Friday, 9 September 2016

Happy Days?

There has been the usual chatter this week about education, grammar schools and school uniforms. Are we to take it that the diminutive oxygen thieves are back in their holding pens, giving much needed respite for their forlorn progenitors? The apparent progressive decline of British education seems to be beyond the powers of government to halt, which is at best disappointing. Human evolution happens over millennia so the kids of today should be no less capable of benefitting from a proper education than those of half a century ago.

Comprehensive schooling is a flim-flam, a con, a way of delivering poorer, flatter outcomes for ever greater costs. The people who make a living from propagating the rot are the very same non-experts decrying a return to what used to work. They are the sociologists and educational theorists, the meddlers and dropouts, seemingly determined to ruin it for future generations. What failures are they bitter about and why take it out on teachers and pupils?

I mean, I get the anti-grammar arguments – wealthier parents will buy into grammar catchments and employ tutors to cram for the entrance exams but that’s easily fixed, surely? Turn bog-standard comps into grammar-plus-comp combos and stream the bejaysus out of them. Provide a higher standard of academic education for those who warrant it, delivered by real teachers and get the statemented kids into intensive classes and relentlessly drill home the basics... under armed supervision if necessary.

Bring back practical subjects and introduce new ones, from working on the school allotment through woodwork and metalwork through to small-scale industrial fabrication techniques, computer-aided design and modelling and at all levels employ both carrots and sticks, literally if figuratively doesn’t hit the spot. Instead of trying to make educators into entertainers, attempting to hold their audience in a series of ten-minute stand-up sets, get the students engaged in actually doing something, for whole hours at a time. And whatever it takes, get the bright kids away from the thugs.

There is no real reason an inner city school couldn’t deliver outcomes as successful as parts of the private sector; it just needs an injection of enthusiasm, rigour and possibly a prison wing. After all, school should prepare pupils for their lives beyond. One failing school in London decided to turn itself around and brought back a more punitive regime which reaped enormous rewards in attainment. Your school days should be, they say, the happiest days of your life, although not every student was happy about it.


One little girl came home from school in tears and told her mother that she had been punished for something she hadn’t done. In former days a parent would quietly acquiesce to the wiser counsel of teachers but not in today’s combative climes. “Right,” she said “I’m going straight down there to have a word with your teacher” and began pulling on a coat. The child cowered a little; she had seen her mother’s fury at work before and dreaded the scene that might ensue. Fortunately, reason intervened and the mother asked “What, exactly, was it that you didn’t do?” Her daughter replied, “My homework.”


  1. 'Human evolution happens over millennia so the kids of today should be no less capable of benefitting from a proper education than those of half a century ago.'

    Agreed but you forgot a modifier to the equation that has increased in value over the last 25 years. When you increase the number of low IQ students from other countries the general IQ goes down and this disrupts the education for those at a higher level, class sizes and number being relatively fixed. This lowers the education standard all around.

    I agree that we can fix it but this lot have no interest in doing so. They want uneducated louts at the low end.

  2. As a fortunate grammar school boy in the early 60s I wholly agree with noth of you. The tripartite system with both 11+ and 13+ worked even though my class size was 30 until the sixth form. In those days education worked towards the highest common multiple rather than the lowest common denominator.