Wednesday, 26 January 2011

My manifesto

I'm still in shock over the £30,000 a year it takes to send your child (clearly, not YOUR child, you peasant) to Eton. Over 8 years, £240,000. For one child.

Here's a crazy idea - why don't all the rich people sending their kids to private schools put that money into the state school system so the state schools can be good schools, and not just their own children can benefit?

I know, I know.

And another thing. In this programme Andrew Neil kept on saying 'I'm not socialist, I'm not coming from a left-wing perspective, but...' and then being irresistibly drawn to left-wing conclusions. He got the Minister for Schools to admit that it's shit that 65% of MPs went to private schools when only 7% of the country go to private schools.

There was a lot of nostalgia for grammar schools as a conveyor belt for social mobility, but grammar schools were just private schools that you didn't have to pay for - they had high academic success rates not through some miraculous pedagogy, but by the simple expedient of excluding non academic kids, troublesome kids, forget about those with special needs or learning difficulties. That's what the 11+ was for - not to let them in, but to keep the others out. (And grammar schools raised the 11+ pass rate for girls without publishing this fact at the time. Hmm. The name of the game is Exclusion.)

Anyway, if I ruled the world...

I'd have many more schools, with much smaller classes, and more staff. Better communication with parents & more involvement & responsibility for parents. More emphasis on home & school working together. (They're your kids.)

Way more focus on children finding out who they are and what they're good at (- no point flogging a dead horse, we're not all athletes or artists and we're not all readers and writers, if they have a good enough standard of literacy to get by then why make them study something they hate for years on end, they're not going to get better at it and you'll only turn them off?)

Don't make them stay at school until they're 18 - school is not for everyone. It's just so they can avoid them turning into an unemployment statistic. Schools shouldn't have to act like jails for rampaging teenagers who don't want to be there.

Bring in apprenticeships and make them lead to proper jobs at the end of it.

Bring in more vocational training and opportunities to do work experience and work shadowing. Have companies/trades partner up with school and guarantee to take students on at the end of work placements.

Have better links with world of work and more contacts come into schools so children know what opportunities are out there. I didn't know half the jobs you could do even by the time I left school, aged 18. It wasn't considered part of education.


  1. I like your manifesto very much.

    Do you remember those reality TV documentaries they did a couple of years ago? Recreated a 1950s grammar school and then a 1950s comp. In both cases the kids thrived, having had a chance to be in small classes and to be pushed at something they were good at (the comp had great vocational courses).
    The kicker was at the end of the series on the comprehensive. The programme told us that the vast majority of real 1950s comps had never been adequately funded, and were probably, as a result, nothing like their little mock-up.
    It brought home to me the rather rancid class snobbery of the time.

  2. I hear what you say about Grammar Schools but a lot of your wish list was ticked by the Grammar-technical-comprehensive system . It wasn't that Grammar Schools were too good it was that the Comprehensives were too shit.
    We need to come up with a system which encourages and nurtures the geeks like Steve Jobs not the gobshites on The Apprentice.

  3. Looking forward to when you rule the world, Annie. I feel certain I'd now be a useful member of society if my (grammar) school had been the way you describe.

  4. Our Technical High School was all about maximum number of exams passed. Work was not mentioned as it was assumed everybody was going to go to university but there was absolutely no empathy from the teachers for pupils' natural gifts. I hate it when those actors and writers say they were inspired by this teacher or that. And as for the lack of girls at our school...

  5. I find it hard to disagree with any of that. Nice one.

  6. This is the thing, B. I heard a man talking about German schools on the radio, I wondered if it was true, he was saying that there are technical schools and academic schools there but there is no snobbery about the technical schools there and they don't treat the two types as more or less prestigious. They may be less obsessed with class and social status there, I don't know.

    True Rog, in theory. But because going to university has been seen as the pinnacle of education, didn't the tripartite system favour the academic grammars over the others, so they were less funded and developed and supported? Surely that's why the comprehensives were shit. (It's eerie seeing this history swing around again. This is what the Academy/free school debate is all about. A divided education system with all the funds being absorbed by one type of school, leaving the others to fail. More here

    If children did have the option for a technical/vocation education or an academic one again, we've got to change the way we look at them, we're such terrible snobs.

    Thanks, OFW. I should say I wasn't having a going at people who have been to grammar schools - I've been to private school, comprehensive and ex-grammar in my school career, and had a pretty good experience of all of them.

    Geoff, a technical high school? What did they offer there? I do find it amazing that kids go through school for years and there's no mention of what happens or equipping them for when they're out. It's like prison! I quite liked girls' school but mixed schools are probably better.

    Cheers, Billy.

  7. I'm not sure how true that is of Germany. I would imagine that people want to get their kids into the equivalent of a grammar school here too, and I know that Berlin schools at least are heinously underfunded.
    The only one I've been inside was a gymnasium/grammar (the John Lennon Gymnasium, no less, complete with yellow submarine mural and stencils of Lennon glasses up the staircases) and it seemed, from the work on the walls, very much reminiscent of my old private girls school, with mahoosive academic bent.

  8. I've been trying to find out the year that the girl 11+ bar was raised - I was made to take mine twice and still got sent to the head-flushing academy. Can't watch the program - too painful.
    It's not just access that's important - I was able to earn PG degrees later in life but by then no-one could teach me how to feel confident or to think of a professional career as something I could pull off without fear of being exposed as a fraud. Worse still, being the 'didn't she do well! working class go-to in the senior common room. Arfgfgthtyetcvfrgggh!

  9. I suspected it was too good to be true, B.

    Arabella, aw. I can't find it either, my sociology teacher told us about it years ago and I trust him. I suspect they never wanted it publicised.

    I know exactly what you mean - that sense of confidence and entitlement. In the programme they interviewed sixth formers at Westminster School. They told the time by looking out the window at Big Ben. No wonder they think they should be running the country.