Tony Blair, the Leader of the UK Labour Party, and Harriet Harman, that party's Shadow Health Spokesperson and the wife of Jack Dromey, Deputy General Secretary of the UK's largest Union who recently unsuccessfully tried to unseat that union's Black General Secretary, have both sent children to the London Oratory School. This is a former catholic comprehensive which 'opted out' and has imposed a selection policy based on parental interview. The result is that is now excludes many children from its original feeder primary schools and has become an elitist middle class preserve. Labour's policy was originally to oppose opt-out but this has now been changed to accommodate the Leader's actions. Harman exacerbated her offence by sending another child to a selective school which admits by examination. Behind these developments there lies the very real combined issue of race and poverty in Inner London. London as a world city houses the affluent upper-middle classes in close proximity to the black and white poor. Many Afro-Carribeans are catholic so they do attend catholic schools. Suburban residents don't have a problem in keeping their children out of low achieving schools, but inner city higher service class people who don't use the private system, do. It is London specific but the London based political and media elite dominate the educational debate, despite the atypicality of their experiences.
Copyright Sociological Research Online, 1996