Edfest: Claire Fox, Keith Vaz, David Starkey, Katie Hopkins

These four are debating what children should learn for the future, chaired by Alice Thompson.

Katie begins. She has advice. Completely reverse our current trend by leaving behind those who are not worth the effort. Social mobility upsets her deeply. Funds should not be diverted to the underachieving in underprivileged areas. There should be no coding because computers will be able to do the tech for us, so soft skills are more important. Tech therefore does not matter.

David believes that social mobility matters very much (applause, which “horrifies him”). He was dragged up from the working class swamp thanks to education (and having Quaker parents). He is an elitist too, but thinks we need to be careful with definitions. We are at a let moment in the survival of this extraordinary cultural tradition, which is rooted in the dialogue of past and present and our system(s) of education need to be defined by approaches to rigorous academic education, as a vehicle of social mobility.

Katie appears to be practising her teacher stare through this section. More practice needed.

Claire thinks the implication that future education needs more skills like coding is a complete betrayal of our academic tradition. No soft skills, no coding. Discrimination in schools is important. An academic liberal arts curriculum is a must for all students to the age of 16: she cares not if they yet are bored or fail or find it irrelevant. Being well educated is vital regardless of future job prospects.

Keith feels he is clearly the moderate. As the son of a teacher, he feels the system does not value teachers enough, and valuing them more will improve the education system. His parents came him from Yemen because the UK had one of the the best education systems in the world. Knowledge, understanding, skills and qualifications are important; education must embrace multiculturalism and diversity. He references one of the Trojan Horse schools in Birmingham, saying that this place knows how to deal with the context of the their students.

Katie rejects all of this. 16% of the population have an IQ of less than 85 and wasting resources on these is a criminal mistake. Alice disagrees, as the daughter of a former borstal head. Claire points out that IQ is not biologically determined (rubbish, counters Starkey) but that the important thing is to do your best with what you have, and teachers should introduce the greatest art and literature and let them do with it what they will. Anything less is a betrayal of the concept of education.

Keith thinks you can mix both Katie and Claire’s ideas. Children only have a limited amount of time to be educated and cannot wait for all the faffing around of politicians.

Alice thinks the changes have been very good, but is cut off by Starkey accusing her of journalistic self-congratulation, which delights Katie to the point where I think I might have to heave leave. David thinks we should look at the best of what we’ve got: public schools have set the model for behaviour; models from other countries should also inform us: very diverse types of school which will help to fight the influence of their families.

Questioner wonders, there’s a link between education and good health, so shouldn’t PSHE be compulsory? Claire thinks definitely not. It drearily endlessly preaches a public health message and relationship education is in the same boat. Keith thinks PSHE is a great opportunity to remind children about the importance of good health. Lifestyle messages are best put in school, where peer pressure can be brought the bear.

Next questioner points out that Katie’s sycophantic attitude towards David during this lecture is base hypocrisy since he is a product of social mobility. Katie seems to agree with her. She says current approaches to social mobility are what she disagrees with. It enrages her with a passion that competition is not allowed.

It enrages me with a passion that she is allowed.

David could not give a fuck about sport (I quote verbatim) but is in favour of competition. He thinks that Katie, as a fan of money, should not disparage plumbers or caterers or builders, since they are usually extremely successful and often very clever. He somehow manages to link this back to his original idea that other countries offer educational diversity much better than the UK.

Last question comes from that #toughyoungteacher Oliver, who wonders why Wellington is lauded over other schools that move their students on much further and faster from their starting points.

What’s your favourite school? Asks Alice.
David: Brighton College. All sixth formers must study History…surprise.
Claire: not clear what her answer is – one where everyone can fall in love with Beethoven. A Hirscher, then.
Keith: his school in Yemen, his school in Twickenham, and Latymer Upper.
Katie: Conniton? Honiton? Grammar.

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