A comprehensive approach.

Swift treatment at the X-ray saloon and now have weekend break. Told nurse yesterday about my decapitation fantasy, she laughed and said no-one else had told such a story., seems an obvious one to me. Had walk around Wareham after, enjoyed a drink in the sun with Kate. I had a ‘bumbleberry’, cocktail of autumnal fruits and very delicious it is too. Trying to get as many top tastes before I probably lose my sense of taste from the X-rays. Like the ’04 Barolo I’ve bought for Mike’s 60th do tonight, shit we’re getting old!

Also bought some hyacinth bulbs, keep getting plants and flowers as I have this need/urge to fill our already cluttered house with colour and scents.

Seems like I paid for walk around Wareham as I felt pretty shit when we got home, read booklet about cancer, treatment and fatigue. Seems I have most of the fatigue effects. Bit depressing to read that the fatigue I have is unlike your regular fatigue and is not alleviated by sleep and rest, fuck that. Also currently exacerbated by the steroids, I hate those little bleeders.

So forgot about an article in last week’s Guardian by Gaby Hinsliff: “If social mobility is the problem, grammar schools are not the solution”. Now one of my many bugbears is the grammar school. I went to one, Maidstone Grammar, I quite enjoyed it did OK and went on to university. There were aspects about the school and the system that unsettled me. A very early incident occurred soon after I began at the school, it was a long journey for me involving a 4 mile drive with my dad in the farm van (with him often wearing wellies and shorts)  to the train station, a train journey of 10 miles then a mile or so walk to school. One day my dad wasn’t at the station to pick me up so I began walking, it was brilliant timing as I walked past the local secondary modern school as all the local kids were just leaving. For the next 10 minutes or so I was hit, kicked, spat on, pushed into ditches and verbally abused. After the shock I realised it happened because I was wearing the grammar uniform (another reason for no uniforms!). What an extremely unhealthy societal phenomenon that the segregation of young people through schooling and consequent identity through uniform leads to such responses, even at that relatively early age young people recognise some sense of injustice and react so viscerally.

So began my thinking about grammar schools, interesting no one ever calls for the reintroduction of secondary moderns. But many do so for grammar schools: the ukippers, Boris de Twatface are but 2 recent examples. The golden age for grammar schools was soon after their introduction in the 50’s and 60’s and was seen as an early form of modern meritocracy and social mobility. It also coincided with a vast expansion of professional and managerial jobs.

Since then, as with other examples of the new meritocracy, the grammar school and other selective education, the system gets gamed and becomes increasingly exclusive and excludes the poor, the unconnected, those who live in ‘the wrong postcode’ and those who don’t have ‘pushy parents’. This phenomenon is described thus by Gaby Hinsliff: “The blunt truth is that modern grammars aren’t about shattering class barriers but about reinforcing what Americans call the glass floor, the phenomenon of parents who have clawed their way up fighting to ensure their children don’t fall back down.”

How many parents don’t want the ‘best’ for their children and when put in the position of choosing schools for their offspring want to get them into the ‘best’ schools? I want the ‘best’ for my children and when moving to Swanage was unaware of grammar schools in Poole. It was very hard a few years ago when Grace, my youngest daughter, said she wanted to take the 11+. I said no and it was very hard to say no, was I inflicting my principles on my child? Of course I was, but my rationale was that as long as we all perpetuate this ‘glass ceiling’ then nothing changes.

Selective education has little good academic research to back up it’s claims, in fact much indicates that it causes an overall diminution of learning and education. It also causes and reinforces unhealthy social attitudes and mores. In my humble opinion we need a totally comprehensive education system with no selective and private schools. A possible solution to the postcode lottery and parents moving to the ‘good’ schools is that say 2 students from every school go to Oxbridge. I am well aware that this perpetuates the ‘elitism’ of Oxbridge, but I like the idea of opening up the possibility of every child having a chance.

Of course the roots of this problem lie deeper in society and are to do with poverty and the ravages of capitalism.

So Martin has produced an extensive manifesto; there are many good, interesting and very debatable ideas, are you going to post it on this blog Martin? Or are you going to publicise it elsewhere?

Lots of debate the ‘pick up artist’ Balanc, I did send out stuff to sign a petition to ban him from this country, but is banning the best way, free speech and all that. Marina Hyde thinks he should be allowed in and Kate suggested he is set up to debate with a bunch of women. I’m conflicted as there is already ample evidence of his badness, but banning him will encourage some sort of martyrdom.

Manifesto 18:

  • a fairly predictable but oh so necessary one of having a true comprehensive education system that benefits all children.

Keep on keeping on, love Duncan.


2 thoughts on “A comprehensive approach.

  1. Hi ole pal
    As a Welsh person who only ever had the choice of a comprehensive education and it did me no harm (feel free to disagree!) I have always advocated against a selective system. Prior to moving into secondary education, we took the grammer school test in order to stream us once we got to the comp and the arguement I always use is that, on the basis of the results of those tests, one of my friends would not have passed to go to grammer school and would have gone to to a secondary modern (to become a secretary). However, she thrived at the comp (you remember Sally the opera singer) and worked her way up into the ‘streamed’ forms and achieved better results than some of those who would have gone to Grammer school. Moving up within a school is one thing, but the opportunity to move between schools just doesn’t happen. But I do think there should be subject streaming once you get to comp and I don’t agree with mixed abilty teaching (something Margaret and have discussed before, hey Margaret, if you’re reading this we’ll pick up the arguement when I see you soon!). I think without some form of subject streaming the high performers get bored and those that struggle get left behind and I imagine it’s very difficult for teachers to strike the right balance. Education is THE most important policy for any Government, without it we can’t improve anything.

    Look after yourself, love to Kate
    Jules xx


    1. Good stuff Jules, mixed ability teaching is difficult to do properly but teachers, when allowed, can be creative and teach mixed groups effectively. But one of the main impediments is of course class size. As well as the narrow curriculum, obsession with testing and assessment, continual governmental interference and the prevalence that just because you spent time as a kid at school you know about education. Now when I’m in charge…………….


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