I caught daytime television this morning in my Glasgow hostel room. I was quickly reminded why I don’t normally watch it, but the set was only tuned to television channels. [Of course, I could have turned it off, and in fact, worn out by my amazement and disgust, I eventually did]. Some woman was explaining her version of the laws of parental choice and school admissions. It was gibberish in a posh accent, and seemed to be based on the assumption that once “free” schools had been established, they would be good, “failing “ schools would wither away, Bob would be your uncle and probably Every Child Didn’t Matter.
The man she was set against was not putting up a very good fight, but then sometimes it’s hard to fight the truly bizarre. However both of them implicitly accepted the government line, too often accepted and perpetuated by a less than questioning media. This is the line that suggests that League tables are the best measure of a school’s worth. And that our country is rife with “failing” schools.
One school I teach in was previously damned by its overall/average exam results. I sent my two younger children there because that’s not how I would begin to work out a school’s worth. The older of the two got eight A to C’s [including 2 As] and the younger got 9 A-Cs [including 3 As]. They got these grades thanks to a supportive and “educated” home background, and a team of well-informed, experienced and caring teachers and support staff.
I’m only mentioning the grades here because that’s the measure, and yes they got them. And, yes, they could have got more As. But I didn’t send them to this school for the grades. Visiting it on a regular basis I observed and felt the harmonious race relations, and I thought my relatively privileged children would benefit from getting to know children from other countries, children with sad stories, those from children’s homes – poor and underprivileged, but not necessarily down-trodden, just people with different life experiences. And I like to think they did. They learnt how to interact with and care for others, go on dates, fall out with people, have a laugh, and all in a protective and supported environment.
I went into education myself because I wanted to make a difference. And I used to believe in education to do that. But until we return, or get to a point where we put each child’s individual needs first, without having to worry about average grades, schools are just in it for the meaningless exam factories that they are in danger of becoming.