This is surely where the foundations of tomorrow's society are laid. The most important time in your life. If it hadn't already been said by someone who meant the complete opposite, I would say that the priority of any government should be 'education, education, education'. Here, children are meant to learn how to integrate with others, to learn self sufficiency, good humour, selflessness and a willingness to help themselves and others. Our politically correct education system fails them all miserably.
Teaching methods that were tried and tested over many years were dropped and replaced by trendy PC ideas. New systems of learning to read, write and spell have left a generation of children severely handicapped. Mental arithmetic and spelling skills which were honed by practising them out loud have disappeared and children and adults alike now rely on calculators, tills and spelling checkers to do this work for them.
The reasons for all this seem to stem from the idea that children shouldn't be taught anything, the teacher is just a friend that helps the little loves discover things.
These are the trendy ideas being taught in Teachers Training colleges in the UK. During a recent training day for English A-level teachers, a senior examiner asserted that it is necessary to ‘batter out of students’ the idea that there is any ‘correct’ way of speaking English. The General Teaching Council calls for all exams for under-16s to be abolished, because they impose ‘excessive stress’ on pupils. Similarly, using red ink to mark assignments is a 'no no' as it causes stress as well! The poor loves - why would we want to equip them to live in the real world?
The 11+ exam, while a rather crude attempt to stream children into two ability groups - did for the most part work. This at least sent the most intelligent group off to get a better education while leaving the rest to a rather more mediocre one. Nowadays both groups just get the mediocre one! (Political Correctness demands that we round everything down rather than up).
There will always be good schools and bad schools. At least selecting those with most intelligence to go to the good schools made sense. Nowadays those that go to the best schools are those with the richest or most powerful parents. When Tony Blair leader of New Labour lied 'What I want for my own children, I want for yours’, he went on to send his children to the London Oratory while condemning millions of others to the bog standard comprehensive. In 2008 David Cameron, the leader of Blue Labour (Conservative party) was trying to do just the same kind of thing.
So you may be a Labour cabinet minister and have the hypocrisy to send your child to a private school. Or you may be an ordinary parent with money who buys a house in the catchment area of a good state school. This inflates house prices locally and excludes poor families from the area. So which sounds fairer to you - selection by the pupil's brains or the parent's wealth? (Recently the government has announced plans to do selection in good state schools by a raffle!)
So what is the problem with selection by ability??? The PC dogma also says that selection by ability discriminates against poorer children, yet the opposite is true. Bright children living on a council estate have the same chance as children with rich parents if selection is by ability but no chance when selection is by wealth. As always, political correctness stands truth on its head.
And there is already selection by ability in New Labour’s City Academies which are allowed to choose 10% of their children by ability but only in music and sports. So why is it OK to select the best pianist or footballer but not the best mathematician?
Now the children of the less intelligent parents who followed political correctness (or who were just too lazy or disinterested and didn't smack their children when necessary), tend to misbehave and hold back the more disciplined children who want to learn. Teachers are virtually powerless to do anything about this (the PC Brigade stopped punishments in schools years ago) so most children just don't get anywhere. Recent 'under cover' documentaries on TV have shown the true face of schooling in Britain. It could take ten minutes to get the class settled and even then it was constantly disrupted by pupils fighting and messing around. The teacher was constantly reminded by the pupils - "touch me and I will sue you!" Having 'let the cat out of the bag', the teacher's reward was to be suspended from teaching for one year for 'unacceptable professional conduct'.
If you missed the documentaries don't worry. Another teacher has written a book (again using a pseudonym - Frank Chalk) about his experiences as a sink comprehensive school teacher. See 'Further reading' at the foot of this page.
Things are so bad in some secondary schools that they have a full time police presence. An officer is permanently based there to help with issues such as truancy, bullying and to search the children each morning for knives. This affects over 400 schools in the UK. For the schools that haven't gone down the ''permanent police presence' route, a simple phone call summoned the police to deal with over 7000 violent incidents in schools during 2007. Amazing really, my old headmaster used to manage these things all on his own!
But this misbehavior in state schools causes a problem - the PC Brigade want all children to have a university education (it shows how wonderfully egalitarian they are) and yet most now could not achieve the exam results necessary. Rather than realising the real reasons for this and reversing their meddling, they come up with a typical PC answer - just lower the standards so more and more children pass their GCSE's and A levels. So hence every year more children pass at ever higher grades.
This then sparks a debate as markers complain that they were forced to award ‘ludicrously high marks’ to candidates whose command of grammar and sentence construction was ‘simply non-existent’. One examiner said: ‘A* grades are given out like sweets at a children’s party to youths who not only cannot spell or punctuate to save their lives, but who cannot do something much simpler than that – namely, copy words which are printed in front of them.’ He revealed that of nearly 1,000 papers he marked, more than 100 candidates spelt ‘literature’ wrongly on the front of their answer sheet – many wrote litriture – ‘in spite of the fact that it was there in big letters on the question paper’. The examiner said: ‘Neighbours speak was quite common – as in, “Then Shelia was like, what?”' He added: ‘I don’t want to award A* in a subject called English Literature to a person who knows no English and cannot spell literature even though it’s printed in front of him / her. And yet I had to, again and again and again.’ Experts attacked the failure to test pupils on their written English as misguided and ‘crazy’.
Maths fares even worse under the new system of marking. Grade 'A' is awarded for just 45%, which in my day would have been the fail mark! Mathematician Dr Roger Porkess, an exams expert who has designed maths syllabuses said: ‘These grade boundary figures are
incredibly low – it’s ludicrous.’
He added that a certain proportion of questions tested mastery of algebra, but pupils could get none of those algebra marks and still score way over
the 45 per cent mark. ‘It is criminal. An A or A* grade gives students a clear green light they are ready for maths at A-level,’ he declared. ‘If you are giving those grades without any algebra, you are telling lies.’
Doug French, of the Maths Association, said: ‘To give pupils a paper in which they can get a high-grade pass on less than half marks seems crazy.’
And then of course comes the August day when the 'even better than last year' marks are announced; the academics then have their say about standards declining and finally an education minister is wheeled out to try and put some good spin back on it by trying to make people feel bad for questioning the children's hard work.
The problem is of course that independent schools achieve such good results that they show what can be achieved by a decent education system and this puts the state system to shame. In a cynical attempt to bypass this glaring comparison, the government has announced plans to remove the charitable status of these schools which will send the fees rocketing and will cause many to close. Similarly in Northern Ireland in 2008, they abolished Grammar Schools altogether without any idea of what to replace them with!
The government then put pressure on universities not to select the best candidates (those with the highest grades) but instead to select the candidates from social backgrounds that fitted the governments preferred 'disadvantaged background' profile. So if you have a lone parent who is a black lesbian with a wooden leg then go to the top of the list. Married parents, nice home with a 4x4 in the garage - no chance! The Chancellor of one Oxford university was incensed by this move and told the government to 'get their tanks off of the lawns of Oxford.' Medical schools are also very alarmed at this silly policy (as I am) and have asked why the country shouldn't have the best possible candidates to be the doctors of tomorrow.
Our education system is betraying our children and a politically correct syllabus is seeing them leave school in such an ignorant state that they are hopelessly ill equipped to cope in an adult world. One in four pupils leaves school functionally illiterate. Universities have to offer remedial teaching in basic subjects. Even pupils who got four As at A-level, can’t manage mental arithmetic. Ask them to multiply two single digits together and they will reach for a calculator. Ask them questions about the last thousand years of British history and watch the blank looks. As for geography, most have trouble pointing out Manchester or Edinburgh.
Why do they think 50% of children should go to university anyway? A lot of children are just doing meaningless degree courses, such as a degree in Coronation Street. Yet nobody wants to do difficult subjects such as Maths or Physics. And when the children leave University they very often can't find jobs in the subject they graduated at or indeed jobs at all. The only thing they have to show for the time spent at University is a big overdraft of several thousand pounds.
Some children are clearly not suited to academic work anyway but would make wonderful tradesmen (oh, and women of course). When New Labour started the drive to get more children into university, the country was crying out for plumbers, painters, decorators and electricians - they were so rare they could name their own price for work. These jobs have now been filled with migrant workers mostly from Poland (while of course millions of British workers languish either on the dole or on the sick).
It is rank hypocrisy to force millions of children into a dead end education while at the same time getting the best education for your own children due to your wealth or influence. This is government at its worst, yet New Labour and Blue Labour are committed to continue this charade. Yet when you think about it, perhaps it does make some sense to them as both rely on having a client state of 'deprived people' to look after. Without them, what would they do in government?
It's probably not true but it does make you wonder! Rather like a comedy sketch I remember set in the fund raising office of Cancer Research. Everyone on the phone happily raising money when in walks someone and announces "Hey, have you heard? They have found a cure for cancer!" Shocked faces turn to miserable faces as they tell the people they were phoning that they don't need the money after all. They all sit around looking unhappy and eventually one says "Well I suppose we may as well go home then". They all get up and get their coats on when the person who made the original announcement says "Hey I was only joking!" They all brighten up instantly and it's all smiles as they pick up the phones again.