The resignation of Estelle Morris surprised most people: not just because of its timing but because she resigned on grounds of incompetence - to outsiders she seemed more unlucky than incompetent. For any politician such an admission is amazing, and that, understandably, occupied everyone's attention. What few noticed was that she had not resigned on a matter of principle. Yet, if press commentary is accurate, she had every reason to do so. It was widely suggested that she was worn down by constant interference from Number Ten, one consequence of which was that she failed to keep the new 'faith' schools under control. If that is true, she should have resigned, for the 'faith' schools are a blow to a democratic educational system - something which she knew or ought to have known. Indeed they are merely one of many forms of secondary school - most of which Ms Morris seems to have accepted - designed to destroy the comprehensive system as it now exists. Still, her resignation has at least focused attention on what the present Government is up to, and gives Labour MPs even less excuse to look the other way. For there is no doubt what the Government is doing: reintroducing selection, at a gathering pace, into the English secondary school system.
LRB 28 November 2002 | PDF Download