Harry Mount – good on The Blob; poor on grammar

Harry Mount

Harry Mount

Harry Mount has written a brilliant piece in The Telegraph today. Here is a link.  It is about the growing number of tutors employed by parents with children in the state sector.  He blames the continuing failure of the UK state education system on The Blob – a nickname coined by Michael Gove for the education establishment in general and the teacher unions in particular.  I do not disagree with his theme but it leaves us open to the criticism that education should be open to all and not restricted to those who can afford to employ tutors.

There is a much more difficult issue alongside the intransigence of The Blob. Most children who thrive in school do so because they have parental support at home. There are too many homes where education is seen as irrelevant and often evokes painful memories. If there are no  books in a house; if the telly is the dominant source of words and pictures; if beer, baccy and the bookies take priority over learning there is little hope for the children and The Blob will write them off.

However, I do have to take issue with Harry Mount over his grammar. “Free” can be an adjective or an adverb. For example, “Wilberforce set the slaves free” or “A free ticket”. “Free” is not a noun. So Harry’s comment “Last week, Tutorfair tutored its 2000th student for free” is a grammatical howler. He could have said “for nothing” but he didn’t.  Someone who is a journalist writing about education and an Oxford graduate should know better.


About Keith R Mitchell CBE

Qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1967. Pursued a successful career in financial training and publishing until selling his interests in 1990. Elected a County Councillor for the Bloxham Division in 1989. Leader of Oxfordshire County Council 5 November 2001 to 15 May 2012. Chairman of the South East England Regional Planning Committee July 2002 to July 2005. Chairman of the South East England Regional Assembly July 2005 to July 2008. In HM the Queen’s 2007 Birthday Honours, appointed a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in recognition of services to local government.
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