Simon Carr:

Simon Carr: Ebdon won his elite place though he failed the exam

Sketch: If independent schools are 55 times more likely to get their pupils into Oxbridge - what happens if all schools are made independent?

Share
Related Topics

The Ebdon Question came back to the Commons. It's quite a long question, but it goes like this: "Why would a dull, dusty, rule-bound, education bureaucrat running a college with a 20 per cent drop-out rate from NVQ courses in Carnival Skills and Coronation St Studies be put in charge of getting more poor students into the dreaming spire universities which are still a global byword for academic excellence?"

He did make a very poor impression on the committee at his confirmation hearing. So much so that they deconfirmed him. But to no avail as Vince Cable, his sponsor, reconfirmed him.

Ebdon was the most prominent critic of Cable's tuition fees Bill, so who knows what's going on. Liberal Democrats playing both sides of the net, perhaps.

Though the argument splits out on party lines, there's a consensus on the problem. Edward Leigh mentioned the 50 students out of 80,000 on free school meals who get into Oxbridge. Ian Lucas told us just five students from Wrexham made it there in the five years to 2010. Stephen Lloyd said that two or three independent schools get more pupils in than 2,000 state schools put together.

If you are of the left you will see this as the educated bourgeoisie maintaining its class privilege. Poor children are made to eat chillies at the interview while tutors scream at them: "How do you know you're not a dolphin?" And Etonians are asked: "Do you think it's too early for a gin and tonic?" So Ebdon answers for the Labour party when he says the elite universities should be forced to take more poor pupils or have their funding cut.

The right make a series of inconvenient points. Edward Leigh: "After 50 years of comprehensive education, it's clear there was more social mobility when there was a grammar school in every town." Or Liz Truss explaining the impossibility of half comprehensive pupils studying science at Oxbridge because they can't do further maths in their sixth forms.

Or Nicola Blackwood that interviewers bend over backwards to help applicants through the interviews.

But if independent schools are 55 times more likely to get their pupils into Oxbridge – what happens if all schools are made independent? Michael Gove wasn't there to make the point, but that's his plan. Will it work? That really is a question.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Renewable Energy Construction Manager

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

A woman’s power is in her laughter – no wonder men are scared enough they want to silence it

Howard Jacobson
The new lobby entrance to the Hotel Majestic  

Errors and omissions: There’s strength in numbers – as long as they agree

Guy Keleny
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices