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'An influential activist' - The Guardian

'Iain Dale, without the self loathing' - Matthew Fox in The New Statesman

You are a tinker...' - Tim Farron

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Last week praising Mandelson, today's it's David Willetts. Has my political antennae gone bonkers?

David Willets has upset the Daily Mail. Hooray.

He has apparently announced that he believes children from schools that perform less well should be given preference over pupils from more privileged backgrounds who may have better grades – but perhaps have done better thanks to the advantages they have received rather than basic talent.

I remember a similar scheme being mooted a few year back by the medical school at St. George’s in Tooting – and I have to say it has a lot of merit.

In an era when straight A’s across the board are increasingly commonplace, it seems eminently sensible to me to include a measure of how the grades a pupil achieved were obtained, as well as what those grades actually were, in order to differentiate between candidates. Indeed, I would venture further that those who have struggled through adversity to get to where they want to be rather than sailing serenely along on an educational conveyor belt delivering Oxbridge places are more likely to grasp the opportunity with both hands – and go on and do more with it afterwards.

Yes, of course I’m making a sweeping generalization there – but you get my point.

My only regret at this news was that apparently when Nick announces the social mobility strategy next week, then it won’t go as far as radical measures like these. Maybe today’s words from Willets are designed to make the actual proposals next week seem a little more palatable to the Daily Mail and its ilk.

But I think that would be a chance missed. Come on Nick – radical, creative, brave as a lion. Let’s make a difference now (oh, and Labour green with envy as well).

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