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Politics/Current Affairs

Ruth Kelly In School ‘Choice’ Controversy

Tuesday, January 9th, 2007 at 14:33 by Stephen Ball

New Labour has said for a long time that Education should be all about “choice”. It turns out that Ruth Kelly’s choice as a rich person is to send her child somewhere he’ll get adequate teaching… but that’s not one of the six nearby high-ranking State schools which provide for children with dyslexia.

Mrs Kelly, who is famously a member of the ultra-strict Catholic sect ‘Opus Dei’, was frequently attacked for her performance during her term as Education Minister. The National Union of Teachers “graded her an F”. Now she seems to have come under fire for doing what many other Labour ministers have also done: after saying that the state school system is excellent and can definitely cater to children with special needs, she’s sending her own child to a private school.

Ruth Kelly said “I, like any mother, want to do the right thing for my son. That has been my sole motivation”. She doesn’t seem to see how that translates as “State schools are not adequate for my son’s needs”. New Labour has pushed the “Inclusion” policy of placing children with special needs into normal state-school classes, and Kelly defended this when it was strongly criticised in the past few years.

Her move is not so surprising, though. She was instrumental in the push for privatising schools (and increasing the number of privately-funded faith schools). When it was pointed out that the funding gap between the best and worst schools was 135%, and that making money so central to running a school means that poor children lose out, she responded that the “Admission Code” would make the process fair. Good! So how does the code strongly enforce a fair admissions policy? What exactly does it say?

“Nothing yet, it’s has been withdrawn and is up for consultation. It won’t be ready until after the Bill is passed.”

Of course, in her new position as the Minister for Equality she’s doing much better. She (along with Tony Blair) is against the “Sexual Orientation Regulations” bill being debated in the Lords, due to be protested by Christian groups tonight. Some people were worried that her beliefs (which are definitely not liberal, given the requirements of Opus Dei) might affect her choices on gay rights or her performance as the minister who liaises with the Muslim community. She reassured everyone by consistently refusing to answer whether she thought homosexuality was a sin, and voting against every gay right measure so far.

This latest controversy is only made slightly more embarrassing by the fact that 117 specialist schools for special-needs children have been closed under New Labour (20 just in her time as Education Secretary.) Dianne Abbott may have sent her children to a private school, but the difference seems to be that she was never Education Minister.

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