Schooling Nick Clegg’s son: Nick and Stephen are both wrong

Over on Lib Dem Voice, Nick Thornsby has argued that the schooling decisions made by Nick Clegg and Miriam Gonzalez Durantez for their children are none of our business.

For pretty much the same reasons as those Stephen Tall has given, I think Nick T. is wrong about that. But I think Stephen too is wrong with his implication when he says:

Politics works when it is representative, when leaders understand the lives lived by those they seek to lead. If too many of our politicians become too detached from the grind of everyday reality — if they don’t use state schools or travel by bus or use the NHS — how can we hope they will come up with solutions that help the majority?

That’s because politicians deciding to spend money on trying to get the very best for their children isn’t being detached from the lives of those they seek to lead. It’s doing just what those they seek to lead do too. For the poorest of parents, it may be about scrapping together a few extra pence for a treat for their child. For the richest, it may be about expensive private schooling when faced with underwhelming state school options. Either way, the motivation is the same – prioritising your children and doing what you can to help them.

That’s a shared emotion, playing out differently for people in different circumstances.

If a politician is a parent, I’d far rather they shared that emotional instinct than that they made it play second-fiddle to other considerations.

18 responses to “Schooling Nick Clegg’s son: Nick and Stephen are both wrong”

  1. I don't disagree on an individual level, Mark. My point was abut the aggregate effect "if too many of our politicians become too detached". Surely it's a problem if a government has very little experience of the services it's responsible for? Equally it may be a problem if it has no experience of anything but its own services. Plurality and diversity are Good Things.

    • erm….. correct me if I'm wrong, but dont all of Nick and Miriams children currently attend state schools at the moment?

      Why not save the pages until decisions are made instead of arguing a story that hasnt happened yet?

      It happens often enough in the private media!

    • See my comment elsewhere. Basically I agree but I'm not sure about "what most parents would do if they could afford it. " A lot of parents spend the money on houses, cars and foreign holidays. My parents weren't rich, owned a mini and didn't take holidays. They paid for my education. I don't think they're the only ones, but this is precisely my point. In a free society we wouldn't criticise people for buying other things for their children, so why should we criticise if they prefer to spend it on education ?

    • That's fine as long as you don't then expect people to take you seriously when you make speeches that link the inequalities between private and state education and the lack of social mobility in our society.

  2. Firstly, I'm not sure that was Stephen's point.

    Secondly, I think you either believe something or you don't. If you genuinely believe that the cycle of well off people buying a head start for their children is wrong you can't then suddenly not believe it when it comes to your own children. And that's the real problem for Nick here. Next time he tries to make a speech like the one he made in Wandsworth in Sept 2011 about the Government's education ambitions, or to the Sutton Trust last year about social mobility, he's not likely to convince.

    • Is that what Nick believes though Neil Fawcett? Some people believe "the cycle of well off people buying a head start for their children is wrong" certainly, but plenty of others say it's something different that is wrong – such as that state schools are not as good as private schools; ie ascribing the cause you want to fix to the state of schools not to the choices of parents.

      If that's what you think is wrong, then it follows from that it's reasonable both to think parents should be free to choose and also to be passionate about wanting to reduce and even remove the difference in quality.

    • A footnote – looking quickly at the Sutton Trust speech at http://www.dpm.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/news/nick-clegg-speech-social-mobility I see he says things like "We are committed to narrowing the gap in our school system – state and private – and ensuring that all children are given the chance to rise. The way to do that is to make the state education system better – to level up."

      That seems a different view of the education system than the one in your "If you genuinely believe…" sentence? So I guess the answer is simply that he doesn't believe that; he believes something similar but different?

    • Well to an extent he seemed to be trying to ride two horses in the speech. on the one hand describing the unfair impact of the wealthy being able to buy a better start in life for their children, but on the other arguing that it was OK for them to do so.

      But even setting that aside, he doesn't appear to believe that his Government is going to achieve its objective of 'leveling up' state schools sufficiently for him to send his children to them.

  3. There are plenty of people who went to state school who got a far better education than at my independent school. But not in my area. Some people are luckier where they live. A politician's reputation should not be at the mercy of where he or she lives.

    • As someone who grew up not far from you I can only agree as the local secondary school was dreadful (from reviews it still is) so I went to Bancrofts. Which school did you go to?

    • Forest. Older sister sat and passed entrance exams for both but family chose Forest over Bancrofts. How often I have heard the name in sports reports but never actually been there! I'm glad I got to learn Latin (at a reduced price because of my scholarship). But had I gone to a state school in Richmond, I'd have got to learn Ancient Greek as well, and maybe other modern languages such as Italian, Spanish or Russian (where our fee-paying school offered only French and German).

    • Then again, I wouldn't recommend the traditional A-level based English system to anyone. The narrowing of subjects, chosen at age 15 or even 12 (when I had to forgo biology to learn German), has blighted my academic life. After my Classics degree, I wanted to retrain as an engineer but there was no route to do it without independent means. I would advise Nick, Miriam and any parent to go for a more baccalaureate-style system (UCAS willing – but then I'd also reform HE entry so it was based on actual grades achieved rather than projections; getting into Oxbridge was not based on academic merit in my day, with offers of two Es being offered to those whose faces fit).

  4. I wonder what our leader thinks "happens" to children in state education. What is entirely wrong is this idea that a state education, where chosen, is something one would be sacrificing one's child to.

    I don't wish to sound over-judgey, but some have a parental mindset that you can somehow buy your child's ability to succeed. Apart from being an obnoxious notion for a liberal to sign up to, it's also plain wrong.

    Clegg, like me, is a member of a generation of Cambridge grads where more than half of our contemporaries were state educated. (70% at Cambridge's academically top-ranked King's College.)

    I realise that as someone who falls the other side of that private/public divide to him, I don't have 'the fear' around state schools.

    In fact I know in so many ways that state is better, especially now, especially in much of London. What a shame for his kid that Nick will now never find that out.

    This issue, to be honest, makes me [further] doubt his judgement, though to declare an interest, I didn't start out as a fan.

  5. I would think that Nick and Miriam are deciding which is the best school for their son- not "shall we go Private or State?"
    They are also deciding someones life- not their own. They cannot say to their child in years to come"We could have sent you to what we thought was a better school, but it wasn't the right thing to do- politically".
    Mr Fawcett; I believe that the cycle of well off people buying a head start for their children is wrong, but I would not sacrifice my child's future trying to prove it-would you?

    • Well we took the conscious decision to send our eldest to the local state primary school, even though it was in special measures at the time, because we (and a few other parents we knew) thought it was important to support our community school.

      But then I don't buy this line that sending children to a local state school equates to 'sacrificing my child's future'. It just means she gets the same education as most other children.

      And if Nick does believe that then why the hell isn't he urgently doing more about it?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments and data you submit with them will be handled in line with the privacy and moderation policies.