to tend the distinct lack of moral guidance and citizenship that leads many teenagers astray.

Firstly Mr Cameron is exercising a choice, a choice of faith, a choice of school and crucially a choice for his child’s future. The accusations of elitism that continually dog the man are given another cheap opportunity to surface whilst the real issue of educational choice, moral guidance and long term solutions to the crisis of youth are lost. The freedom to choose where your child is educated and a historical commitment to a Church of England education, both Conservative cornerstones, represent a better future for Mr Cameron’s children than that offered by a relentlessly egalitarian and morally devoid academy, comprehensive or college.

Secondly, as many would not like to admit, the return of religious values, smaller schools and less prescribed teaching structures would go some way to correcting the attitude of a violent and disaffected youth culture. I was fortunate to spend a year at a New York high school and the prevalence of religious values, admittedly not administered through class room teaching, on the most deprived and potentially vulnerable pupils was astounding. Their attitudes to drugs, sex, alcohol and violence were markedly different from those of my English classmates, an example to be followed and one that might well go some way to reversing the unending moral destitution of our nations future.

Oliver Tree

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