Why do the Government want us to believe that our schools are rubbish ?

Stephen Smith's picture
During the last three or four weeks it's seemed like every time I've turned on the TV or my computer, I've found someone banging on about how rubbish our schools are - or alternatively about how wonderful private schools are - or how every other country's schools are better than ours. I'm sure many of the readers on this site have heard them or read them, and I won't get personal by naming the people who wrote or said them.

(Although having said that - Joanna Lumley - do you really think that outburst will do any more than Patsy or Edina did to improve the nation's morals ?)

Thing is though - this image of 'broken education' doesn't quite gel with my way of thinking. During that time I've been backwards and forwards to my own children's school - Cedars Upper School in Leighton Buzzard - I've been picking my daughter up after her Science Trip to Disneyland Paris, picking my son up after his Spanish Language trip to Seville; and this week taking them both to and from rehearsals for the school production - my son playing electric guitar in the orchestra, my daughter playing an "80's style geek" - singing, dancing, and acting in a musical production.

All this against a backdrop of preparation for GCSE's for both of them (My 14 year old daughter already has one GCSE) - for which the teachers are predicting grades of no lower than B for my daughter, and no lower than A for my son.

It's not long since my son was away camping with the school all weekend for his Duke of Edinburgh award - my daughter will be doing this later in the year. Another highlight was my son commuting to Camden in London to complete his work experience week with an independent Theatre - which has led in part to his ambition to study English literature at University - and there's every reason to believe that he will.

It's all a far cry from the supposedly elite Grammar school that I attended - which I detested ( it's perhaps only fair to point out that despite my criticisms of it, my old school did help me along the road to a first class honours degree )

My own children by contrast really rather enjoy school.

It's an even further cry though from the bleak picture of a desperate state education system which seems to be painted so often by much of the mainstream media, and their stooges.

Earlier this week I visited a London special school in preparation for a job application - Part of the visit also involved being shown around a comprehensive school as well - one co-located with the special school and working closely in partnership with it (something you won't find too often in private schools).

The special school was excellent, but I was bowled over by the mainstream secondary school - the artwork on display was fabulous - the sports facilities tremendous - the library a hive of industry where I felt afraid to speak lest I disturbed those hard at work. It was no Potemkin Village either (although some of the pupils there were learning Russian and Chinese) - I was shown round by two year 10 girls who were quite happy to tell me the bad as well as the good - although they couldn't think of much. Everything about it said to me - "This is a good school".

Later that day I sat in the car waiting to pick up my kids from their latest rehearsal at their own school. I was impatient - it was past 6.00 - but I realised the school was still busy - people coming and going, parents arriving for evening classes or Zumba sessions.

I reflected on the last few weeks as I sat there. I came to the conclusion that the talk of the demise of our schools is very much exaggerated.

So if anyone thinks that what the doom mongers are saying is true, just ring up some schools and ask to go and look round, or talk to some teenagers, or parents, or teachers.

You may find that you're pleasantly surprised.
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Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 04/03/2011 - 08:13

I, too, wonder why the Government is so determined to show state education is abysmal that it will distort figures (using discounted OECD 2000), ignore positive international comparisons (TIMSS 2007) and lie if it thinks it can get away it (re PRUs). Its propaganda machine pushes academies and free schools while ignoring successful schools like the one Stephen Smith praises.

Gove is following Goebbels in this respect:

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it"

However, the rest of the quote is: "The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

Contributors to this website are determined that the truth will come out: state schools are not "broken". Thank you, Stephen, for your story.

Stephen Smith's picture
Sat, 05/03/2011 - 08:32

Thanks for the comment Janet

I think the constant denigrating of a system for which the Government are themselves responsible is part of a strategy to soften us all up for their true agenda of effectively privatising the school system.

That would of course be very unpalatable to the electorate - but by the twin tactic of starving schools (and other public services) of cash, and at the same time repeatedly telling us how bad they are, they'll be well on the way to making it a self fulfilling prophecy, and being able to turn around and say - "Hey this state run school idea is totally useless - why don't we run them all as private schools"

And as you say if you repeat it often enough people start to believe it - in fact lots of them believe it already.

Any good ideas that the Tories have re. education (and I believe there are a few) are sadly lost within a muddled ideologically driven policy which doesn't seem to know what it wants to achieve.

Do they want to get rid of Local Authorities ? - then why not say so ?

Do they want all schools to be provided by private enterprise ? Then why not say so ?

They don't so say because they know it will make them unpopular - and instead try to "sneak" the ideological things through within a smoke and mirrors blitz (or should that be "shock and awe" ) pretending it's a response to "the mess that Labour left"

Well It won't wash with me anymore.

Rant over for the moment. If anyone detects a little tetchiness there it's because I've been watching treasury spokesmen on the BBC and am a bit angry. !

Rosemary Mann's picture
Sun, 06/03/2011 - 09:52

I agree with your analysis of the Tory motivation for putting across negative propaganda about the current school system. There will always be difficult schools in deprived areas which will struggle. The school where I am governor is in a soft federation with a less successful school and works in partnership with them towards improvement. The latter school is also having its premises refurbished. Overall this school has received all the support and investment that it needed. I call that a real success of the last government. The partner school is one of the most successful in the area and does a fantastic job for its very mixed community (large council estate and middle class owner occupied housing)

Prior to having children and becoming a school governor ( and also having a partner who trained to be teacher in his 40s) I knew nothing about education however through my increasing contact with Sure Start centres, One O Clock Clubs and then local primary schools my knowledge increased and I became increasingly impressed with the provision and opportunities on offer. Extra curricular activities ( horse riding,ballet and philosophy) did not seem to be what you might expect in a working class/lower middle class locality and I thought it was fantastic that all children had access to these for a fraction of the cost of private lessons. It was at least exposure to wider things, and of course,exercise!

When I watched the Tory Party conference I could not believe what they were saying- it felt like a throwback to another era entirely.

I cannot believe therefore that the education system is on its knees- very much the opposite- however this government seems to be ensuring this by its crazy ideas which removes investment into the fabric of schools on the basis of ideology rather than fact, and in trying to dismantle the current curriculum ( again at considerable expense- whos paying for that).

I hope that one day people will wake up (soon please) and smell the coffee and that more and more governors and parents will establish a more formal resistance to the whacky and unsubstantiated ideas that this government seems intent on forcing upon us. I will certainly be playing my part in this.

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