The number of people on the Left who think George Osborne believing cutting the deficit would spur 'a strong enterprise led recovery' makes the lacklustre economic performance of the last five years any more acceptable is about the same as those on the Right who think Gordon Brown's aim of ending boom and bust vindicated his handling of the economy. Fewer still look back at those saying in 2003 'anytime ordinary people are given the chance to choose, the choice is the same: freedom...democracy...the rule of law' and thinks how great it was we dared to dream. In public policy good intentions are not enough, it's results that count.
The commitment of teachers to give every child, rich or poor, the same opportunity to succeed is beyond doubt. As a profession teachers are wounded and frustrated that it's fashionable to call it into question, despite them working long hours in a workplace whose challenges dwarf those faced by ones made up solely of adults. I don't doubt the sincerity of Michael Gove's belief that changing the funding arrangements of schools and tinkering with exams would help that spread of opportunity.
But here's the rub, it's the same policy prescription we've had since the National Curriculum was introduced in 1988 and it hasn't worked. Poverty is still a rocksolid predictor of academic failure. In today's Guardian there's an article about how the gap in university acceptance between pupils whoqualify for free school meals and those that don't has narrowed from30.5% to 29.8%. It's being touted as a special success because realistic fears higher fees would have caused it to grow proved unfounded. It would be funny if it weren't so serious, our tolerance for a society in which those born poor stay that way.
Why is it only in Education that good intentions are enough? If the aim is to make society fairer by expanding opportunity we're clearly not doing it right because we're travelling in the opposite direction. We're long overdue a policy that works.