Local state schools ARE my choice

Laura McInerney's picture
At 11 I passed a full scholarship for a private school 20 miles away in the centre of Liverpool. My parents, ardent trade unionists, were torn. Like every parent they wanted what was best for me and so, I think, tried not to sway me either way.

I wanted to stay at my local school. In many ways it was 'worse' than the private school - many students got much lower grades and had behavioural and emotional difficulties. But it was also so much 'better' - it was near home, my friends were going there, it had a beautiful drama studio and I wouldn't feel any ridiculous academic pressure. I came out with the highest marks in the Borough and - after attending a local FE college - I was one of only 6 students to enter Oxford that year from the FE sector.

Now I teach in challenging state schools. Not challenging because everyone carries knives or shoots up in the toilets. Challenging because many children don't speak English at home, or they're in Care, or have disabilities, or emotional issues. This doesn't make my school 'bad' just....complex.

And the complexity is why I love local state schools. Recently my partner (educated at a swanky London boy's school) and I discussed education of any future children. He argued that he "couldn't take away from a child" what he had. I argued the same. How can I take away the opportunity to mix with local children? Live near your friends? Meet all kinds of people? Learn to live with children who have disabilities, different cultures, languages and emotional issues? Do I really want my child to become like David Cameron - Prime Minister of the country yet 'terrified' of local state schools? How weird!

State schools ARE the place I want to send my children, and I only hope that when they come along I still have the choice of a genuinely comprehensive education for them.
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