I recently read this article on the Independent. Chris Parry, a former rear admiral and the new chief executive of the Independent Schools Council (ISC), spoke out on his view of state education and was accused of snobbishness by the NUT and of being ‘misguided’ (i.e. wrong) by the Department for Children, Schools and Families.
His views was as follows:
1. State schools are ‘struggling with unteachable children, ignorant parents and staff who don’t want to be there’
2. ‘Comprehensive school pupils cannot be expected to get into top universities if they are bullied by classmates from “disadvantaged backgrounds”.’
3. ‘There are too many leaders but not enough leadership, there are a lot of managers but not enough management. There aren’t enough teachers and aren’t enough teachers in the subjects we need. It’s lacking human, material [and] financial resources.”
This seems to be a fairly accurate view of the situation, albeit very generalised. Of course schools are struggling, when inclusion forces them to take children who should be separated from other kids for their own protection, when parents insist that their little darling has done nothing wrong and ‘Miss X’ is just picking on him, and when they have teachers exhausted from working all the hours God sends for no respect. The comment about leaders has been fully covered on Old Andrews blog Scenes From the Battleground here and here, and he has much more experience in these matters than me. The TES forums to tend to support this view though.
The one point I do have experience on, however, is the second point. In many ways mine, and many of my classmates’, success is despite the state education system, not because of it. As much as the powers that be would like to deny it, even when I was at secondary school (about 10 years ago now) it was not a good idea to do well (except at sport).
Here are my tips for surviving state education:
- Never voluntarily answer a question in class, certainly don’t ask any.
- Make sure you have at least one ‘popular’ friend (I had one from primary school) who will make sure you’re generally left alone.
- Help a Chav with their work if they’re sat next to you, that’ll gain you some respite.
- Grow a very thick skin.
- Take up a sport, that’ll gain you credibility and make sure you’re not the last one picked during PE.
- NEVER take the school bus, and don’t walk to or from school alone.
- Ensure you have a lot of people around you at break or lunch, better still immerse yourself in extracurricular activities, they are a haven from the chav invested waters of the school yard.
- Keep up with the fashion, rolled up skirts, tiny ties or thickly knotted ties, scrunchies, perms, straightened hair, friendship bracelets etc. Any of these can prevent serious teasing.
- Break the odd rule, living a little bit dangerously now and again can get you a bit of respect.
- Do not behave in a confrontational manner towards anyone bigger, or meaner, than you.