Tuesday, September 19, 2006

What happened to the middle class?

In a follow-up post, Polly Toynbee writes today that Sweden:

[let] private schools enter the state system with state finding, now educating some 7% of pupils

and that

What he [Adonis] doesn't say is that the middle classes mostly use the private schools, with a drastic effect on making schools far more socially segregated than they were before.

So, if private schools educate 7% of kids, and the middle class "mostly" use them, a maximum of 14% of kids can be middle-class. Eh? You'd need a pretty bizarre definition of middle class to get to 14% of kids, particularly in a society which is -- as we are constantly reminded -- as egalitarian as Sweden's...


She also writes that:

The right's campaign centred on unemployment - and here indeed Goran Persson's Social Democrat government was too slow to learn from New Labour's reforms. This despite many of Persson's ministers visiting Britain to examine the New Deal, with its successful carrot-and-stick format of intensive personal help for claimants combined with a firm obligation to seek work, train or learn.

Actually, a large issue in Sweden was not the officially unemployed [belated update] -- relatively low at about 6% -- but rather those on long-term disability benefit (see, for example, the last paragraph of this report in the Guardian). In the UK, the figure on incapacity benefit is about 2.7m (source), so perhaps not a great role model.

The learning from this government couldn't be how to tackle the problem, but only how not to make it the subject of public debate.

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