Friday, 16 October 2015

Mind your grammar...

Education, education, education, he said... and then a year later Tony Blair’s government passed a law prohibiting the opening of new grammar schools. This law has yet to be revoked and the current Education Secretary was at pains to point out that it was unlikely to be considered when it was announced that a ‘new’ grammar school is to be opened in Sevenoaks. Justified as an annex of the existing Weald of Kent school in Tonbridge, Nicky Morgan is bracing for a legal challenge from the usual suspects who put ideology before education every time:

With a long history dating back to the sixth century – long before islam, as it happens - grammars were one of the suppliers of Britain’s great minds during its period of enlightenment and world domination and then again in its darkest, yet finest hour for which all of Europe still has properly to thank us. Yet, ever since, they have been the subject of scorn and derision from predominantly the left-hand side of society. Ironically, they gave their pupils an education far more comprehensive than the so-called comprehensives would ever achieved.

Not that any of that came about without a struggle and although in those days (back when I was a lad) the cane was ever-ready as a last resort, the first few years for new teachers was a baptism of fire. Especially so when faced with the ever-growing and sometimes wayward vocabulary of that one boy in class who shall forever be known as Little Johnny. Today sweary little Johhny would have his own army of classroom assistants and be thought of as ‘challenged’, but back then he was just a little sod... and knew it.

Miss Smith, the student teacher was taking a six-year old class for an English lesson and limbering up by working through the alphabet. “Can anybody give me a word beginning with ‘A’?” she asked. At the back of the classroom Johhny’s hand shot up. The teacher knew Johhny of old and desperately searched for another hand; the last thing she needed was to have to explain ‘arse’ to the innocents. A tentative movement in the front row came to her rescue and she looked down at a sweet little child in a pink dress. “Yes, Emily, what is your word?” Emily breathily whispered “Apple, mith” and the world turned once more. After a brief chorus of monosyllabic ‘A’ words, Miss Smith moved on.

She pointed to the letter ‘B’ and quick as a flash, Johnny’s hand shot up at the back “Miss, miss?” he pleaded as the teacher blushed; far too many expletives began with a B but luckily a small thicket of chubby hands appeared in front of her and she managed to get a boat, a bee and rather pleasingly, a brioche before steeling herself to ask for a ‘C’. Naturally Johnny was right there but she couldn’t risk that; the most horrible word in the world. After gleaning a coat, a cat and self-satisfied clever from the infant throng she moved on to ask for a word beginning with D.

You there! Stop being such a clever cunt!

Johnny was right there and she searched her own vocabulary for possible offence. The worst she could come up with being ‘damn’ she decided to risk it and invited Johnny to speak. “Dog, miss.” he offered, innocently, but there was more. She held her breath as Johnny continued, her fingers tightly crossed in her lap. “Great big spotted one... Dalmation.” Miss Smith was relieved and delighted. She clapped and cried out, “Thank fuck for that!”


  1. Excellent....a time BEFORE Islam ? That must have been heaven!

  2. "The cane was ever ready as a last resort....."

    At my grammar school, it was the first resort!