Schools: did yours define your life chances?

Does the school you go to determine your future prospects? If so, is it fair that some have fees and entrance exams and others don’t? Katie Hopkins reckons that without grammar schools the clever kids are being held back. Others say grammar schools mean only the well-off get the opportunity. What about all these private schools and academies?

Someone explain! That’s what Scenes of Reason is here for.

What types of school are there in the UK?


Most people go to State School a.k.a a comprehensive. They are state funded and run by the local authority (council) and stick to the national curriculum. The curriculum is a set of subjects and standards created by the government. It’s all the things students should leave school knowing. Useful stuff like Pythagoras Theorem and don’t put your hand over a Bunsen burner.


This graphic tells you everything you need to know about UK schools.

Infographic explaining differences between UK school types


There are just under 25,000 schools in the UK (including nurseries, special schools and pupil referral units).


Around 80% of these are state funded. Only 10% of schools are private schools which charge fees.


There are only about 250 grammar schools across England and Ireland, and they flat out don’t exist in Scotland. There used to be a lot more but in 1998 Labour banned the creation of new grammar schools.


Social Mobility???


Social mobility ain't easy

Social mobility ain’t easy

The UK schools system is supposed to enable social mobility. This is a person’s movement over time from one class to another. When you hear “social mobility” in the news it’s probably about upwards social mobility. For example, the ability of an individual from the underprivileged classes to move up to the middle classes.


Private schools offer scholarships so smart kids without wealthy parents can attend for free. Grammar schools don’t charge fees but only let the smart kids in – so smart kids of all backgrounds can mix with other smart kids and not be held back by kid who don’t do as well in school.


That’s the theory of how it’s supposed to work.


Thing is, only 7% of the UK population have a private education – but a massive 71% of senior judges have private education (they earn massive dollar).


If everyone had equal opportunities regardless of what school they went to, then less than ten times as many private school kids would end up judges. Just saying.

The majority of the UK don't have private education, but the majority of the cabinet DO.

The majority of the UK don’t have private education, but the half of the cabinet DO.


The same goes for 44% of people on the Sunday Times Rich List, 54% of the top 100 media professionals and 50% of the current Cabinet (prime minister David Cameron’s top team).


Soooo… can we blame the UK school system for these inequalities in later life? This is a debate that has been going on for ages. People seem to get very pissy about it.


The Grammar School Debate


Just to remind you – grammar schools don’t charge you a penny, but they will only take you in if you pass the 11+ which you sit, umm, when you’re 11.


A lot of people reckon it’s totes not fair to sort the smart kids from the dumb ones at such a young age. It’s especially unfair, these people say, because this kind of testing doesn’t actually select the smart kids, it selects the kids whose richer parents were able to afford private tuition. A kid who is just as smart but whose parents lack the time, money or inclination to make sure they pass the 11+ is much less likely to get into a grammar school. Ring a bell anyone?



Then again, seeing as grammar schools tend to have way better academic results than state schools, a bunch of other people reckon that providing bright underprivileged kids with opportunity to go to these schools is worth it, because they will leave with much better prospects for getting a job they wouldn’t have done otherwise.


As columnist Katie Hopkins puts it:


Heavy angry stuff. And we were all caught in the middle of it just a few years ago when we were school age. Does where you are today prove that it’s the wealthy smart kids who get in over the less wealthy and non-tutored bright sparks? Or does it prove that selective schools like grammars offer better opportunities for smart kids, regardless of their backgrounds?



School Findings; there is massive angry debate over what is best for the kids.

There are many individuals who prove that our education does not have to define us. Yet, there would seem to be a more systematic problem with elitism in the UK. Are schools to blame? Or would these people have ended up in the top jobs regardless of the school they went to, because of other things like family wealth and connections?



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GCSE Reform: Proof that we are too old to say we miss school

Education is getting a shake-up. GCSE reform is just one of the governments latest plans to improve the school system. Here are some major changes to education over the years; we’ll leave it to you to work out if things are better or worse.


1) GCSE reform means tougher exams?

Education GCSE reform means calculators may be used for more than writing "boobs"

Wait, what?

New changes announced by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan mean students will have to work harder to get a pass. The traditional A-G grading system is being replaced by a 1-9 numbered system. 

9 is high, 1 is low. Should it not be the other way round?

Anyway students will now have to get a grade 5 to pass; the same as a low B or high C grade. Prior to GCSE reform a normal C grade was still considered a pass. So things are gonna be tougher; now are you glad you’re not at school anymore?


How long will it be before students are attempting to get the grades 5,3,1,8,0,0 and 8 in different subjects, so that they can turn their results paper upside down to spell “BOOBIES”?!


2) Sex Education

Sex Education - will this change under GCSE reform?

Awks. Maybe a GCSE reform on Sex Ed should be top of the agenda.

Back when you little things were innocent. It was pretty racy to be holding someones hand, or passing them a note.

In a piece for the Open University Professor Michael Reiss explains how sex education was very limited before World War Two.

Before that girls were tutored on self-control and modesty, whereas boys were taught about the temptations of “factory life”. Because it’s obvious that to lose your virginity you go to a factory, right?

Today, with high numbers of Sexting in schools maybe it’s a good thing that kids have all the factsBut is it possible sex education can go to far? Recently it was reported that Harvard University is now going to give an Anal Sex workshop as part of their Sex Week Program. Yes, that’s right. Anal 101. Maybe the UK government should have included foreplay lessons in the GCSE reform plan. Just kidding. 


3) University U-Turns

Back in the good old days university was free. You could even get grants to help pay for living costs. The Labour government spoiled things slightly by bringing in tuition fees. Which were then raised by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition. Guys, you really don’t need to try to out-do each other.

Education is a pricey one - university tuition fees are on the rise.


Despite the increase more young people are applying to university; in 2013, nearly 50% of young people were going. This was the highest amount on record.

Whether people are going to study or just for the cheap booze and banter is hard to tell. But the debt is going up, up, up. Some worry this will lead to people being priced out of an education.

Forget GCSE reform; is it time we had a reform of tuition fees?


4) Girl Power

Education GCSE reform An image of Emma Watson as Hermione in the Harry Potter Series

Five Points to Gryffindor

The days of Home Economics, where girls were taught how to cook and clean, are long gone.

What ever your views on feminism, things have drastically changed. Subjects are no longer specified for girls or boys.

In the past boys and girls were kept separated; people thought that girls would struggle academically compared to boys. Now, academically girls are outperforming boys at GCSE level.


5) #NewTechology

education gcse reform. An image from the TV show the IT crowd

Can your fancy coding tricks stop a fire? Wait, they can? Get outta here.

Typewriting lessons were once considered pretty rad. Computers arrived; they were for playing snake and creating presentations with clip art (a great way of not doing much and making it look awesome).

Now kids in secondary school are being taught how to code from an early age. Children use video, online tools and photoshop. Interactive online lessons have become popular; though so far this hasn’t meant we can work from home.

But… what happens to people who aren’t tech-savvy? If you’re a millennial who just missed out on the coding revolution; start crying, we’re screwed.


6) No more beatings.

Education GCSE reform - image of Bart Simpson writing lines from TV show the Simpsons

Only 257 lines to go.

You might think your teachers are tough on you, but in the past it was a lot worse.

In the past, you could expect to be beaten if you stepped out of line. The practice of hitting misbehaving students with canes was still allowed until 1986. Mental, huh?

Now as attitudes have changed new rules to protect students are much, much stricter. Punishments are often designed to make students think about what they’ve done wrong. Does this mean children are less likely to misbehave?

As well as knowing you’re not going to be beat up, student’s mental wellbeing is monitored by teaching staff. It’s hard deciding which topics should be included in a GCSE reform; exam board AQA have decided to take suicide off their education curriculum as it was too upsetting.


What we learned; if you’re 23/24, looks as if our kids are going to be screwing up their faces when when we mention GCSE’s, just like we did when our parents told us about O Levels. Welcome to the adult world.

Are schools better than they were in the past? Is the GCSE reform a good idea? What more needs to be done to improve our education system?


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2015 Green Party Manifesto Explained in 6 Minutes

The Green Party have just released their manifesto for 2015. So what do you need to know?

In a nutshell: out with the old and in with the Green.

That means: Heal the planet, have a more equal and just society, and definitely a more democratic government.

Sound interesting? Read on…



  • Invest in an £85billion public programme of renewable electricity generation, flood defences and building insulation. They mean business. Renewable business. Why? Because of Climate Change of course!
  • Cut emissions by providing cheaper public transport and encouraging cycling and walking. That means a 10% cut in ticket prices for public transport.
  • And all rail to be owned by the public too.
  • Reduce. Re-use. Recycle. Reduce. Re-use. Recycle. Get it?
  • Organic lovers: Greens will majorly reduce the use of pesticides and prioritise non-chemical farming methods. How? Education, education, education! Oh and new legislation, schemes and general support for organic farming.
  • Aim to have everyone living a 5 minute walk away from a green open space.



  • Factories will have to label their meat and dairy products to show the method of production and slaughter, and stop the overuse of antibiotics in animal farming. Oh and mandatory CCTV in slaughterhouses – does this mean more vegetarians? Maybe.
  • Eating Foie Gras is out. Lucky duckies.
  • Honey honey: Help bees, yes, bees, by reducing pesticide use and help preserve and create bee habitats. Bees will be a priority species. Those bees be lucky.
  • You can no longer clone farm animals – did anyone know that you could!?
  • All you people with primates as household pets, you can’t have them any more. Soz.
  • Good time to be a dog: ban on dog fighting, all breeders will have to be properly licensed, an end to puppy farming, and no more horrible training aids like electric shock collars – that can’t be fun.
  • No more animals in the circus and a full review of horse racing and jockeys can’t use whips any more.
  • Ban all hunting of animals whether it be sport or for pleasure and generally work for the protection of all endangered animals locally and internationally, especially whales and dolphins coz they’re just great.



  • Insulation programme: insulate 9 million homes and take at least 2 million homes out of fuel poverty where households cannot afford to heat their homes due to current costs. This will cost £45billion over the five year Parliament and create 100,000 jobs.
  • Tenants will have the right to make landlords implement the same improvements to the energy performance of their home.
  • Always, ALWAYS say no to fracking.
  • Solar panels: everywhere.



  • No privatisation whatsoever, seriously, none.
  • Immediately increase the NHS budget by £12billion a year.
  • Increase the investment on mental health and make it as important as physical health: totally equal.
  • Free social care and proper funding for the elderly, and also combat the loneliness of the elderly – tinder?
  • Treat drug addiction as a health problem rather than a crime.
  • Introduce presumed consent for organ donors, giving relatives the opportunity and respect to then refuse it and introduce assisted suicide under strict, carefully thought through and well-monitored circumstances.



  • End SATs (Standard Assessment Tests), no more league tables and no more academies.
  • End university tuition fees for undergraduates and cancel student debt. That’s right: cancel student debt. Wowzers.
  • Encourage children to be involved with growing and cooking food – very Jamie Oliver. The Greens also want to introduce lessons on HIV, sex and relationships but let’s hope all these lessons won’t be together.
  • Have class sizes of 20, costing £1.5billion over 5 year Parliament.
  • Compulsory education begins at 7 years old – not 5 years old as it stands.
  • Private schools are not charities! Remove charitable status and ensure no schools are run for profit.
  • Phase out public funding for religious schools and restore Education Maintenance Allowance for those 16-19 year olds in sixth form, college and further education who need the financial help in order to attend.



  • 500,000 new social homes for rent over next five years, control excessive rents and have some stability with house prices.
  • Scrap the Conservative’s Help To Buy scheme that is meant to help people buy their first home by lowering the initial deposit.
  • Abolish the bedroom tax and keep housing benefit for under 25s.



  • Make the minimum wage a living wage of £10 per hour by 2020, and the highest wage in any organisation no more than ten times the lowest wage.
  • Public spending will account for almost half of the national income.
  • With all the changes in the Green manifesto, over 1 million jobs will be created.
  • Double child benefit.


Facts About Child Benefit

As it stands: Facts about child benefit. The Green Party plans to double this amount.




  • Equality and diversity lessons in all schools from first year of primary school.
  • Enforce penalties against employers who continue to implement unequal pay, and basically make equal pay for men and women a reality.
  • It will be illegal to ask mothers to stop breastfeeding in public.
  • Increase the budget for people living with disabilities by around £1billion a year.
  • Increase Carer’s Allowance by 50% – currently £62.10 a week.



  • 16 and 17 year olds you have the vote!
  • Age of criminal responsibility will be 14 not 10 years old.
  • Free local public transport for young people.
  • End exploitation of interns, so you don’t work for free for longer than 4 weeks.
  • Provide emergency shelter for up to 200,000 young people every year.



  • Introduce a written constitution – so people know where they stand, know their rights and it’s all written down and legit.
  • Introducing: Proportional Representation. A different voting system to the one we use at the moment called First Past The Post. Funnily enough, P.R means the number of votes a party receives will be directly proportionate to the number of seats a party gains. Countries such as Israel use P.R.
  • Introduce an elected House of Lords.


  • Increase government arts spending by £500million a year.
  • Abolish the TV license. Watch Scenes of Reason instead.


TV License is £145.50 Per Year

As it stands: TV license – The Green Party plans to abolish the BBC’s enforced TV license.




  • Increase taxes on alcohol and tobacco.
  • No more tax avoiders/evaders. How many times can Barlow and Carr be warned?
  • Higher council tax for more expensive homes.
  • Introduce a wealth tax of 2% a year on the top 1% in society. Damn it.
  • Have a Robin Hood Tax of 0.05% on the banks and their financial transactions such as stocks, bonds, foreign currencies. It even has its own website.
  • Increase corporation tax from 20% to 30%
  • Raise top rate of tax to 60% for people earning over £150,000 – it’s currently 45%.


Current Tax Rates UK

As it stands: Tax – The Green Party plans to raise tax for the rich significantly.



Nice thoughts. Great sentiment. Achievable?





For the full Green Party manifesto click here.


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What else do you feel the Greens aren’t quite covering? Let us know in the comment box below.